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  • If I Knew What You Said
    Dinig Sana Kita

  • Mike Escareal Sandejas

Country: The Philippines
Year:
2009
Language:
Tagalog
Runtime:
88 minutes
Format:
Colour/Digital Betacam

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Description

When we consider independent Filipino cinema, we tend to think of hand-held cameras rattling through the slums. That's why Mike Escareal Sandejas's If I Knew What You Said is such a breath of fresh air. Fun, energetic and sensitive, this indie teen romance succeeds precisely because it is not afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.

Nina (Zoe Sandejas) is a rebellious teen who sings in a rock band. Moody, aloof and prone to fights, she constantly gets into trouble, which only serves to anger her commandeering father even more. As a way for her to learn how to get along with others, she is sent off to a camp for the deaf. There, she meets the affable Kiko (Romalito Mallari), a vivacious young man who loves to dance despite being hearing impaired. Awkward at first, the two slowly strike up a friendship through the unlikely medium of music and their shared need for love. Their relationship grows deeper, even as Nina secretly destroys part of herself and Kiko, an orphan, desperately tries to find his birth mother.

What makes the film so believable is the chemistry shared by the two leads. It also helps that their characters are rooted in reality: Zoe Sandejas is an aspiring singer-songwriter in real life, while Mallari, a stage actor and dancer, is truly deaf. The way the romance blossoms is especially tricky to execute, since the lovers are essentially unable to communicate with each other. But due to his evident understanding of young people's psyches, director Sandejas convincingly bridges this gap via careful attention to detail.

Since Marlee Matlin's groundbreaking role in Children of a Lesser God over twenty years ago, there have been few attempts at making a credible romance with a deaf lead. If I Knew What You Said not only succeeds in this regard, but also sensitively tackles issues that deaf people must face, including societal misconceptions. It is to Mallari's credit that his effortless charm immediately endears us to the character of Kiko.

In the end, the film's lesson is about how the simple gesture of listening can change one's perspective. Its final moments are especially poignant. Even the most hardened cynic might have difficulty withstanding such earnest yet real tugs at the heartstrings.

Raymond Phathanavirangoon


Mike Escareal Sandejas originally studied law before turning to filmmaking. He has produced films for acclaimed Filipino filmmakers Mike De Leon, Gil Portes and Lav Diaz. In addition to the short film What Floor Ma'am? (09), he has directed the features Just Like Before (06) and If I Knew What You Said (09).

Cadillac People's Choice Award