A Is for Agustin
The Philippines, 2019, 74’, Filipino
Directed by: Grace Simbulan
Script: Grace Simbulan
Photography (color): Grace Simbulan, Kara Moreno
Editing: Johnny Bassett
Music. Francis de Veyra
Producers: Ed Lejano Jr, Manet Dayrit, QC Film Development Commission (QCinema International Film Festival)/Wanderlustproject Films
Date of First Release in Territory: November 2019
Filmed in an immersive style by Grace Simbulan over a period of five years, A Is for Agustin tells us about the destiny of a man who constantly puts his life in question, between his desire to get educated (at 40!) and his caring for his family and son, with hardly no money (the plight of millions of Filipinos). He remains very optimistic for his future as a singer, but bumps into the realities of life, and Grace’s camera constantly oscillates around him in-between both sides. Agustin is the true incarnation of the ordinary Filipinos who have to fight their way to survive in a very tough society, in spite of all the local clichés.
A fresh and passionnant film which goes beyond the regular boundaries of the documentaries, this is the first documentary film by Grace P. Simbulan.
Living in a remote area of the Philippines islands, Agustin is a 40 years old simple tribesman who loves to sing, but never had the opportunity to learn to read or write. He does small jobs, hardly paid. When his boss tries to cheat him again out of his wages, Agustin decides to go to a local school, and enroll in grade one.
Over the next six years, however, Agustin becomes increasingly torn between two realities: the children’s world in school, and the increasingly hard reality of the world outside. As the needs of his family mount, and as money and food become scarce, Agustin must decide whether to continue his own quest for self-improvement, or pass the opportunity on to his son…
After graduating “cum laude” from the University of the Philippines with a degree in film, Grace Simbulan received a grant from the European Union as part of their project entitled “In defense of land and life. Addressing Human Rights concerns of indigenous peoples in resource conflicting areas” to produce a mid-length documentary film. As a follow-up to this project, she immersed in the same community for more than eight years, while producing the documentary film A Is for Agustin. This became her driving force in pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where her research explores the pressures, counter pressures and negotiations that lead to the adoption of projects for Indigenous women and children in the Philippines.
Grace Pimentel Simbulan (Manila, 1988) is a Filipina documentary filmmaker. Her first feature-length documentary, A Is for Agustin, received financial support from the DMZ Docs Fund and QCinema IFF and was shown in South Korea, China, US, and throughout the Philippines. The film was also included by CNN Philippines as part of their top 10 Filipino films of 2019.
2019 – A Is for Agustin