Synopsis by Gönül Dönmez-Colin
The Philippines' most cerebral filmmaker, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, ventures into the realm of instinct and emotion in this unusual story about a male midwife. In a remote fishing village during the American occupation, young Pepito grows up with no choice but to learn the trade of his mother, despite obvious embarrassment and prejudices. The real test of maturity comes when he ventures from the island (the nest, the navel) to the mainland (the real world). The script, which won the prestigious literary award Palanca, relies heavily on first-person narration to give the film a lyrical tone which, at times, lets the narration do the work of telling the story. However, Diaz-Abaya manages to get outstanding performances from her actors with her economical, understated direction. Despite its rather slow pace, In the Navel of the Sea is an important film for the career of Diaz-Abaya, reflecting her determination to seek the challenge of new directions.