By Lucinda Breeding
For Local Spin
On Saturday, Thin Line Film Fest screened the world premiere of Rise and Dream, a documentary that makes the American ethos about the boot strap cure for poverty look like hokum. The film also reminds the viewer that America doesn't corner the market on hard work, family and faith.
Rise and Dream isn't anti-American in the slightest. Made by a tiny group from the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, the documentary is a moving portrait of American ingenuity meeting the pride and persistence of 13 Filipino children so that, together, the two cultures might find something of worth to give to the other.
They all discover that both have something inestimable to share. It's a transcendent thing that feels like a soulful, slow-burning faith.
It emerges as music.
Rise and Dream takes the viewer into the heart of Zamboanga City, where most people live in poverty so crushing it would surely blot out anyone used to Western abundance. Zamboanga is also riddled with random violence, the result of tensions between Muslims, Christians and Buddhists.
The teenagers we meet are sponsored by the foundation. They are among a privileged few who have medical care, food and consistent schooling, thanks to people who donate to the lay Catholic foundation.
They come together to rehearse and perform a concert for their community. At first, the teens -- who speak fluent English and sing songs by The Carpenters and Bob Dylan -- plan to perform a rock concert. Then, they decide to learn traditional Filipino instruments for the performance, which they will cap off with a sort of Filipino-American fusion number they create with the unflappable Kansas City composer Barclay Martin. The concert is painstaking in every detail. The teens struggle to master their instruments and juggle their many obligations. The foundation's adults struggle to provide a stage, publicize the event and give the teens encouragement.
The magic lies in the youth who dedicate themselves to making music together. The moment the camera swings away from spunky girls Wengie and Aine -- who heroically work to help feed their families, attend school and study music -- or from Rex and Ryan, boys who peddle food in the market to help keep the lights on -- you miss them.
The story gathers suspense as the teens' show gets closer. Ultimately, Rise and Dream is a powerful story about the way music can rouse disparate spirits and rally souls away from differences of race and creed. Rise and Dream is also a balm for anyone who has lost their faith in religious groups. This film shows it: faith is alive and moving in the world.
If we're lucky, the inheritors of this faith are children like these.