Thursday, April 3, 2014

Documentary Analysis


The documentary, titled “Toughest Place to be a... Bus Driver” is part of a BBC series produced by Simon Davies and directed by Shabnam Grewal that seeks out the most difficult working conditions around the world. It is created by BBC, or the British Broadcasting Corporation, one of the largest public broadcasting networks in the world.

The main goal of the series is to place working class people in environments that are challengingly out of their comfort zone, and experience how much harder their counterparts in that specific part of the globe have to work, despite the same profession. The show, called “Toughest Place to be a...”, sends people from their country, United Kingdom, to a different and more challenging working environment doing the same job they are doing in the U.K. These professionals in U.K. stay in a certain place to learn and work under the given environment for ten days. They will have to live the life a working man in a foreign country. This documentary picks Josh West, a British bus driver, to travel halfway across the world to the Philippines, and drive a Philippine jeepney in Manila, chosen due to its appalling road and traffic conditions around the city. The purpose of it all – is to portray third world working conditions and the everyday trials of the people born in the place. Aligned to that aim, the documentary also reveals the situation of Filipino drivers in the context of their social status, earnings and living conditions, job opportunities, family, traffic, gasoline prices, vehicle and customers; all under the theory that the Philippines is in fact, the toughest place to be a bus driver. 

Whilst in Manila, Josh is graciously accepted into the home of Rogelio Castro and his family. Rogelio is a local jeepney driver struggling to escape a life of poverty to provide for his children and his wife Edith. Josh discovers the poor income of the Castro family, which makes his own wages seem like a pirate's treasure, and experiences the hard life of the lower caste in the unofficial class system found in the Philippines. Josh's first task: to learn how to drive a jeepney. Bulky, slow and clunky, he finds that jeepneys are not so easy to drive, particularly since he is barely able to fit into the tiny driver's seat. He experiences the battlefield that is the Manila traffic scene, all while fighting his own battle of driving while trying to take passenger payments. His last day in the Philippines gets Rogelio a little bit nervous, but Josh's resilience and his natural charisma with the passengers allows him to find his way back to a worried and waiting Rogelio. Throughout his stay in Manila, Josh discovered the cycle of poverty in the Philippines and the inability of the Filipino people to overcome it. He is appalled by the living conditions his host's large family has, and even more so with the neighbors, a young couple with 13 children living in a 6 x 6 sq. ft. home, enlarged only by adding shabby materials to the top to create makeshift rooms. He is introduced to Rogelio's provincial home, and finds more cases of poverty there that brings him to tears. On the way back to London, he reminisces about all he has seen and learned in the Philippines, and grows more grateful to his own humble situation in the U.K.

The documentary begins with insights in to Josh’s life and job. Despite being a public transport official, his daily routes are always smooth and typically stress-free. Organized, clean and in perfect condition, his vehicle and his work in general give him little to no trouble at all on a daily basis. To top it off, he lives a comfortable middle class life with his earnings, enough to provide for his family. The filmmakers then whisk him off thousands of miles to Southeast Asia, only to give him the surprise of his life: not only is he not going to be driving a bus, he will be driving a jeepney - a loud, smog-producing relic of the American occupation remodeled into a cultural symbol of colonization.

The producer used multiple methods to jerk the audiences tear ducts, such as taking Josh around the slums, interviewing the slum dwellers, visiting Rogelio's family in the province, etc. The mere fact that they picked a jeepney driver instead of an actual bus driver shows just how much BBC wanted to portray hardship in the Philippines. It illustrates the Manila traffic scene and the anarchic dog-eat-dog structure that rules the road in place of law, and even gives the audience an in-depth look into the driving schools, which Josh attends and whose teachings he is appalled by - "What do you do when there is a yellow light?" "Go Faster!!". The documentary also used a heart to heart talk between Rogelio and Josh to further expound on the life of a jeepney driver. It compare and contrast between the lives of the two - the life of a London bus driver, and that of a Filipino jeepney driver.

The documentary was well made, and every emotion was conveyed properly. Every piece music that was played on the background was towards the conveying of the right emotion for the audience. Although the documentary only show the bad parts of Manila the documentary reached its goal of showing how tough it is to be a bus driver in the Philippines. I believe one of the target audiences of the documentary would be the Philippine government. This documentary should be an eye opener on how poverty has affected many of the Filipinos and how the laws and policies they make should be all towards the betterment of the country. The documentary is also directed to the Filipino people. The people our nation should realize how chaotic our country has become. This country has become a country where the people abuse the rules and regulation (in this case traffic rules). It highlights the weak rule of law that still remains unobserved by reckless drivers, the outdated vehicles used by the masses, and the insufficient incomes of the lower class families that barely sustain their living.

Personal Reflection
            After watching the documentary, made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to not only study in a university, graduate, three meals a day, and a stable lifestyle. It also taught me on how harsh the economic system, social system and political system we bear here in the Philippines, not only is there a nationwide poverty, poor health and social services but also finding a stable job, to earn a decent income may seem to be an impossibility.
            An a moral note, this documentary taught me to think twice on the decision I will make in the future, as on how to treat others or to do work, this was portrayed in the film very well.

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