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“To Calm the Pig Inside” Short Documentary Review: A Haunting Tale of Trauma, Corruption and Devastation

What are the consequences of a natural disaster? How can humanity cope with its destruction? Is only Mother Nature to blame? The outstanding short documentary “To Calm the Pig Inside” examines these queries through a simple yet deeply haunting blend of black-and-white video footage and photographs, accompanied by the narration of a girl.

Directed by Joanna Vasquez Arong, the short visits a Philippine community ravaged by the deadly Super Typhoon Yolanda, responsible for thousands of deaths in 2013. Amid the devastation, Arong points a finger at the corruption of the government and their shameful response to the tragedy. We see a glimpse of a politician trying to cover up the death toll, but there’s no need for more news footage or statistics. Instead, the director shows us the trauma of the victims through tales of heartbreaking struggle and images of destroyed houses, buried bodies, graves and powerful drawings of surviving children depicting the catastrophe. How could politicians choose money over lives?

Among the footage, we see short bursts of Mother Nature’s power: the crashing of unforgiving waves and the roar of heavy winds. The film has a unique storytelling approach that demands respect for nature and empathy for human beings. Arong also adds an impactful touch of folklore into the mix. It almost becomes a ghost story. The narrator talks about miracles in churches and the dogs who wouldn’t stop howling for weeks after the catastrophe. “I wonder if these dogs could see the restless ghosts?” she asks. 

Guy de Maupassant said that “Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe: It gives back life to those who no longer exist.” With “To Calm The Pig Inside”, Arong gives a voice to the underseen and tries to give back life to these ghosts who were long forgotten by the media and the authorities, mere hours after the typhoon swept them away — ghosts whose memories must not be forgotten. 

To Calm the Pig Inside” is nominated for Best Short Documentary in the 2020 IDA Awards. It has won accolades in film festivals such as Slamdance 2020, SHORTS MÉXICO, HIFF 2020 and Hot Springs 2020.  You can follow news about the short film on its official Facebook page.

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