Philippines. Luzon Region. Manila. Tondo area. Smokey mountain is a rubbish dump. Life on a garbage heap. A group of men and women wash in the river collected plastic garbage in order to resell them for a better price as recycled products. © 1992 Didier Ruef

Following in the footsteps of Ron Fricke’s Baraka and Godfrey Reggio’s  Koyaanisqatsi, Victor Tagaro’s Yield is an experimental film that shifts away from the typical form of the documentary and presents a visceral and enthralling experience. Yield explores the living conditions of nine children working as child laborers or have medical conditions related to child labor. Yield explores the full lengths of humanity and questions the self and the worth of children in the most charged and powerful ways. Yield will leave you speechless and awestruck with every new frame and revelation. It is MUST SEE cinema.

Yield follows the lives of a collection of kids living in the Smokey Mountains in the Philippines and their time in child labor. Its images are raw and unapologetic. We are exposed to severe poverty, slaughtering of animals (for food), and overall very depressing and horrific images, but among all of this nihilism, there is a grounded and powerful core of humanity that vibrates in every frame and ounce of this film.


The children whom we see grow up right in front of our eyes are so engrossing and invigorating. They naturally capture the eye and give off an indescribable energy. You don’t want to witness any of this, but their force of will and sheer lack of acceptance for failure is moving in its own right. Completely inspirational, the children and families in Yield never stop to question why they live this way or how they find their way out. They know this life and that is it. It is a tragic truth, but this film exposes it. It exposes all of our flaws and problems and shows them to us in the most shocking of ways. We aren’t sure how to fully grasp what we see in Yield, but what we do know is that it is real and it is beautiful in a twisted sense. It turns our thoughts from our comfy seats and air-conditioned rooms and asks us how are we to feel sorry for them? What right does our privilege give us to feel sorrow?

Images from Smokey Mountains, Philippines

Yield is a puzzling film when it comes to its message of hope vs. desperation. And that is because I think it is both at the same time, but it doesn’t fall into the fray of losing itself in this thinking of morality. It is very clear what Yield is. It is clear the effect and emotion Yield has on the soul: touching and fierce and expository. It exposes a fatal desperation in the self. What can we do about this plague, this disease of humanity? Can we post social media posts about it and be okay with just that? Can we actually do something or anything at all to make a difference? This is the core puzzling question Yield poses, not only to the characters but to the viewer. What will these children and families do to get to the next crop? What will they do for food? For survival? What will we do for our own food and survival?

Images from Smokey Mountains, Philippines

Aside from it’s moral and spiritual grasp on the soul, it still runs with a very simple stroke of brilliance in its cinematography and actual film structure. Its passing of time is illustrated in such simple and elegant ways. We watch as crops grow and get picked, then get planted again. Over and over and over, but this is not slow cinema. This is cinema at its most moving. This is the cinema and the medium in full force. Emotionally resonant with simplicity and complexity. It has something to say but doesn’t force it down your throat. Rather, it paints it all on a beautiful canvas for us to lean back in awe once it’s finished.

Images from Smokey Mountains, Philippines

I am sad to see that Yield may not receive such a wide release or be recognized immediately. I hope Yield can get the kind of attention and views it absolutely deserves. I know that in time Yield will finally get discovered as the cinematically brilliant piece of work it is, and I hope I can shed some light on this film, the same way this film shed some light on what it takes to be a human, one of this decade’s most stunning and grandest cinematic experiences.


Yield screened at the Cinematografo Film Festival in San Francisco 11/8-11/11/2018.

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Jarred Gregory-Grimes

Film student and casual Earth wanderer. I find beauty in the things NOT said.
Twitter: JarredGregoryG1
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Email: jrodgrimes@gmail.com

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