Nervous Translation

Winner of the NETPAC award for Best Asian Film at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018.

Released in partnership with Day For Night.

Set in the Philippines in the 1980s, as the country emerged blinking from decades of dictatorship into the bright lights of capitalism, acclaimed artist-filmmaker Shireen Seno follows up on the promise of her earlier work Big Boy to tell the story of Yael, a shy and lonely eight year-old left to her own devices whilst her mother assembles shoes at the local factory.

To pass the time, Yael cooks miniature meals for herself, does maths quizzes with her schoolfriends on the phone and in the evenings, cuts her mother’s white hairs for 25 centavos a strand whilst they quietly watch soap operas on TV together.  With her father working away in Saudi Arabia, Yael only knows him through his voice on the tapes that he sends her mother that tell of his longing to be home…

Expertly straddling rite-of-passage and allegorical social commentary, Nervous Translation is a magic-realist fable infused with innocence and wonder. Drawing on her work as a visual artist, Seno paints a colourful picture of a curious child developing an understanding of the world – and the adults – around her.


Shireen Seno is a Filipino filmmaker who was born and grew up in Japan. She began her film career as a stills photographer for Lav Diaz and John Torres, before directing her debut feature, Big Boy (2012), which premiered at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2013 and went on to screen at festivals worldwide.

Nervous Translation, Shireen’s second feature film, was one of 15 projects selected for Venice Film Festival’s inaugural Biennale College – Cinema in 2013.  It had its world premiere at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018 in the Hivos Tiger Competition, and won the NETPAC award.  Shireen is an alumnus of Berlinale Talents 2014, Oberhausen Seminar 2015, and was 1 of 4 finalists in Film for the Rolex Mentorship and Protégé Arts Initiative 2016-2017.

Released in the UK on Friday 5th April 2019

  • Director: Shireen Seno
  • Year: Phillipines 2018
  • Duration: 91 minutes
  • Genre: Drama
  • Production company: Cinema One Originals

Official website

“An intelligent and idiosyncratic film that lands on the skin, then lingers in the mind.”

Matt Turner
Little White Lies

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