An epic document of living conditions within one of the world's poorest regions, The Slum is human drama of the highest order. Produced in six parts by Al Jazeera, the film allows us to experience the totality of what it means to live in an environment riddled with great struggle, abject poverty, rising crime, and faltering opportunity.
The first episode places us in northern Manilla, where we're introduced to many residents who wage a daily battle to provide for their families and community. A fisherman suffers through days without a catch, and worries what will become of his family if his net remains empty. A nurse attempts to deliver a baby in a medical clinic devoid of proper tools or acceptable sanitary standards. A community worker provides birth control counseling in an attempt to curb exploding population growth.
In the early moments of Episode 2, a weathered father of six scavenges for valuables in a sea of landfill waste. Tens of thousands of residents just like him toil at various menial jobs to support their families. But even when they manage to garner a "decent" day's wage, they remain at the mercy of an insufficient educational system, poorly financed medical care, and scarcely staffed emergency services.
Episode 3 sees the effects of an oncoming tropical storm. Nearly six thousand families find themselves without food and water, and their homes and businesses are badly damaged. Charity organizations come in to supplement the meek relief efforts of a sluggish government.
As storm season passes, a disturbance of a different sort comes to town. Episode 4 covers the region's election cycle. Politicians can't afford to ignore the slums during this time simply due to the sheer number of potential voters who reside there. Some of them even pay for votes.
Episode 5 follows the tribulations of homeless families who occupy a long abandoned toxic dump. We witness one family's faith restored as they manage to break out of their environment into more secure government housing.
The conclusion of the series continues on this note of hope as we track the efforts of those who work to achieve their dreams. A ballerina in training longs to study and perform in other parts of the world. A local athlete saves money to buy and operate his own gym. They are - like every man, woman and child profiled in The Slum - a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.