SFIAAFF 2010 | March 14 & 16 | The Mountain Thief

Posted by Tamiko Ogura & filed under AAIFF, Film, Film Festival.

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In a world of monstrous mountains of trash, a family confronts their ultimate fight for survival as they seek refuge and redemption from war and hunger.


We met in the Guest Services Lounge at Hotel Tomo. He was giddy with excitement since his film The Mountain Thief was having its festival premiere at SFIAAFF 2010. Genuinely nice guy, and damn…so young!

As the writer, director AND producer of The Mountain Thief, Gerry balances this trifecta with his first feature narrative…and it’s been gaining rave reviews since it’s premiere this past Sunday (moved the audience to tears). Good on ya! Couldn’t happen to a better guy.


After years of working with children with disabilities as an Occupational Therapist, Gerry pursued a career in filmmaking–a life-long passion.

Inspired by a vision of sharing the spirit of people in Manila living in extreme poverty, he completed courses in film production at New York University-SCPS. A couple of his short films have played in festivals in the US. Gerry has written several screenplays, two of which were finalists for the 26th and 27th AAIFF Screenwriting Competition.

In December of 2004, Gerry went to the Philippines, where he was born and raised, and instituted an acting workshop open to the residents of the Philippine’s largest garbage-collecting town. Graduates of the workshop acted in his first feature film, The Mountain Thief. The film was selected to the prestigious 2008 IFP Narrative Rough Cut Lab. Gerry is also currently working on his next feature The Silence Of Manila, a political-psychological thriller.


The Mountain Thief is the first narrative feature film that was shot in the garbage-collecting town of Promised Land and Urban, Payatas in the Philippines where the living conditions are possibly the most horrific in the world.

It was also the first film that was made with a cast culled from the scavengers of a garbage-collecting town, from the graduates of the town’s only acting workshop. The Director instituted the workshop in December of 2004.

A micro-philanthropy project called Mount Hope Project was initiated by the filmmakers to help the scavengers who acted in the film. In late 2009, through the supporters and fans of this film, 2 of the children involved in the film received medical care, including surgery for one child with a club foot deformity.


In a world of monstrous mountains of trash, Julio and his son confront their ultimate fight for survival as they seek refuge and redemption from war and hunger. Together, they navigate territorial rivalries and intense desperation among scavengers, surviving–and finding love–despite horrific living conditions. Julio, involved in a murder incident, must prove his innocence to avoid his family’s banishment and ultimate starvation.

A story of triumph over unusual circumstances, “The Mountain Thief” reveals the unimaginable realities of people living in extreme poverty, and what happens when their tenuous hold on hope and survival is threatened.


The Mountain Thief (USA, 2010, 78 mins, Video)

In Tagalog w./E.S. with English subtitles

Directed By: Gerry Balasta

Writer: Gerry Balasta

Exec. Producer: Douglas Morse

Producers: Gerry Balasta, Nina Balasta

Cinematographer: Francisco Valdez

Editors: Francisco Diaz, Clarence Sison, Gerry Balasta

Sound: Miguel Mariano Locsin III, Jojo Jacinto

Music: Michael Tremante

Cast: Randy Catonjay, Manuel Gonzaga, Jr., John Richard Casas, Reynaldo R. Cinco





Growing up in a town in Manila, I still remember that when a strong wind blew from the west, we had to cover our noses. If I close my eyes today, I can still smell the sickening stench coming from the country’s largest dumpsite. To this day, I am haunted by this memory, because I knew back then that people were born, lived and died in those monstrous mountains of trash. After I moved to the US, I realized, that it is essential for me to share this disturbing yet ultimately hopeful story of man’s love for life and his ability to endure.



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