The Sarah Balabagan Story is a 1997 Philippine Biopic directed by Joel Lamangan that revolves around the case of OFW, Sarah Balabagan who was sentenced to death in the United Arab Emirates.
Sarah Balabagan (Vina Morales) a 14-year old goes to work in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates or "Saudi", then an umbrella term for countries in the Middl East among Overseas Filipino Workers. Balabagan a minor, lied about her age so she can work abroad. She receives unsolicited sexual advancements from her employer and his family. In one episode, Balabagan killed her employer who was attempting to rape her. She was put on trial and was charged for manslaughter in a secular court, but the employer's family appealed who called for a death penalty for Balabagan. She was sentenced to death by an Islamic court. Her case became a publicized and the Philippine government attempted to save her from death row. Her sentenced was reduced to a year of imprisonment and 100 lashes following an appeal to the royal family.
Vina Morales as Sarah Balabagan - Originally, Vic del Rosario, producer of the film reportedly wanted Balabagan to portray herself in the film but the latter declined reasoning that it is against Muslim beliefs for women to appear in films.
The film's released was delayed for at least two times. It was originally scheduled to be premiered on February 17, 1997 with the opening day to be held two days later but was delayed reportedly due to protests from the government of the United Arab Emirates. The film's premiere was then rescheduled to March 6, 1997 but was postponed again due to protests from Muslim Screenwriters' Club who reportedly says that the film may potentially damage the public's views on the Muslim culture and traditions. Director Lamangan responded to the criticism that he was secure on the way on how he portrayed the story of Sarah Balabagan, the Middle East, and Islam and laments that Muslim critics of the film is barring a film they have never seen before. Balabagan herself together with Lamangan attended the March premiere which was cancelled in the last minute because the film didn't have a permit. In mid-March then President Fidel V. Ramos to postpone the showing of the film saying it may damage the relations and it may jeopardize the efforts of the government to save another Overseas Filipino Worker, John Aquino who was sentenced to death in 1989. A retrial was called for Aquino in December 1996. The film was released months later in 1997.
Vina Morales received three Best Actress nominations for her role as Sarah Balabagan.
Category:1997 films Category:Films set in the 1990s Category:Philippine biographical films Category:Philippine films based on actual events Category:Films based on biographies Category:Films set in the United Arab Emirates