I think it comes with my course, but as time went on I became severely interested in movies. Not to mention that the debacle with MMFF 2016 really pushed me to fight with films that are treated unfairly by the majority of the industry. Every film has a story and they have every right to tell it. I stand with thousands of people who believe that Filipino movie-goers deserve to watch quality films.
So, I did not think twice when a friend invited me to attend Kape’t Pelikula 2017. A free one day film seminar organized by the University of the Philippines – Diliman Cinema Arts Society (UP-CAST) where the most influential and knowledgeable people in the industry are invited to share their story to a new breed of filmmakers.
These are the speakers for the event:
- Giancarlo Abrahan – an accomplished Filmmaker, Director and Writer.
- John Torres – an Independent Director, Producer, Writer, and Musician.
- Samantha Lee – a rising Filmmaker and Director of “Baka Bukas”.
- Moira Lang – a well-respected Screenwriter and Producer.
- Babyruth Villarama – a successful Documentary Filmmaker and Director. Best-known for her award-winning documentary, “Sunday Beauty Queen”.
- Raymond Red – a pioneer of Modern Filipino Independent Cinema.
Imagine being in the same room with people who know all the ropes in the industry. Doing the best they can to inspire us to be filmmakers with purpose and dignity.
It’s not about writing, it’s about film making
Giancarlo Abrahan opened the event with witty remarks and a look back at his past by bringing his transcript of records. It’s a raw moment when a successful person tells you about his struggles and laughs at his own bad decisions, which eventually led him to greater things and opportunities. He told us that the reason he does film was because this is the art he chose to express himself with. He said that people aim to be understood but that’s just a part of it – art is also about being misunderstood.
“Hindi mo kailangang takpan lahat ng butas, it just needs to make sense.” His statement shot me right in the center of my forehead because I loathed the term “butas” when I was writing a script for our short film. I had to do a lot of revisions because our professor kept on telling me that there’s something wrong, it’s unrealistic, may butas. But Abrahan said that you need to approach film like you approach real life. Life sometimes doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it’s unrealistic. Sometimes maraming butas.
We all know that film making is a collaborative process between the Director and the Scriptwriter, but he frankly told us that sometimes it is hurtful to see your script be marked with big exes once a scene is done, or when some scenes are not included during shooting. He said that while production members put exes on your script and the scene vanishes, the writer also vanishes. You have to have humility because writing for film is not about the writing, it is about film making.
“Why can’t Filipino Films be like Hollywood films?”
“I think that’s an unfair question.” Abrahan answered. He backed this up by saying the reasons why we will never be like Hollywood films. First of all, we have to consider the budget used for these films. Second, hollywood films are dominant in the market. You can go wherever and hollywood films would be seen. Which explains the third one, Filipino movies have a niche market, and it’s Filipinos.
More than understanding; feeling
John Torres engaged his audience by going down the stage and walking around the hall while discussing his craft. He is adamant that you must know your craft before anything else. He showed us clips and explained a whole new perspective of film making to us. He said he liked doing Experimental Films. He just likes to shoot and shoot and tries to makes sense of the clips he ends up with. He likes to capture raw emotions and actual events. He rarely uses a script and he edits his films that’s why it takes a lot more time to showcase. He laughed and told us that he doesn’t even know how to write a script.
“Find the moments, certain rhythm for things to be alive.” Torres showed us a clip of a child walking through the forest after saying this. And analyzing it carefully, you can see and hear the rhythm that he is talking about. I think maybe it’s when the sound of the film, the movement, and the scene looks like one big dance troupe that dances in sync. Everything looks and feels right.
Does he care if people understand his films? No. According to him the biggest compliment for him would be for someone to come up to him after a showing and tell him that even though they don’t understand what they just watched, they felt something.
A medium to get a message across
“Baka Bukas” a film by Samantha Lee was delayed for almost 6 months due to casting problems since a lot of managers declined to let their artists star in this flick, simply because of the lesbian theme. According to Lee, she considers this as one of the biggest challenges that she encountered next to the backlash she received after the movie premiered. No, not from straight people, but from the LGBT Community.
I have nothing against the theme of the movie. I laud movies that tackle this kind of subject matter because they want to send a message and they are using film to deliver it.
Lee was never fazed amidst the overflowing criticism for her movie. She said that she let people say what they want to say because she is already satisfied. She has done a film that is very dear to her and carries a story that is relatable to audiences. She kept on reminding us to tell our story. To make the viewers aware of the things that matter to us.
And if asked will there be a “Baka Bukas 2” she said, she is contented with an open ending for her film. She doesn’t see a possibility of it in the future.
No to cultural revisionism
You may remember Moira Lang as “Ertha” in Pamilya Ordinario. The person who took away baby Arjan from his parents, and you must’ve have been pissed with the character. But in reality, Moira Lang is one of the most intelligent and reasonable people that you will ever meet.
Moira is a member of the Executive Committee of MMFF in 2016. And one of the people who pushed to circumvent the festival’s standard when it comes to choosing the films that will be included in the line-up. Moira described this as a big step for the industry that she, obviously, loves.
But she followed this up with a disappointed smile.
Moira Lang was removed as a member of the Executive Committee of MMFF after allegations that the festival flopped because of the choice of films. She clearly stated that it did not flop because how can that happen when the festival was not opened nationwide? That the opposition was comparing the 100 Billion box-office sales nationwide to a 400,000 PHP sales that was solely made in Metro Manila. The numbers don’t add up. Metro Manila accounted for 65% instead of 60%, and outside was 35% instead of 30%.
Not to add that the festival was cut short and that the films we’re being pulled out of cinemas due to low sales, but these people don’t know that movies can be a sleeper hit. It means that after a long time, even with lack of promotion, it can be a big hit. And that was what the entries were. They were sleeper hits. But they weren’t given enough chance. In came the hollywood films and out were the films that promote our culture, vision, and creativity. She deeply entrenched that we must refuse revisionism. We must be aware of what really is happening.
“It’s not about purely kita. It’s about who you want to do business with. It’s a syndicate.”
That is the sad reality that is happening to our film industry. We neglect the quality and we only go for films that give us billions and saves our faces from investors/sponsors. Now, with the threat of the MMFF 2017 going back to its old ways, putting a barricade against filmmakers who want their craft to be shown to the public. This is going to be a roller coaster ride for us, film enthusiasts.
But Moira Lang is full of hopes and dreams. She believes that even though our biggest challenge is how to keep up with films that contain integrity, we can overcome it if we would work hand-in-hand and won’t be afraid to speak what is right and just. She gave us a silent “I am counting on you all” gesture. You can hear it in her tone whenever she speaks of irregularities among the industry.
Now, I ask you, how do we broaden the choices for moviegoers?
You have to take a risk
When Babyruth Villarama stepped on stage, she was all smiles and you can already see how passionate she is about film making. But she has a lot of story to tell.
She told us all the struggles of a filmmaker, especially if you’re just starting. She told us that we must always patronize quality films over films that have a recycled formula for entertaining the masses. I personally think that we have come to the time where people have gone tired of thinking, and they just want movies to entertain them, although that is one of its purpose – to be an escape.
But she emphasized that every filmmaker has to take a risk. That you must be willing to face trials along the way because if you conform to what is already there, that will always be what it is. You won’t bring change. And isn’t delivering something new, or watching something new a refreshing experience for all of us?
She had lots of stories about how we forgot to promote ourselves. That we were so engrossed in these hollywood films that ours have become so dated and boring for others.
“I think it’s time to bring Filipino stories to the forefront.”
She wants us to stop the labels, the stereotypes, the crab mentality. This is our industry. This is our talent.
This kind of cinema does exist
A pioneer in the film industry, Raymond Red, sure has a lot up in his sleeves. With the immensely mysterious and moving “Anino”, which we watched during our Film Writing and Production subject and was explained by our professor, this is one filmmaker who is as intricate as the movies he made.
“Nobody has the right to say that this kind of cinema doesn’t exist.” Red stated. He said that Independent Cinema started 30 years ago and that the dream was to create our own cinema. He is very infectious and he will definitely make you sit tight while he is explaining why we should appreciate this art even more.
He told us about Kidlat Tahimik and according to him, Tahimik is considered as the Father of Indie Films. A lot of Directors look up to him. He discussed that Indie Films can be eccentric at times but there’s a story in there. The filmmaker has a hidden message about something that he is fighting for.
When asked about how can we change the minds of people who has a bad mindset about Indie Films, he honestly answered that that is the kind of question with no definite and right answer. Maybe it depends on the person. Maybe it really is.
Before he ended the session, he asked us “Where will you bring the cinema next?”
Ended in silence
The whole seminar finished with smiles and thank you’s from the organizers to the speakers. It was a very educational seminar that should not be missed by anyone who is genuinely interested in film making. It made me more aware about the industry that I might be one day a part of. It’s saddening that these things are happening right now but hopefully the new breed, us, will change this.
For more information about the next Kape’t Pelikula seminar, click here.