Lessons from Cinema One Originals 2016

The brains behind some of this year’s most interesting Cinema One Originals share their thoughts on originality, local cinema, and life in general.

by Emil Hofileña

Under the tagline “Anong tingin mo?” this year’s Cinema One Originals festival, which screened local and international films from November 14-22, remained consistent with its brand as a festival meant to challenge audiences.

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The ten entries in competition experimented with form and execution — often refusing to tell linear stories, while leaving the door wide open for multiple interpretations. Movies like the genre-defying Every Room Is a Planet and Best Picture winner 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten played with visual conventions, while the Audience Choice-winning Baka Bukas and Martial Law documentary Forbidden Memory challenged LGBT representation and historical revisionism, respectively. Other competing documentaries Piding and People Power Bombshell: The Diary of Vietnam Rose questioned the very definition of documentary filmmaking itself.

Watching a Cinema One Originals entry is a wholly unique experience, but creating one is undoubtedly even more affecting. We spoke to directors Keith Deligero (Lily), Jules Katanyag (Si Magdalola at Ang mga Gago), Samantha Lee (Baka Bukas), Paolo Picones (Piding), Teng Mangansakan (Forbidden Memory), John Torres (People Power Bombshell: The Diary of Vietnam Rose), and Petersen Vargas (2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten) to see where they stand and if they’ve changed after the Cinema One Originals experience.

Anong tingin mo sa local film industry?

Deligero: We are in a new golden age of Philippine cinema, I think.

Katanyag: Buhay na buhay at nasa gitna ng ebolusyon. ’Yung mundo ngayon, nagshi-shift rin ang worldview. Sasabay ang local cinema dito.

Picones: So many things are happening in the industry now. I think it is a good time to be a filmmaker. The industry is growing fast.

Torres: Masaya ako sa mga trabahong nadudulot ng industriya. Masaya din naman ako na may maganda pa ring mainstream films paminsan-minsan. Negosyo ang tingin sa pelikula kaya may mga formula. Sana kaya ko rin gumawa ng mainstream film pero tingin ko ibang skill set ang kailangan para maging successful sa ganitong trabaho. Mabuti na lang gumagawa ako sa labas ng industriya para makapaghain ng ibang gawa.

Vargas: There are so many new, exciting things happening with it that I myself can’t fully keep up! I have the perfect word for this — bumobongga.

Ano sa tingin mo ang pangunahing responsibilidad ng isang filmmaker?

 Mangansakan: A filmmaker must reflect not only his artistic sensibility, but must also be the artistic conscience of the times.

Torres: Madaming motibo ang filmmaker kung bakit gumagawa. Pwedeng napakapersonal o napakapolitikal. Parehong may pagtingin sa sarili’t lipunan. Nasa kanya ‘yon. Ako, nasa proseso ang tinitingnan ko. Nasa proseso ko kasi nakikita kung anong tanong ang mga tinatanong ko. Sa proseso ko naiintindihan ang sarili ko, kung paano ako magbago, o makipagtalo para mapuntahan ko ang pupuntahan ko.

Deligero: Make films whatever it takes.

Vargas: I think there can never be just one top priority. There are responsibilities you owe to yourself, to your audience, and to the subjects and concerns related to the film you’re making. You owe it to everyone directly and indirectly involved to your story to be as exacting and honest and sincere as possible. Can we give an equal amount of responsibility to all these things? We can try, why not!

Picones: Meron nga ba? Gawin mo na lang kung meron kang kwento. Ganun lang kasimple.

Ano sa tingin mo ang pinakamahalagang bahagi ng isang kwento?

Katanyag: ‘Yung mga nagkwekwento.

Lee: Heart and truth!

Vargas: What makes a good story great is that, after having read, listened to, or watched it, you feel its honesty and sincerity. I think personal stories are really the best. I say personal not in the sense that it’s lifted directly from someone’s actual experiences, but more about how the artist and his/her artistry resonates in the work, no matter how hyper-real, fantastical, genre-driven, or whatever, it is.

Ano sa tingin mo ang kapangyarihan ng dokumentaryo?

Picones: Malakas at maaaring makapag-ugnay o makapagbigay impormasyon sa mga tao. Kaso, madali lang din maging biased at maging misunderstood ang isang dokumentaryo. When a filmmaker is there on site documenting something, it means that he/she is already changing the situation, or sometimes even manipulating the story for the sake of filming something “good” out of it.

Torres: Sa dokumentaryo, mas bukas ang mga manonood malaman kung ano ang totoo, kung anong nangyari, o kung ano ang bersiyon mo ng totoo. Hindi man ito totoong buhay, at hindi man ito “totoong pelikula,” may oportunidad itong magtanong at makapagmulat sa kung paano nating tinitingnan ang bagay-bagay.

Mangansakan: A documentary is a mirror; not necessarily of reality, but a truth — maybe the filmmaker’s Truth. Objectivity is so overrated.

Anong tingin mo sa konsepto ng pagiging “original”?

Deligero: Feeling ko nagawa na lahat ng original. Para sa akin ngayon, mas importante ang pagiging honest sa filmmaking.

Picones: Nagawa na lahat. Kaya magnakaw ka na lang pero dapat galingan mo.

Anong tingin mo sa iyong cast and crew?

Katanyag: Patunay na totoo ang Diyos at mahal Niya ako, o kung hindi ‘yun — na totoo ang swerte at napakaswerte ko dahil sila ang nakasama ko sa journey na ‘to.

Vargas: The main cast — Khalil Ramos, Ethan Salvador, and Jameson Blake — they’re young actors, but you feel how dedicated they are to what they’re doing, to their craft. The entire thing felt very collaborative, and each of us really put our hearts and souls into building up our characters to make them as alive as they could be.

Lee: They are the best.

Ano sa tingin mo ang pinakamahirap na bahagi ng paggawa ng pelikula?

Mangansakan: It’s hard to come up with money and to meet people’s expectations. Or maybe I’m just too hard on myself.

Lee: Having to show your work to other people.

Ano sa tingin mo ang pinakamasayang bahagi ng paggawa ng pelikula?

Vargas: I think it changes with each film I make. Right now, working with actors is that one aspect of the shoot that I’ve enjoyed the most. I love creating characters, and I love to breathe life into characters. When you see an actor become who they’re supposed to be as a character — it’s one of the best feelings in the world for me.

Lee: Collaborating with other people.

Mangansakan: Cinema affords you a voice to tell a truth. It gives you a chance to change people’s perceptions of their truth. It is a celebration of the plurality of realities distilled in a two-hour opus.

Anong tingin mo sa katotohanan?

Picones: Mahabang usapan ito. Pero sabi nila the truth shall set you free.

Mangansakan: There are many realities. My reality may not necessarily be yours.

Torres: Madami pero nakatingala sa iisa.

Anong tingin mo sa mga happy endings?

Katanyag: Masarap na panandaliang pagtakas. Pero bakit hindi?

Lee: All endings turn happy eventually. Happiness happens in retrospect.

Deligero: Minsan masaya din naman manood ng happy endings. Minsan.

Anong magiging tingin mo sa mundo kung walang pelikula?

 Katanyag: Mapusyaw. Isang mundong nakalimot na may kaluluwa pala siya.

Torres: Lagi ko na lang iisipin kung bakit tayo pumipikit at kung bakit madalas na lang ‘di natin ito napapansin.

Vargas: Pangit. Ugly. The worst.