Filmmaker Jose Javier Reyes fondly describes the shoot of his latest indie, “Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap,” his entry in the Sineng Pambansa All-Masters Edition, in words poetic, if not curiously erotic.
“I once said in a Cinemalaya forum: ‘When you make a movie, you are having sex, but when you know you are making a film, every minute is like making love,” says Direk Joey, as Reyes is known in the biz.
He found himself experiencing those heady emotions on the set of “Kulay,” which he considers a very personal film.
About the help
“Being on a set where people report for work for the experience, for sharing what they have… that’s how you realize the joys, the highs of filmmaking,” he enthuses.
“Kulay,” about an elderly nanny who finds herself homeless after her similarly wizened ward dies of cancer, is a story that must be told, Reyes asserts.
He explains, “There are very few movies about our kasambahay (house help), who have become part of the Filipino family though they don’t have legal rights.”
From the very start, he was certain about one casting decision: Rustica Carpio as the film’s hapless heroine. “She had just turned 84,” Direk Joey says of his lead star. “She arrived on the set with one assistant—completely prepared, knowing all her lines as well as those of her costars. Before each take, she would go into character and stay there throughout the shoot.”
She became a role model to her director, who raves, “At 84, she still teaches. She loves teaching. She loves acting.”
While shooting a pivotal scene, the fiery and feisty Direk Joey found himself crying silently, as did the rest of the crew and cast, which includes Ryan Agoncillo, Jackie Lou Blanco, Bobby Andrews, Alwyn Uytingco and Kim Rodriguez.
He recounts, “Okay, I knew I was shooting a movie I wrote. But the scene was so heartbreaking… and Rustica hadn’t uttered a single line.”
To think this film almost didn’t get made. Reyes relates, “Two financiers pulled out. I was resigned to withdraw, but (fellow fest participant) Joel (Lamangan) came to the rescue and referred me to GMA 7, which advanced the TV rights that allowed me to finish the film.”
Direk Joey felt compelled to join the Sineng Pambansa festival, mounted by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).
“It’s an old boys’ reunion, noncompetitive,” he says. “It brings together Joel, Mel Chionglo, Chito Roño, Romy Suzara, Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes, Gil Portes, Maryo J. de los Reyes, Tikoy Aguiluz and Elwood Perez and myself. How can anyone not see the significance of this experience?”
For Direk Joey, the All-Masters fest establishes a “firm connection” between old and new. “The new breed of filmmakers is already in the offing, but it is the respect given to [their seniors] and the preciousness of continuity that make a tradition,” he notes. “Here are the veterans doing the films they really wanted to do. The struggle of each director to secure financing… is something that the kids should appreciate.”
Reyes, who also teaches at De La Salle University, took in two students to apprentice on the set of “Kulay.” “Seeing the glow in their eyes as they interacted with the others on the set… I knew that greater work was being done. The next generation of filmmakers are entering the threshold.”
As expressed in “Kulay,” paying our respects to elders is a noteworthy Filipino value—a principle espoused by the All-Masters fest as well. “Without regard for tradition, there is no direction. Without any direction, there is no vision. And cinema, without vision outside of profit, is merely shadows projected on a blanket,” Reyes stresses.
He lauds the FDCP and SM Cinemas for presenting this festival of all-Filipino films for one whole week (Sept. 11 to 17).
“It is literally Christmas in September, as there will be no franchise films in the malls,” he quips. “There is nothing the matter with commercial films. We need the industry. We need films that rake in hundreds of millions of pesos to give life to a tradition. But we must also open the eyes of audiences to other possibilities, for alternatives that enrich their minds and spirits.”
After all, he says, cinema has become a crucial battleground for the country’s soul. “The fact that Filipinos have little regard for the culture of memory results in the kind of people we are today—disconnected from our past, unable to map out our future with a sense of roots and heritage.”
The Sineng Pambansa All-Masters Edition runs at SM Cinemas nationwide from Sept. 11 to 17.