Thematic pertinence, technical skill merge in Singapore film fest’s PH entries | Inquirer Entertainment

Thematic pertinence, technical skill merge in Singapore film fest’s PH entries

12:15 AM December 19, 2020


Here’s the second part of our Q&A with the exciting filmmakers behind the Filipino entries to this year’s Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF):

What message do you wish to impart to your viewers?


Rafael Manuel (RM): I try my best not to consciously encrypt messages in my films. Maybe this is a form of resistance to my training in the Advertising industry, where it’s all about messaging. I approach cinema differently and try my best to not lead audiences to a message that I want to impart to them. Rather, I hope that the montage of visual and “audal” signifiers will lead them to a space where they give autonomy to their own thoughts, feelings and impressions about the world around them.


Joanna Vasquez Arong (JVA): I never know how to answer this question. Perhaps I hope viewers can reflect on how everything is related. Although not always obvious, I feel our personal and collective stories are intertwined. And as we all have different realities, it’s helpful if we’re more open and listen to each other more. Our realities seem to keep repeating itself, until our stories are finally heard, and actions are taken toward real change.

Che Tagyamon (CT): I’d like to explore and question the current state of the Filipino diaspora from the eyes of a child; how it affects children and families left behind in the Philippines, how the government likes to call them the modern-day heroes, rather than do economic and tangible solutions to not push these migrant workers to go away to make a living.

Petersen Vargas (PV): “How to Die Young in Manila” seeks to be the timely, crucial intervention needed in a tumultuous social and political environment. Even when blurring the line between reality and symbolic, we want to produce a powerful visual reminder of cruel policies endangering Filipinos of various walks of life.

Elijah Canlas (left) and Kokoy de Santos in “How to Die Young in Manila” —PHOTOS COURTESY OF SGIFF

Do you think your film could be better served by a full-length iteration of its story?

RM: As I mentioned, I’m already working on the full-length project—but I hope that the two films, the short and the feature, are relevant irrespective of each other. To me, instead of thinking about the short as a prelude to the feature, I’d much rather think of the short as a poem and the feature-length project as something else—a novella or a collection of short stories maybe. I actually don’t like that analogy because I think trying to relate cinema to literature/written language is dated and insufficient, but right now, I can’t really think of anything more accurate and hopefully it somewhat illustrates the point I’m trying to make.

Scene from “To Calm the Pig Inside” (Ang Pagpakalma sa Unos)

JVA: I feel there are many different ways the theme of “To Calm the Pig Inside” could have been told. I actually have enough material to create a full-length film. I feel, however, that this is the right length for the type of film I wanted to relay. Otherwise, it would have become repetitive, and less impactful.


CT: I’ve also written a feature-length script about the same story, but right now, I am happy as it is.

PV: Though the themes could fit a full-length film, the concept for this particular project was made for a short.

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