This week, Young STAR looked beyond the Oscars and spoke with eight Filipino filmmakers, cinematographers and writers on the rise, and making waves in our local industry.
Petersen Vargas, 23, filmmaker
Based on his last two shorts, Lisyun Qng Geografia and Swirl, Petersen still has a lot to say about the queer experience in the Philippines. “Kulang pa ng representation,” he claims. After graduating cum laude from the UP Film Institute in 2014, his films have garnered praise and recognition from various film festivals. Having grown up in a small town in Pampanga, his first main introduction to films was a video rental store, finding himself rewatching Little Manhattan over and over again. Had it not been for new opportunities for filmmakers these days, Petersen says he might have pursued writing, though he shifted to film after one year in Political Science. He mentions Raya Martin as someone he looks up to, finding it brave of him to make his films in a field that is often unforgiving of stories that don’t make the big bucks. Martin’s films and his bravado proved to him that “a lot of things are possible.” — CS
Noranian or Vilmanian? Vilmanian, mainly because of Ishmael Bernal’s Ikaw Ay Akin.
What Pinoy film would you like to see a remake of? Who would you cast in it? Joey Gosiengfiao’s Bomba Star kasi nabaliw talaga ako. I’d cast Nadine Lustre in Alma Moreno’s role.
Mycko David, 33, cinematographer
“I am very simple and quiet,” Mycko says when prompted to talk about himself, and then he adds, “Mysterious.” Although he began as a photographer, he transitioned into cinematography at the prompting of his good friend (who’s “almost like a brother”), Dan Villegas to “try going to a shoot.” The two have recently teamed up to work on the latest Star Cinema feature film starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Muñoz, Always Be My Maybe. When asked about what started it for him in film, he gushes, “It’s more of the revelation of things you didn’t know existed and seeing them for the first time on a screen,” citing movies like E.T., Back to the Future, and Jurassic Park. “Na-in love ako.” Mycko has a lot of dream projects in mind—a war movie about the Japanese occupation, “kung gagawin na bukas”—and he has shown no signs of stopping soon. — CS
Noranian or Vilmanian?
Noranian! She’s my favorite, and my favorite person to have shot (for Tuos). Kahit wala siyang sabihin, yung nga mata at titig lang niya.
If you could remake a Pinoy film, what would it be and who would you cast?
Probably Peque Gallaga’s Oro Plata Mata, my favorite local film.
Prime Cruz, 28, filmmaker; Jen Chuaunsu, 33, writer
@justlurkingabout (Prime) and @jenchuaunsu (Jen)
Somewhere in the metropolis, two lonely call center agents who happen to be insomniacs forge an instant connection. And while they fight the loneliness that keeps them awake, they realize that you just need someone to lean on when the sun rises. This is the plot of Prime Cruz’s QCinema award-winning film Sleepless, slated to show at the Osaka Asian Film Festival this March. It was a film, that he created alongside writer and real-life partner Jen Chuaunsu. About 60 percent of the film, Prime says, is based on their relationship. “We both like telling those stories where nothing big or exciting happens. Everyone wants to tell an exciting story. We want to tell a nothing much story.” Prime and Jen have also collaborated on some episodes of TV5’s #ParangNormal Activity and hopefully a two-character film about two people living abroad. Jen adds, “We’re both very different.” She fell in love with film through playwriting. He fell in love after watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The rest, as they say, is history. — TDV
Which film should’ve won in this year’s Oscars?
Prime: I think Room should’ve won. I liked Spotlight but it doesn’t make you feel anything grand like Room.
How can the next administration support the film industry?
Jen: There are a lot of festivals now and that’s great. But after the festivals, it’s very hard to get distributed. And when you don’t get distributed, it’s harder to create a career for yourself. After this MMFF incident, there was talk about showing more Filipino films. I think that’s good and it should stay longer in theaters.
Prime: Everything is concentrated around Manila. Last year, there were a lot of good films from the regions, especially Pampanga. I think the government should give more funding to the region. People from the provinces should be given the chance to tell their own stories because they have stories unique to their provinces.
Ice Idanan, 29, filmmaker
“I grew up in a household with two religions,” shares cinematographer turned director Ice Idanan. “My mom’s a Catholic, my dad’s a Muslim. So yung faith sa bahay, very different but very solid.” While religious diversity isn’t necessarily the theme of Ice’s films, she says it’s her parents’ flair for adventure that influenced the way she makes them. Her first feature as a director and director of photography was Sakaling Hindi Makarating for CineFilipino 2016. “We shot it with barely anything. We went to different parts of the Philippines — from Zamboanga to Batanes.” She says that the best course of action is to always serve the story. “Sometimes, it’s something you don’t like. But you have to do it, if it serves the story.” — TDV
If you could make a film about any person in the Philippines, who would it be?
My mom. In her industry, she’s one of the heroes. And not everyone knows that. Ang dami niyang pinagdaanan. At gusto kong malaman ng buong mundo who she is and how she got there.
How can the next administration support the film industry?
They should be able to give us more funding, more cinemas to show our films. The film industry is thriving but there are still so many films that need to be shown.
Anj Macalanda, 30, librarian/occasional filmmaker
“Suicide survivor ako,” intimates award-winning filmmaker Anj Macalanda. “I survived the loss of someone to suicide.” She recalls the last words her boyfriend told her before he died, that she had a penchant for moving images and that she should pursue it. It was a moment in time that would change her life forever. Anj’s first film was a skateboarding documentary called Gulong, her personal tribute to him. She would then tread dangerous grounds in Wawa, a silent film about a young boy and his journey through the stages of grief. “Wawa Dam in Rizal is quite dangerous because the topography changes every time. May NPA pa dun. Wala siyang dialogue. Prayer lang.” The film premiered at Cannes last year in the Short Film Catalog section and won Special Jury Prize at the 11th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. “Nag-gamble ako sa crew ko. I chose skaters with life skills over a professional film crew. Mahilig kasi sila sa adrenaline.” – TDV
Are you a Noranian or a Vilmanian?
Noranian. Overrated si Vilma.
What old Pinoy film would you like to see a remake of? And who would you cast?
Maynila sa mga Kuko Ng Liwanag. Ang hirap mag-cast. Basta si Solenn (Heussaff) yung babae.
Gino Jose, 29, filmmaker and video content creator
Magic was what brought Gino to the world of film. Enamored by the act of making something and entertaining an audience, Gino turned to film as his own personal magic trick, directing people with one hand while he reveals a story with the other, his own brand of sleight of hand. When he’s not working on videos for his production company, Indioboy Productions, he’s hard at work on shorts with a wide variety of subjects. Basaan, a gay short film he worked on two years ago, caught traction online, opening doors for him. Last year, he shot Waivers, a film about Manila, post-nuclear explosion. Currently, he’s working on a feature-length film about the stages of a Filipino wedding. For Gino, his dream is less about the projects and more about the process, hoping to expand his viewpoint and collaborate with people of different races and experiences outside Manila. “Making films is really a privilege,” he says. — CS
Noranian or Vilmanian? Noranian. Mas effective yung hugot ng bayan kaysa yung hugot ng drama.
If you were to make a film about a public figure in the Philippines, who would it be about and why? The Ayalas. I want to show how much these guys ball.
Luigi Gonzalez, 30, screenwriter
“I understand narcissism but at least I’m decent enough to hate myself,” screenwriter Luigi Gonzalez quotes Jeanine Garofalo on the latter’s thoughts on social media. Maybe it’s hatred or a painful degree of self-awareness. But this has served as Luigi’s springboard for the shorts he has written thus far. He wrote Basaan which he says was the “gayest.” Then, he did Waivers, a post-Apocalyptic metaphor for OFWs. “We shot in the desert and thought someone was going to conk out from the heat.” He says his process is very introspective. “Everything that happens to me becomes a potential plot for something.” As to what’s in the pipeline, hopefully a web series about the queer experience in Manila. — TDV
What result would you change in this year’s Oscars?
Tangerine was so snubbed. Mya Taylor, the transgender actress, should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
What is our local version of #OscarsSoWhite and how do we move forward?
We have classicism but I don’t want to get into that. For some reason, it’s a lot of the same thing. If where the money is coming from sees that one thing is working, they will continue to kick that horse until it’s dead, and still kick that dead horse. So, take more risks.