Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A reason revealed in the movie PUNTOD...

Let me begin this piece by uttering the lines "Everything happens for a reason"---probably the most abused lines to describe or to justify an occurrence or a non-occurrence. But I cannot help but fall prey to these lines again for it is the law of nature--again, everything really happens for a reason--good or bad, there is always something that explains why it happened or did not happen.

As a first time producer of an independent film, my intention of course is to show the movie at once and showcase the final product, a result of a magical and unforgettable collaboration of hearts and minds of men and women involved in the making of this film. Our aim was to enter the film in different international film festivals and we did the rounds, inexperienced and with a vague idea on how things work in the world of independent films and international film festivals, we simply did what anybody else in the same shoes as ours would do: send entries, wait for the next big opportunity for the film to be noticed in one of the many international film festivals happening all year round in various parts of the world, one after the other, sometimes almost simultaneously. DHL must have made a "small fortune" from me if I would be counting the many entries that I sent.

Every time I would hear a report about a Filipino film being selected or having won in this and that award---I would be filled with joy and excitement for the recognition of a Filipino work of art. When the movie KINATAY won the top awards in this year's CANNES FILM FESTIVAL, I was among those who literally jumped with happiness and pride for I am part of the casts of the film, portraying the role of a reporter along with fellow journalist turned filmmaker Jim Libiran for a brief scene that establishes the kind of life the central character in the film, sees and confronts on his day to day existence.

But to be totally frank about it, while I was genuinely happy with that recognition, there was this nagging thought, restless question begging to be answered: Why was our film not selected? Why is it that no one seemed to be noticing the film we submitted even for exhibition purposes?

We have an award winning director in the person of Cesar Apolinario, a good friend of mine and a fellow journalist who is as passionate and as committed as I am and other journalists turned filmmakers too in translating the realities of life that we witnessed and experienced as journalists in the big screen via independent and small budgeted film productions; the script was very realistic and penned by someone who actually experienced life in that part of Tondo, Melchor Encabo; we have very competent casts of actors and actresses in our film led by the very talented and multi-awarded actor Mark Gil, the Mark Gil of Philippine Cinema; we have a gem in the person of our discovery and central character, Baby, portrayed by Barbie Forteza; the original music was handled by an Urian veteran;---I could go on listing plus factors about the film that only left me to ask that same question over and over again---why? Why does it seem that no one noticed our film?

And then last month, we were finally included as one of the exhibition films for the recently concluded Cinemanila Film Festival and it was there that I got the answers to my questions---in the company local viewers, in the perspective of fellow Filipinos who watched the films with us and voluntarily approached me and Melchor to share their views about the film, PUNTOD.

One comment came from Ms. Liza B. Martinez, Ph.D.Director of the Philippine Deaf Resource Center who said, "you guys had me fooled. I thought that your character Baby is really deaf!" --And then she encouraged us to present our film during the Deaf Awareness Month this November and the next thing I knew, there's this invitation for the exhibition of our film PUNTOD, described by the recognized authority in deaf related studies as "the most realistic portrayal" she has even seen in movies.

And then another unsolicited review, most welcomed and very much appreciated, from a member of the entertainment press, columnist Eric Borromeo who said, "it's not usual to end a movie on a sad note, but that's life, not all have happy endings, what happens is that we simply go on and move on after a seemingly insurmountable pain."

Actress Sheree who essayed the role of Sarah, told me, "Ate Arlyn, salamat po talaga sa pagpili ninyo sa akin ni Direk Cesar at ngayong nakita ko ang kabuuan, masasabi kong ito na ang pinakamakabuluhang pelikulang nagawa ko. Ipagmamalaki ko ang pelikulang ito."

And then there's this stranger, who shook my hand as she spoke to me, "please show this film commercially, it's a very powerful film. Akala mo tungkol lang sa isang pipi at bingi, pero ang totoo, tungkol sa kuwento nating mga Filipino na sa katagalan na ng panahon ng pagkukuwento ng kuwentong ito, ayaw na nating marinig at makita, dahil kinasanayan na natin, kahirapan, pagwawalang bahala, pang-aabuso sa kalikasan. You are depicting the story of many in one film. Sana mapanood ng mga gustong pamunuan tayo." She said a lot, she left me with a calling card and I realized we attracted someone from the academe to watch the film in wide screen, and the delight was strengthened by the fact that she's also teaching aspiring filmmakers.

And then it hit me. While we strive so much to have our film get noticed outside, in the international arena, the audience of the film is really inside the very shores where the movie is set----the Philippines, seen in the eyes of Filipinos looking at themselves, examining the horizon of the immediate future that awaits their decision or indecision, hoping for the one direction that would eventually affirm the dignity and the bravery of Filipinos.

In the movies, you would often hear this, "ang buhay ay parang pelikula", and as journalists and filmmakers, we say this with a twist, "ang pelikula ay parang totoong buhay nga!"---truth in journalism translated to films.

And just as I was convinced that the film is really meant for the local audience, I got a confirmation from organizers of an upcoming festival in San Fransisco, USA, that the film will be among those chosen for film-showing as exhibit films.

Then another surprise came---another international film festival, by invitation only---is asking for a trailer copy of the movie. No final decision yet but the mere fact that they asked for a copy spoke volumes on how thrilling this piece of news was---so thrilling and so exciting that I am still awake at this wee hour of the morning, exhaling and unloading my thoughts and emotions about the film PUNTOD.

Puntod or tomb symbolizes and end but in many ways, as we labored to promote this film in months, we were rewarded with the virtue and lessons learned of having to wait in line with patience, tired, wounded, but never giving up.

Everything happens for a reason I said at the beginning, and now all of us involved in this humble production are delighted in the opening of not just a window, but many doors for our film PUNTOD. (end)

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