Yes we Cannes!
Don Jaucian (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Walang discourse on cinema ha,” Lav Diaz told me before we sat down for the interview. “Usapan lang sa presyo ng galunggong, ganun,” he continued. I assured him that it would solely be about their film festival experience but eventually our discussions wound down partly to the road of cinematic discourse. These are the three of the biggest filmmakers currently working in Philippine cinema today. Lav Diaz, Adolfo Alix Jr., and Erik Matti have all been consistent with their films, even becoming more prolific every year (but there’s no contest that Alix is the most prolific among them, producing over 20 films within the last seven years). This month, they’ll be going to Cannes as part of the biggest Philippine contingent to the prestigious film festival. Alix’s Death March and Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan are part of the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes while Matti’s On The Job will be screened at the Director’s Fortnight sidebar.

Aside from them, three other young filmmakers will present their shorts at the Court Metrage Short Film Corner and Lino Brocka’s restored Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag will be screened alongside other Cannes classics such as Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor and Joseph Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra.

Before they head out to France for the festival, we sat down and talked to the filmmakers about controversies, their expectations, and how this will eventually be another step for the evolution of Philippine cinema.

SUPREME: Aside from the prestige of getting into Cannes, what’s the biggest payoff of going to the festival?

Adolf: Ako yung makapanood ng pelikula, yun yung bonus dun eh, yung makita mo kung gano karami yung way ng pagkwento ng isang pelikula. Yun lang yung opportunity na mapanood mo yun sa big screen. Yung kitang-kita mo. Makikinig ka ng diskusyon. For a week lahat kayo high sa pelikula.

Lav: Libreng byahe. I don’t really attend parties kasi ang dami nyan eh. I watch films all day mga five to six films a day. Parang communion eh, it’s a tribal thing. Beyond yung mga fiesta na mga nangyayari, there’s cinema. Yung cinema naman ang nagcoconnect sa lahat eh.

ERIK: When it was announced that we were part of Cannes, the first thing that came to mind was it’s a chance to sell the movie. The prestige of that is malaki pero we all know that a lot of the Cannes entries are mainly art house. For us kasi as a company (Reality Entertainment, we co-produced (with Leo Po as executive producer) On The Job with Star Cinema, for us it’s the idea that we can bring a movie out there that will not necessarily just go around the festival route but could actually meet some buyers and have the buyers interested in getting something from the Philippines. But personally right before I die in my deathbed, I can claim I’ve been to Cannes. Masarap din yung feeling.

When you go to film festivals, are you conscious that you’re there as a Filipino filmmaker representing the country through your film?

Lav: Hindi ka naman maco-conscious doon kasi it’s just there na you’re a Filipino and your cinema is from the Philippines. Minsan kapag may mga Q&As napupunta doon.

Erik: I always want the Philippines to be treated equally with the other countries meaning I don’t want my movies taken into the festival just because it’s exotic. Just because para siyang in a banquet, may foie gras but it would be nice to put balut on the table. Ayaw kong tratuhing balut yung pelikula ko (laughs). It’s not about being cocky pero gusto ko lang talaga na competitive tayo. My attempt [has always been] that if you put it side by side with a Brazilian movie, a Korean movie hindi naman tayo dehado. They know that we don’t have that budget but when they look at it, they’d say, ‘This can pass as a movie that everyone else can view.”

When you create your films, is there a specific audience that you have in mind? Or is it all about just telling a story?

Lav: Ako alam ko naman na walang nanonood sa akin kaya okay lang eh (laughs). Hindi, meron naman eh. May mga following ka naman at through the years meron naman sumusunod sa cinema mo eh. May ganon kasing characteristic ang tao eh, minsan gusto nila lagi may genre at may certain ganito minsan, parang sa nobela rin gusto mo lang si Dostoyevsky. It’s the same with cinema may following ka you’re creating a subculture na magiging kultura, na magiging bahagi ng cinema.

Adolf: Ako naniniwala naman ako na ang pelikula may audience talaga siya. Pag ginagawa mo may iniisip ka na baka yun yung manonood pero pag nagawa na siya nagt-take na siya ng life of its own. Hahanapin na siya, experiential siya. Kada tao may take sa pelikula.

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk on the role of the government in all this. What’s your stand on that?

Adolf: Ang idea kasi ngayon is one of the very few times na maraming pelikula sa Cannes, Pilipinas yung strongest sa Asia so sana masuportahan ng gobyerno. Ako naniniwala naman ako na kung gusto nila may paraan naman kung paano ma-source. Alam naman natin na limited yung source nila as an institution. Kung ano yung ma-maximize nila to help us, okay na sa amin yun. Hindi naman kami nagrereklamo pero sana supporta na sapat lang.

Lav: Saka kung two months ahead yung invitation, mamamangka na kami niyan papunta sa Cannes. Pero ito, at the eve of the announcement. Bago kami matulog, uy pasok ka sa Cannes. We only have two weeks to prepare. Yung iba matagal talaga. Minsan shino-shoot mo pa lang. Yung Cannes may angas eh, “We’re the f*cking best, man”. Pinapangatawanan nila yun sa selections eh. Konti lang kinukuha, last minute sasabihan. Yung kasa namin halos tatalon na sa bintana pero o wag ka na muna tumalon pasok ka na!

Erik: We need to have a strong showing. This might not happen again in the next few years. We have two in Un Certain Regard, one in Director’s Fortnight. Tanong ko na nga lang eh, kahit mag-facilitate ba lahat ng visa ng mga pupunta, wala. No one offered. The news broke out two weeks ago. Wala, nobody reached out. Hindi mae-excuse talaga na wala kaming pera, may iba kaming priorities. It’s the willingness to help out. It may not be monetary. “Wala kaming pera, pare. Pero kami mismo ang maglalakad sa French embassy.” Kami naghahanap pa ng connection sa French embassy para lang may mag-facilitate ng visa namin. Pilipinas yan, tatlong pelikula. Ang dalawa kalaban si Sofia Coppola. Hindi pa ba masarap pakinggan yan?

Adolf: Kung ang thrust ng FDCP is to promote Filipino cinema, what is the best way to promote ngayong meron kang magandang mga pelikula, may apat na pelikulang Pilipino na makikita yung status ng Philippine cinema ngayon.

Lav: Just do the math. After we were selected from among 1,700 plus films we have three Filipino films there. Anong ibig sabihin nun? Okay ba ang trabaho natin this year? And then we have Master Lino Brocka’s work restored by Martin Scorsese himself. Come on, let’s f*ck them hard!

What are you looking forward to when you get to Cannes?

Erik: The one that’s keeping me awake for the past two weeks is the reception of the movie. There’s a component that we want to sell this. We want a reception na maganda para sa press. We want people to talk about it. This is a movie about the Philippines. It has a story that we feel is universal enough. So gusto namin matanggap siya ng mas maraming tao, not just our country. We don’t know, we’re not saying it is as competitive [as the films from the other countries] but we hope it’s going to be competitive.

Adolf: Ako yung mga pelikulang palabas. Interesado ako pano nila pine-perceive yung human experience. Tayo kasi iba-iba, paano nila ginagawa, you get a sense of your place as a storyteller.

Lav: Manonood lang din ako doon. That’s the greatest perk eh, watching new cinema. Nakakadagdag talaga yan. Pagdating mo sa bayan mo, may bago kang perspective na there’s something new and it’s also a challenge to you. May measurement ka na rin. Kailangan may ganong attitude with pride na hindi tayo nahuhuli, aesthetic-wise it’s not limited to the Western eye. We’re the same. We’re doing good work.

* * *

Cannes Film Festival will be held on May 15 to 26. Tweet the author @donutjaucian.


Photos by JOSEPH PASCUAL (Erik Matti) and SHAIRA LUNA (Adolfo Alix Jr. and Lav Diaz)


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