by William Reyes
It has become almost a "favorite pastime" over the years among my colleagues in the entertainment writing field—viewing films and thereafter discussing their merits (or demerits, as the case maybe); or, in some instances, as in the recent Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival and Competition 2009, comparing notes regarding our top picks or best bets to win awards, and expressing approval for likely winners that eventually win or, otherwise, the disappointment over certain "unforseen" or least anticipated results.
But unlike last year, when the Cinemalaya '08 jury "snubbed" two films (Paul Alexander Morales' Concerto and Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil's Boses) that had most, if not all, of us from the entertainment media raving over, this year's Cinemalaya gave each of the ten entries in the feature length division an award or two. All except for the entry (Pepe Diokno's Engkwentro) given the distinction of a Jury Special Mention (quite literally too since jury member, Aruna Vasudev, just made a formal announcement of the jury accolade onstage), without even any certificate of merit or a Balanghai trophy.
It happened nearly three weeks ago (on the night of July 26, at the CCP Main Theater), but the impact the awards results created seem to vary among this year's direct participants.
There was hardly any controversy to this year's Cinemalaya awards results, as compared to that of, say, the National Artists declaration that had the artists sectors rising up in different levels of protests, but just the same, any reaction to the former, whether favorable or less, is deemed valid and, therefore, as important.
Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP) took note of award-winning indie filmmaker Jerrold Tarog's views on, among other things, the recent Cinemalaya 2009 awards results and what he thinks of it as a foremost festival competition in the local independent cinema industry.
To achieve this, we sent questions, thru e-mail, to the indie filmmaker of the multi-awarded debut feature-"mockumentary" Confessional in 2007, and Mangatyanan (The Blood Trail), his entry to the fifth edition of Cinemalaya.
Jerrold Tarog graciously—and thankfully—replied, thus: "I'm going to answer your questions honestly, okay? (But) I trust the whole context of my replies will remain intact in your article. These are good questions, by the way..."
Here are the questions and answers
PEP: On the eve of the Cinemalaya '09 awards, you said you were happy with your "Cinemalaya experience" (as Mangatyanan director). After the awards night, was it the same feeling?
Jerrold: Well...I am happy that the festival is over. Haha! (laughs)
PEP: Many who have seen Mangatyanan were vocal about the film's merits and thought it would win a major award or two, but didn't (instead, won only one award: Best Production Design). Any reaction?
Jerrold: Seriously, I'm not in a position to question the awards night's [results]. There were audience favorites, I know, but the judges think differently and we should respect that. The only thing I found disturbing was Cinemalaya's rumored tradition of handing out awards evenly, like there was some big cake at a party and everyone had to have a slice (or a special mention pag naubusan). If it's an unspoken policy, it already shows a disturbing compromise in the process. If it's all just a coincidence, e, di ganun. Weird ang dating pero tanggapin na lang...
PEP: Did the awards' outcome change your impression of Cinemalaya as an indie filmfest and competition? Are you still interested to join this year, or for as long as you're qualified?
Jerrold: Cinemalaya remains the most important film festival in the country so I don't see any reason why I shouldn't try to join again in the future. But if I ever do that, I swear the awards will be the last thing on my mind.
PEP: We missed your film's UP Film Institute-Cine Adarna screening last July 31. How was the reception by the viewers - and by the critics?
Jerrold: Same reaction as the CCP screenings--a lot of people liked it, and there are others who didn't. And just like in Confessional, I'm more interested to hear the opinions of the latter. Although I must point out that some of the people who didn't like Mangatyanan were those who expected too much from the film and who took the film too seriously when, in fact, Mangatyanan is in exactly the same vein as Confessional--meaning they're both experiments in deception. Magkaiba lang ang kulay nila. I guess I have to get used to divided reactions because I intend to do things differently with every film I make....if I get to make more, that is.
PEP: Any updates as regard Mangatyanan's screening in international festivals?
Jerrold: As for international festivals, no word yet. I'll find out later this year when the festivals I've sent copies to start announcing the lineup. Sana may tumanggap.
(NOTE: As we writing this piece for PEP, we received a text message from Direk Jerrold Tarog, saying that Mangatyanan will have a weeklong run at Robinsons Galleria Indiesine, from September 16-22, 2009).
PEP: Two of your main stars, Irma Adlawan and Che Ramos (who played the roles of mother and daughter, respectively) in Mangatyanan revealed to us that you don't want to be called (or addressed to, as) "Direk" (colloquial term for a director) on the set of your movie. Why? Is it your way of "levelling up" with people, even if you're above them, professional status-wise? Or is it some kind of a personal reaction against the other "direks" you've worked with, as music composer?
Jerrold: For narrative films, the director's real job is to guide the artists [cast and crew] towards the film's vision. The "Direk" title gives too much authority to one person when the whole filmmaking process is about collaboration. It adds an unnecessary layer of hierarchy. Alisin mo yung "Direk" and you'll notice people open up creatively, walang nahihiya dahil hindi na nila iniisip na si "Direk" lang ang tama. Everything now becomes an exchange of ideas and, more importantly, everybody wants to do their best, not for the "Direk" but for the film.
(NOTE: Prior to his being feature films director, Jerrold Tarog started professional work as music composer, for mainstream and independent movie projects, including Brillante Mendoza's Masahista which won the Young Critics Circle/YCC award for best sound and aural orchestration in 2006; and Adolf Alix, Jr.'s Kadin which gave Jerrold the Cinemalaya 2007 Balanghai trophy, for best musical score.).
PEP: After Confessional (2007) and Mangatyanan (2009), you're set to do a third film which you mentioned will complete your "Camera Trilogy" project (with lead characters whose main occupation involves the use of the camera). Any latest update? Will it be entered in next year's Cinemalaya competition? Otherwise, do you see yourself completing a third film in 2010?
Jerrold: I'm preparing to pitch the third film of the trilogy to some producers but I really don't know if I'll have the opportunity to make any film next year. Let fate or adventurous producers decide. I have begun research for a new script however.
PEP: What have been your greatest fulfillment—and frustrations—as a filmmaker?
JERROLD TAROG: My greatest fulfillment as a filmmaker is simply being one in the first place. My greatest frustration is that, from where I'm standing, there's no sign of things getting easier in the near future.. But that's how it's always been, I guess.
PEP: Will you be doing musical scores for other filmmakers, despite being a filmmaker yourself?
Jerrold: I love composing music for other films and I will always remain a composer. Yun naman talaga ang gameplan ko ever since—to make music for other films while making my own films at the same time.
PEP: Will you be doing musical scores for other filmmakers despite not getting paid much or not getting paid at all (or so we heard)?
Jerrold: Haha... sorry, hindi ko siya masasagot sa ngayon..
PEP: Is that the way also with mainstream projects? Would you say the big studios offer better deals?
Jerrold: Mainstream is always bigger. No question. But I haven't had a mainstream scoring project since 2004. So if there are any mainstream producers out there reading this...
(NOTE: As musical scorer, Jerrold Tarog's first project was Bong Revilla, Jr.'s Agimat for the Metro Manila Film Festival, in 2002; followed by Lupe, directed by Elwood Perez for Viva Films, in 2004. Shortly after, he realized his dream of directing his own films, starting with the short-features, Carpool and Rhythm in Unison, then the multi-awarded full-length feature, Confessional, in 2007).