You took home a beautiful Italian trophy, but what are you going to do with the prize money?
Well, me and the team don’t really think of it as prize money; $100,000 is going to obligations we have for the film. Kasi when you’re making an independent movie and that’s your first, wala ka talagang pera, a lot of people help out to pay for equipment and stuff, now we can finally pay them back. A bulk of the money is going to the next film. [firstpara]
And Engkwentro won more than one award.
We won two awards. The first one was the Orizzonti prize, which was like the best picture prize in our section. In Italian, it's the Orizzonti prize. Our section kasi is New Trends in Cinema, the same section Lav Diaz was in last year and also Francis Passion’s Jay. The other one is Luigi De Laurentiis—Lion of the Future, an award for a debut film. That's the one that came with the cash prize.
Were the Italians nice?
They have really aggressive photographers. They really scream at you. The entire awarding ceremony was surreal enough as it is, [but] after you get the award they whisk you to a holding room, where you meet all the winners. There’s a photo wall where you get to pose, and the photographers, it’s like how you see them on TV: "look here! Do this! Do that." I was wearing this pin that said Engkwentro to promote the movie, and one photographer told me, “Take it off! Hold it in front of your eye!” Tapos ako, ginawa ko naman. Ha ha! The whole experience was a bit disorienting and surreal and just what the F are we doing here? We were just all just happy to be in Venice.
All that and you’re only 22. No pressure?
Well, my teacher sa documentary in UP, Nick De Ocampo—a really prolific filmmaker, who started winning awards internationally before anybody— told me: “You know, first try and you’ve already hit the homerun. What are people going to expect from you now?” For me naman I tend to not think about pressure because I just want to make movies. And I’m used to failure also. Engkwentro, was filmed in Cinemalaya and we didn’t get anything. We were the only film to not get any award at Cinemalaya. And even in class, you present a project and it isn’t always met with a positive response, so I’m used to failure;,I think probably more than success. Doing the film was a challenge, so I don’t think about whether I could top it or not. I’m just thinking about the next challenge.
What would that next challenge be?
We’re going back to southern Philippines, [to make another film]. It’s going to be about three kids in the middle of an insurgency. These three kids were recruited to fight with the insurgents, they decided they’ve had enough of it and so they need to find a way home. It’s a journey movie, but also a war movie.
INTERVIEW: KHYNE PALUMAR
PHOTOS: AT MACULANGAN