Saturday, December 15, 2007


I'm moving this blog over to WordPress:

See you there.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sammy, Felipe, and Connie.

My latest project is two short films, entitled (for now) Sammy and Felipe and Connie. This project began last year when, while developing a story for a different project, Monster and Mario suggested I read Butch Dalisay's short story, Some Families, Very Large from the short story collection Selected Stories. I was instantly drawn in by Butch's prose, a delicate wordplay that draws fine pictures. I read his whole book in one sitting.

A year later that project I was working on was abandoned, but the story of Some Families, Very Large stuck with me. I was especially touched by the ending, wherein the protagonists have a chance encounter with an eccentric lady in the end. This random meeting of strangers suddenly becomes a moment of truth for all of them. I'm fascinated with moments like these, which defines the nature of being human - the joyful, heartbreaking point of contact. I decided to adapt the story itself, but with an addition: a second, entirely independent story revolving on the other party.

In the summer of 2007 Butch graciously gave us permission to adapt his story. I contacted my good friend, National Book Award-winning writer Tara Sering, and we crafted the stories of Sammy and Felipe, the father and son, which is the direct adaptation of the story; and Connie, the odd lady they meet in the end, a conjecture on what must have happened to her.

Though both shorts share one pivotal scene, the stories are independent of each other. Each is but a moment in the characters' lives, but when viewed together I hope to create a larger story of how human beings connect.


Arkeofilms presents our new short films: Sammy and Felipe and Connie.

Sammy and Felipe catches a day in the life of 9 year-old Sammy with his grifter father, Felipe. Sammy embraces the day's adventures with Felipe who tries to make most of the day hustling money. Both forge a more meaningful bond when an encounter forces them to face the truth.

In Connie, a lonely old woman faces the death of her adopted son. She bides time in delaying the inconsolable grief, until unexpected visitors force her to examine her sorrow.

Production is set for the holiday season (yeah, what a bad time to work on it). Keep posted for more.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Last bunch of pics

A few more photos before I get back to real life. Someone suggested I just put up a Multiply account but I couldn't figure it out. Besides I much prefer Blogger's simpler look.

Our workshop, the Produire Au Sud, is one of the events of the main Three Continents Film Festival, featuring films from Asia, Latin America and Africa. Some photos below of the people I hung out with.

With Endo director Jade Castro, sporting our Intense Asian Director Scowl.

Endo, my personal favorite at Cinemalaya '07, is in competition at the Festival. Although it didn't win anything, it was well-received at the festival. A few people would approach the lead actors outside the theaters and congratulate them.

With Best Actress Jung-Hae Oh (Beyond the Years), from Korea.
Very humble and sweet girl. Fine performer as well.

With Pakistani superstar Re ema.

Stunning lady. Unfortunately, as vacuous as a turban. Example: she was called onstage during the closing ceremony and asked: "What do you suggest we do as a closing event for next year?" Answer: "I'm very happy to be here, this Festival has inspired me to work harder, and we hope that more Pakistani films will be invited to the Festival in the future."

Also, I sat behind her during the closing film; as a result had to suffer her perfume in which she'd marinated herself.

With Endo's Jason Abalos.

"Lost in Paris"
un film de Leoy, starring Ina Feleo and Leoy. Coming to theaters soon.

Jade and producer Raymond Lee, on stage at the closing ceremonies.

Produire Au Sud organizer Elodie Ferrer. Sweet, sweet lady.

L-R: More Produire Au Sud folk. Rosario, director from Peru; Mr. Philippines;
Maggie, producer from Egypt; Martin, director from Bolivia.

Martin's last feature premiered in Nantes at age 25, called "The Most Beautiful of My Very Best Years". He's one of those maverick kids. Rosario's film is called "Las Malas Intenciones", is about a young girl whose fear of death launches her into a fantasy world of saints and martyrs. It also includes a funny scene where, because of the inflation, one has to insert 2,000 coins into a payphone to make a one-minute call. Maggie's film is "A Long Film on Sorrow", a statement on the Middle East crisis.

The Brazilians! Mario and Felipe.

They became our buddies during the workshop. The producer Mario (the one who looks like Dom de Luise) is a booming guy with hilarious stories. Felipe is the co-director, who calls critics and script doctors and consultants "aliens", who may or may not have intentions to invade and corrupt your film. Not pictured is co-director Marina who's doing residency in Lille. Their film is called "A Alegria", about three friends and there's a sea monster in there somewhere.

With Endo's Ina Feleo. She's really cute.

Returned for a couple more days in Paris after the festival, did a few more touristy things.

The Three Shades by Rodin, up close, at the Musee Rodin. This sculpture was originally one of the many smaller sculptures he incorporated in his sculpture The Gates of Hell. I think of all the fine arts I'm most awed by sculpture. Of all of them it's the one truly created by the artist's own hands, each bump and surface. To be face to face with that is something else.

Les Invalides, a 17th century hospital built by Napoleon for the soldiers who fought his wars.
Immense, ostentatious structure. Today, it's still a hospital for veterans.

Unfortunately as of this point I was freezing once more and couldn't give a flying f**k.

The Moulin Rouge. As touristy as you can get.

Hamming it up with Ina and Jason. Me, drunk; them, completely beat from a day of travel.

Took on a gastronomic adventure over there, adventure being just ordering whatever I can recognize on the French language menus. Overall: French food is okay once in a while, but the lack of taste (for a Pinoy palate like mine) can get frustrating after a while.

Our table at La Cigale. It's a hundred year-old restaurant. Very nice. Note the detail on the walls and arches.

Creme Brulee. Don't like sweet stuff. After this, I still don't.

Pan-seared foie gras at La Cigale. If you ask me I still prefer Je Suis Gourmand's (at the Fort) version.

Steak. Despite not having eaten meat for 13 years, I've decided to eat red meat outside the country just to taste what it's like. Didn't like it very much. One time I ordered Tartare by mistake. Dunno why I did that, knowing what it means. That was disgusting.

Just had to have the Royale with Cheese. In this case, with bacon. Tastes like Burger McDo. With bacon.

Riz Cantonnaise. All I can say is, after weeks of French bread... thank God for rice!

Nothing beats a good old-fashioned Pinoy spread. This was the best meal I've had in two weeks, at Hazel's, the Endo crew's host. Though it was important to eat the bulalo right away because ten seconds out on the table, magsesebo na siya. It was 5 degrees outside.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Long Journey Home

Due to a breakdown in communication with Air France, my trip home is thus: Friday, catch a train at 10 PM in Paris to arrive in Nantes at midnight Saturday. Wait for six hours before flying from Nantes back to Paris. Layover in Paris hour two hours, then off to Amsterdam, layover of 3 hours. Then finally the long trip to Manila.

Grand total: 27 hours of nothing but plains, trains, automobiles and airports. Sounds like fun?

Leg 1. Paris-Nantes

9:56 PM Friday
Started off bad, as I miscalculated the time it takes the no. 12 train to take me 17 stations from Marx Dormoy to Montparnasse, as a result I had to jog all the way to the right platform, and then the right car (which was the last in a looong line of cars). As a result, I sweat like a pig for the first time in two weeks.

My host for my return to Paris was Antoine, Raya Martin's producer. Both are extremely gracious. I went with the Raymond, producer of Endo, and the lead actors Jason and Ina; they stayed with Hazel, a bagong bayani. Hazel and her friends are wonderful. They took us around, Filipino style. The night we arrived I had the best meal I've had in Europe: hot, heartwarming Pinoy food.

Drunk and glad to see fellow Pinoys: husband and wife JR and Sheryl, and host Hazel.

Hazel and company are wonderful. Happy, funny, extremely accommodating to strangers like ourselves; the fact is, Pinoy kami, and that's enough for them to embrace us. They're amazing. They even treated us to an expensive dinner.

Took some meetings with other filmmakers/producers in the city, and in between I walked the Seine again. This city is really stunning, by far it's the most beautiful city I've been. i don't have enough adjectives. Ended my trip at Jardines des Plantes, a botanical garden/zoo next to the Museum of Natural History. It's huge with manicured lawns and trees shed of summer leaves. The building is magnificent, as usual. Threw out a little word of thanks while at one of the benches. It seems like I'm enjoying the gardens most.

At the end of the trip though I've had enough of Europe: resorting to sign language in order to communicate, FREEZING, wearing the same 10 pieces of clothes. Done, absolutely done with all of it.

I'm done with washing underwear and drying them over the heater.

Leg 2. Nantes-Paris

12:18 AM Saturday
Not in the greatest of moods, outside Nantes Atlantique.

Train pulled in to a raining Nantes. Cab to the airport was 43 Euro- 2,700 pesos! And I'd run out of Euros and had only 38. Thankfully the cab driver was cool with it. Unfortunately I had no money at all to buy a drink or eat, as I was dying to do both.

12:40 AM
Nantes Atlantique airport is deserted. There's no one here. Just me and a floor cleaner. Four hours till the check-in counter opens. Seven till the money exchange opens. And I'm really thirsty and starving.

4:44 AM
Napped, I think. I don't know if I actually fell asleep. A rowdy group of Russians chose, out of all the empty seats in the entire building, to sit and drink whiskey next to me. Forced to sit up. As I observed them I noticed an Asian dude with proper English- Pinoy! Did some small talk though I was really eyeing his bottle of water. Haha. So I asked for a drink. And being Pinoy, he gave me a bottle. Friendly Russian guy offered me whiskey. How can I resist?

At the check-out counter, had my most successful conversation in French. Bonjour, quelle-heure est ouvrir? I asked the lady. Yadda yadda quinze minute. Ah, merci. Yadda Yadda Paris? Oui.

A breakthrough, ladies and gentlemen!

Leg 3. Paris-Amsterdam

9:51 AM
When I landed a while back I felt a little pissed, why am I back here just 12 hours after I left. Legs hurt. Too much walking the past couple of days. Toes feel impacted, wanna take my shoes off. Really sleepy now, unfortunately none of the layovers and flights are long enough for me to get a satisfying nap.

Great looking airport though.

Leg 4. Amsterdam-Manila

11:25 AM
Yehey! Last leg. While typing the last entry I fell asleep. On the plane, as soon as I strapped in, I slept and woke up to the landing wheels skidding on the tarmac. Sana ganun lagi ang plane trips.

Amsterdam Schipol airport isn't as large as CDG, it's a lot nicer too. And, there's a smoking area. That's what I love about Europe. Walang respeto sa air. Perhaps because it's too cold to smoke outside. I was told though that now they're enforcing a no smoking in public areas rule in France, too bad.

While Manila was experiencing earthquakes, typhoons and coup d'etats, I myself am having the same in my mind (Let's let that bad metaphor go okay? I'm sleep deprived). In Nantes we learned about making movies for the world.

Some of the Produire Au Sud gang, after one of our last dinners in Nantes: (L-R) Margie, Brazilian producer Mario,
his director Marina, translator Karim, Bolivian producer Roxana, Egyptian producer Maggie.

The commonality of experiences between our countries wasn't surprising. We all struggle to make the movies we want. We're all outsiders in our mainstream industries. We all have strange, wicked stories that are will never get produced with local money. Our stories have sea monsters, children addicted to saints, stoplight gangs, lonely substitute teachers, tyrannical despots who just want to be loved. Our own personal struggles are unfortunate, and sadly typical all over the developing world: a largely unsupportive government, projects languishing in development hell.

It's all difficult to process: The workshop itself is a master class. Your classmates are fierce, up and coming independent filmmakers. The persons invited to speak are co-producers, key heads of Pandora, Arte and FondSud. A guy from CineFondation was looking for my short film in the video library and after not finding it, he approaches me and asks me to send him my script. Though we've learned much from the speakers, we learned as much from each other and from the wonderful, excellent movies in the Festival itself. The passion beats hard: No one is making money, but we plod on. We make our movies because there is no other choice.

This was an experience that ripped my eyes open to the possibilities. I thought that the Philippines was all, that it was it. Cinemalaya, Indie Sine, that was it. Ang liit pala ng mundo ko. The world is huge. Pinoy movies need to be seen everywhere. But for them to see it we have to bring it to them. It's time to make Pinoy movies for the world.

9:45 AM Sunday

Home sweet home! I love Manila. I thought it would be hot, but not at all. Finally I'll be able to get some sleep.

Still not over my France trip. Next time: The film festival itself, and a sampling of the food.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 4 - Walking in Nantes

I'm walking in Nantes, but do I really feel the way I feel.

Some photos.

Streets are much narrower and are quite old. Obviously built hundreds of years ago and made only for people and horse carriages. As a result the city layout is confusing. Not a grid. But still, very pretty.

More street cafe action.

A part of the city was built in medieval times, and it's amazing how it's preserved, as above.

And here. French people are a bit funny. They stare, and when you smile at them, they seem a bit baffled and don't know what to do. But they're not rude at all as their reputation says. They're very friendly once you get them going.

Me and a castle. Yes, a medieval castle. Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne. Inside is a museum depicting the history of Nantes. I didn't understand most of it as it was in French. But still, I've never been inside a castle before.

The light shining through a castle window.

More of the castle.

Cathedrale St. Pierre-St. Paul. Unfortunately, it was closed when I got there. Done in the same style as the Notre Dame

I forget what this one is but it's beautiful.

The cathedral.

My favorite place so far. Jardins des Plantes. Like a small Central Park, but just as beautiful. I spent a long time sitting here and just watching, listening.

C'est moi in the Jardin.

I sat here scribbling madly in my notebook, a lot of thanks, a lot of thoughts about my project Akyat-Baba, Paikot-ikot, about film in general.

Some Cole Haan ducks were swimming around. This class duck is for Gigi.

Cemeterie La Boutellierie. Some of the headstones are more than a hundred years old.

I forgot what this one is called too. Place ("plahs") something. Places are like little squares except it's a rotonda, where many of the confusing small streets converge. Invariably there's a monument like this one, or a historic building of some kind.

The main street, Cours de Cinquante Otage. the widest in the city I've seen. Lots of trams, it's tree-lined, and again the gorgeous buildings.

Passage Pommeraye. It's a mall, but it's two hundred years old.

That's it for now. Tomorrow: Produire Au Sud begins.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 3 - Nantes: Ang GenSan ng France.

An old trading port, Nantes (pronounced "nahn") maintains a lot of its medeival look. We poured ourselves out of bed in Paris to make our 9am flight, at that point still doubtful we can get there because of the strike. It was still dark at 7am. Like 7pm in Manila.

When we arrived that we only had time to get lunch and nap before Produire Au Sud activities would begin, at 5PM. Lunch at an Italian restaurant. Ordering was a team effort; it was me, Margie, the French waitress, and her English-speaking friend trying to get our order right. Margie wanted to know what aubergines were and it sort of panicked the waitress, I kept saying "eggplants nga!" until an English chap from the other side of the restaurant yelled, "IT'S EGGPLANT."

Cut to: the Three Continents Film Festival is on its 29th year, and it features new work from these three places: Afrique, Amerique Latine, and Asie. This year, Jade Castro's Endo is in competition (yay!) and Jade, Raymond and their actors Jason and Ina will be here. According to Raya it's the fourth biggest in France, and I imagine it's the most important French festival for the developing world.

Produire Au Sud (Producing in the South) is a workshop designed to teach producers in the three continents the basics of film producing and financing on a global scale. Each project is selected on its possible appeal to European funds and co-productions, and they send the producer and director over. It is not a competition. We are taught the ropes of getting funding, including how to pitch a project.

This year there are two Asian teams, ourselves and Malaisie. From Amerique Latine comes Perou, Bresil, Bolivie, Chili and Colombie, and from Afrique is (drumroll...) BURKINA FASO. Love it. I've never met anyone from Burkina Faso. And I'm using the French translations because that's what people use here. The producers start tomorrow the 21st whereas the directors begin on the 23rd, giving me two full days free.

5 PM we finally meet everyone else. Game on. Elodie the workshop coordinator is lovely. I use lovely because that's really what she is. Maganda siya, chipper and really just a delight.

The opening film of the Festival is a Brazilian documentary, Handerson e as Horas (Handerson and the Hours). It's in Portuguese with French subtitles but still, it did blow me away. The typical Sao Paolo-an travels five hours a day by bus to the city, and frequently travels with the same group of people everyday. These commuters become like family. They hold birthday parties in the bus, they drink beer together, they joke around, dance. They blow balloons and hang them on the estribos. The documentary chronicles one such trip, and it's all jokes, talking. In the end Handerson, the lead, is the last one off the bus, and he heads off to work. That's all. Mario our Bresil workshopmate explains to us the opening sequence, where mob leaders in prison orders the bombing of several city buses, effectively throwing the city into a standstill. The documentary is a tribute to those commuters.

Afterwards Margie and I had a few drinks with Mario, who enlightened us on Brazilian cinema. It's the same everywhere: funding is always a problem, competition with Hollywood and pirated DVDs. A DVD is a dollar, whereas a movie is 7-8 dollars. Though in Brazil, the industry is helped by the government, where public companies subsidize film. I explained that in the Philippines, all independent filmmakers compete for sixteen grants a year. Mario's a character, he was sleep deprived that day from all the travelling and he drank a bit, and he spoke in that Brazilian way that makes them sound slurred.

In the hotel I told Margie that I feel like we're on the edge of an entire world of possibility. Margie says no, we're in it.

Tomorrow: Leoy walks Nantes.

Day 2 - Paris: So Many Landmarks, So Little Time.

It was still dark at 7 am and therefore I was unwilling to get out of bed, and took a while to finally roll out. Breakfast was at a cafe down the street where we had omelettes. Before leaving the owner warned us to take care, no subways today. The public transportation strike put a major crimp on our plans, this meant we had to walk in the freezing cold all about Paris.

On the way to our first stop, Notre Dame, Margie would go "my god!" at every corner. It's all so stunning even in the overcast weather. The old buildings, the streets, the Seine. Notre Dame was full of tourists, even as the priest tried to hold a mass. I've never seen a more beautiful monument to God; I couldn't help but offer a short prayer at one of its chapels.

As of this point the skin on my fingers felt like they were ripping themselves from my nails and my nose was running non-stop. Had to buy a hat and gloves. Us tropical 3rd worlders aren't used to all this fall clothing; everytime you on inside a bar or restaurant you take off your hat, gloves, scarf, coat; and when you leave you put them all back on again. Ma-ceremonias. Margie and I would invariably leave our gloves or hats, or drop them on the streets, and have strangers approach us to return them; it's just not in our muscle memory to put them on.

At the Louvre, saw your basic Mona Lisa (in my book still The Most Disappointing When You Finally See It Thing), Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, all that. The place is just filled with all this beautiful, important art; but when you're on a schedule you sort of just glaze over everything, take mental notes of a beautiful Titian stroke or the immaculateness of an ancient Greek statue, before moving on to the next room. I can't help but feel like I slighted all those artists.

At this point, hindi ko na kaya, ang sakit na ng paa ko, pati nung likod ko. So we went back to the hotel, and thankful the one metro line that was working ran from the Louvre straight to our hotel at Bastille station. On the way back though, to Arc de Triomphe, it was rush hour. And only one train was working. It felt like the entire population of Paris was in our train. Margie says she won't be surprised if on the next stop the train announcer said "Station Cubao". But it was cold and everyone was wrapped in coats, therefore, no sweat or skin contact.

We emerged on Charles de Gaulle station exacto sa Arc de Triomphe, and going up the escalator it's was as if there was musical scoring... then suddenly it's there, the Arc. It's bigger than I remember it. It's Margie's favorite of the landmarks. Again a lack of trains had us walking to the Eiffel Tower, by then it was raining, and we were freezing. I've never been colder in my life. It was amazing. And I just had to have a cigarette on the Eiffel. Good thing I delayed quitting.

Back to Champs Elysee to meet Raya, a Filipino filmmaker also in town. On the way a man asked for a cigarette, and remembering Mario's story about how expensive cigarettes are here, I gave the man five sticks. It seemed like he was ready to hug me. On the way we got lost, but I like getting lost in foreign cities, only to find your way back. Not Margie's style though. She likes to ask people. I don't. I'm never lost.

So finally, I get to drink. In all our stay in Paris we never had a decent meal, just a lot of baguettes, which I don't like, sugat sugat yung bibig ko tuloy. So at least now I get to drink. First at an Irish pub, then at an Italian place. Then crepes after, but not like the crepes in Manila. The crepe is as big as a pizza before they fold it in quarters which you eat with your hands, see my photo post below.

The walk home was the coldest yet. When I checked online, it was an impossible -3 Celsius.

Next: We arrive in Nantes.