Hot on the heels of yesterday’s brouhaha, MNL 143 Director Emerson Reyes was kind enough to sit down with us to answer some of our nagging questions about his film’s disqualification.
The full interview after the jump!
We’ve all heard Robbie Tan’s side yesterday so a lot of people are curious about your side of the story. Do you mind sharing it?
When I was working on the script, I consider casting as a critical part in creating the film. The casting of actors to match the characters would require an intelligent and incisive understanding of the story. I did not have that fear because I already had Allan Paule, Joy Viado and Gardo Versoza in mind as my main actors.
When the script was accepted as one of the finalists, I was confident that casting will not be a problem. I anchored my premise on the belief that the festival organizers know that it is the director’s prerogative to choose the cast based on the assumption that they (the organizers) truly advocate the principle of independent film.
As we continue to deal with the organizers and presented our cast, things have changed. I could not believe how they can wantonly express their dislike and objection to Filipino actors without due respect to their talent and acting abilities. It was based solely on their personal preference under the guise of “chemistry”, what the audience wants and for the good of the film.
I need not expound on the story of the film but suffice it to say that it is real and quite a lot of people will be able to relate to it because of its honesty and sincerity. I am confident that my choice of actors will give justice to the characters.
I do not close my mind to suggestions and other pertinent creative inputs if it means making the film look good. But to impose and dictate without even considering the context and the objective of the story is a direct insult to the integrity of the director and a gross violation of the festival’s concept of being “Malaya”.
I earn a living by doing video productions for private corporations. These corporations are producers who can practically dictate every single element that must come out of the video. They pay every single centavo to produce the video. But these companies do not represent the institution that showcases independent film making. They sell products and company image. They are not the venue for independent film making.
Cinemalaya has already gained its momentum in developing its audience. This is a clear indication that independent films have a potential market. The organizers have already the power to choose which films to show. The power to choose the films at its basic form, which is the script, is enough power to claim. The responsibility to present a good film should be left to the film makers. That is the purpose of the awards. To meddle into the directors’ prerogative as you claim to be an organization that advocates freedom and independent film making is a sheer display of power trip.
Some would argue that no film can be truly free because production is both an industry and art.
Yes. I agree that there is no absolute freedom in this world. We are bound by the norms and rules. But freedom can be exercised for as long as there are those who understand the value of it especially in art. The industry will have to live by the dictates of the capitalists because it is business. But to pretend that you are in the arts while you impose and dictate is a violation of the essence of being “malaya” or free.
Are you asking for total freedom, or freedom in certain parts of production?
Why say that you are “malaya” when you don’t practice by what you claim and profess to be?
Where does all that’s happened leave you? Are you disillusioned or derermined to push forward?
I would rather take this as both a lesson and a challenge. I am enlightened by the fact that in order for good to thrive, something has to be done. We can not be fence sitters. Even If am just a speck in this Universe, I know what is right and wrong. I am guided by the Lasallian principle. To stand up and fight for what is morally right. Film makers are artists. Art must be allowed to be free because they reflect social realities. We must stop giving our movie going public only the illusion of mere entertainment without the grasp for what is real. They need to see truth that they can relate with.
What do you plan to do with the film? Are you going to find a different venue to produce it?
I plan to continue doing it and take chances on whoever is willing to take it and appreciate its worth. I am confident that it’s going to be worth taking.
Some might call this incident a simple case of you having to learn the system. Are statements like these things you wish to change?
Definitely. Change has to happen. This kind of despicable practice has been going on for the longest time. It’s about time that that we take the right path and shake those who are in position to perpetuate power tripping.
How important is it for you to fight this kind of fight? Nobody ever expects to win them.
Winning is not only a matter of defeating your opponent. Or instantly getting what you wish for. Winning could also be a long process. An expose on what is wrong, unjust and bad is victory for me. At least I did not connive to a wrong doing.
What about the next generation of filmmakers or your peers- are you discouraging them from seeking these and similar channels for funding? Or is this your own fight against established conventions?
I advocate freedom. So, to each his own. If there are those who are willing to kowtow to the dictates of a double standard policy of an organization, that is their own business. I just hope that they see the essence of what I am standing up for.