Sunday, April 13, 2014

Masadao's 'Red Rice' and my screen debut

By opening oneself to newness, there are such things as a screen debut in one's dotage when a double chin is prominent, when stains on the cheeks are not freckles but just that--stains from exposing oneself unprotected to the sun.

Baguio's Martin Masadao's short film (seven minutes exactly) "Red Rice" made it to the semi-finals at the Tropfest Southeast Asia early this year. To me it is still a winner in both form and content. But as the Abbess in The Sound of Music said, when God closes a door, He opens another window.

Since February, Martin has updated me by SMS on the road show that "Red Rice" has become as it took part in the exhibition portion of Cinema Rehiyon in Cagayan de Oro. He described his high with the good reception at its first screening at an SM Cinema there and how a Tropfest finalist said, "Dapat nakapasok tayo sa Tropfest. Maganda daw yung entry natin, better pa nga raw than the other finalists."

What followed were invitations to screen "Red Rice" in Bacolod City and at a short film festival at De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde early this month with a request from students to meet the cast, particularly stage-screen pro Banaue Miclat, who played the mother, and her "son" Deuel Raynon Ladia (the same kid who won best actor honors in the 2012 Sineng Pambansa for his starring role in Masadao's Anac Ti Pating). In all of Martin's films (may his filmography grow longer), our city of affection plays a major role; it is more than a setting. May its writers and directors continue to mine these materials. It's the kind of material that goes to its very heart--the diverse people.

My role was a non-speaking part--I played Banaue's mom who must be pillar of strength and comfort as the mother deals with...no, I won't give the plot away. Let's wait until "Red Rice" makes it up to Baguio for a public screening.

Banaue, whose lines were in Iluko, wrote of her role in a note to Direk Martin: "Your story is so beautiful kasi, kaya madaling buhayin at buuin three-dimensionally."

Ladia as a hard-working son in his last scene with his screen lola and mother

When the short film was done (it was filmed in one whole day, plus a few night hours), Martin "premiered" it among friends, including British expats and their spouses, to get feedback from a "foreign" perspective. He wrote, "They were all one in saying that we have a good film. Ang galing-galing ng scene ninyo! Kudos were given to both of you, the lola and mom! Naiyak, in fairness, ang mga puti. Pati ako, nung napanood ko uli sa big screen after how many weeks of not viewing the film, naiyak din ako!"

As Banaue built up her emotions for the final scene, I felt her arm and upper body tremble and I had to contain my own swell of empathy by biting my lower lip. Mabuhay, "Red Rice" team!
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