MANILA, Philippines - This year's Cinemalaya Film Festival has got some big shoes to fill in. Since last year's films challenging the old conventions, Filipino movie enthusiasts are eager for more. Most films have not released their official trailers yet and we are still more than a month away from the festival week.
But it seems like we moviegoers aren't about to be disappointed, because there's one film that can probably carry the entire festival itself.
It was through a lifestyle-oriented program that I discovered "Rekorder." If you have been following my Cinemalaya updates on Twitter, I had tweeted that this year's line-up doesn't get me giddy at all. Good thing though, someone sort of slapped me for concluding stuff way too early.
Mikhail Red's "Rekorder" tells the story of Maven, a former cameraman in the '80s who now works as a film pirate. He is a cammer – one who illegally records films running in cinemas – and one of the last of his kind, as illegal camcording becomes more obsolete, amid the digital evolution of piracy (as in Pirate Bay and such) and the increasing crackdown against this illicit industry.
We won't risk committing spoilers, so let's just say that Maven soon inadvertently records something. His footage goes viral and the plot thickens.
Maven visits a shopkeeper to have his camcorder inspected
"Rekorder" somehow revels in the stifling, oppressive obscurity of these lowly technicians in the piracy trade.
Through Maven's interchanging lenses, we behold the psychological thriller as a mixed-media animal, morphing under several digital formats (professional cameras, CCTVs, hand-held).
"Rekorder" is indeed a cinematic experiment as it explores the bewildering possibilities of the old formats tossed in with the new.
"I imagined this type of treatment and storyline because I wanted to present something [old] with a modern approach," the 21-year-old director said in an interview.
His own identity
With independent cinema, Red is certainly in familiar territory. His father Raymond Red won the prestigious Palme d’Or of Cannes for his now-classic 2000 short, "Anino."
The younger Red followed in his father's footsteps but was fast on the way to establishing his own identity. At 17, Red took part in Cinemalaya, submitting a short entitled "Harang" which won, to his surprise, a Best Screenplay.
Red followed that up with another short film entitled "Hazard," a crime drama involving a moral conflict between father and son which isn't at all about Raymond and Mikhail Red.
"Rekorder," says Mikhail Red, is "much more daring, pushing cinematic boundaries further." Indeed, he steps up his technical playfulness here to intensify the film's atmosphere.
Maven (Quizon) amid the stifling obscurity of his trade
Ronnie Quizon was already his choice to play the lead even before Red and his team started casting.
"In 1997, my father made a film entitled "Kamada." I remember watching that film as a child and I was always fascinated by Ronnie Quizon's character."
Although he's no stranger to the filmmaking community, it feels like it's always the first time for Red. After all, this is his first full feature.
"I was used to my own process when making short films, doing everything independently with a skeleton crew." He was also overwhelmed by the larger scale of production in full-length films – of more people being involved and more sequences shot.
Even with the backing of the Red family's PelikulaRED, Mikhail Red still had difficulty gathering funds to finish the project.
"We had to find producers, people who believed in the vision of 'Rekorder,' and we had to make sure that we could make the film a reality with our limited resources."
Red is as fulfilled as his also-young crew to have overcome the challenges in making this film. That itself is the reward for this director and everything else that may follow is a bonus.
"I just want audiences to remember my films; I want them to think about it. It doesn't matter if they react positively or disagree with it completely. As long as they were affected by it, and they remember my work, then I believe I am successful in a sense. I don't need to win anything."
Red's inspiring words for aspiring young filmmakers paraphrase Godard. "All you really need is a concept and a camera, just go out there and shoot, be daring, do something new and don't be afraid to make mistakes."
Watch the trailer here:
Rekorder will be shown on July 26 to August 4, 2013, at the CCP, Greenbelt 3 and Trinoma malls, together with the other CINEMALAYA 2013 entries.
Rhea B. Gulin, 17, is currently enrolled at the Philippine Normal University, majoring in literature. She's also a cineaste as this article shows.