11 December 2006

seven sticks for auraeus solito

There are so many things that I can say about Auraeus Solito. Also known as Kanakan Balintagos (his Palaw'an tribal name), he's the ultimate maverick in Philippine cinema, raising eyebrows and sparking debate but at the same time garnering a huge following of fans. He is multifaceted, humanistic, and has an aptness for delving deep into the roots of his homeland. Early on, he also directed The Eraserheads' cult (and I mean that colloquially) music video "Ang Huling El Bimbo (The Last El Bimbo)". I remembering being really young and getting confused by what the music video really meant, but I thought it was super cool in my 9-year-old mind anyway.

His first feature film is Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros), which so far has won 12 awards. It is nominated for the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Film category. His second feature, Tuli (The Circumcision), won Best Director and Best Picture at the Cinemanila Film Festival. Truly gifted and stylistically innovative, we can expect more amazing films from Mr Solito. He sends a hearty manunga banar (for beautiful truths) to everyone.

Can you tell me about your experience making the movie Tuli?
I actually did TULI a year ago exactly after "Maxi's" 1st award, The Golden Zenith for First Fiction Film in the Montreal World Film Festival. When I arrived in Manila, Digital Viva films asked me to direct it. Jimmy Flores, the writer, was a batch-mate of mine in the animation filmmaking workshop in Mowelfund [Film Institute]. He asked me to direct his 1st screenplay which won 1st prize in the Viva scriptwriting contest since other directors were telling him to rewrite his screenplay. When I read the script, I really loved it and decided to do it as is.

Set in the Semana Santa or Holy Week... It is about the town's circumciser and his daughter and how one painful and traumatic event in her childhood sets a series of events that make her rebel againts the town's "macho" society and decides to have a lesbian affair with her best friend and have the only man her father didn't circumcise to impregnate here.

When Jim was asked by my sound designer Tad Ermitano what he thought of my direction of his script, he gave the best answer a writer can say to his director's work "It's as if he wrote it himself."

We rushed the film for the Digital competition at the CineManila Film Festival. Finished the film in a month (with my lucky 13 day shoot like Maxi:), but had a problem with the censors. It was rated X! I was shocked since there was nothing explicit in my film, just poetic eroticism (no frontal nudity etc). My film was cut (ironically TULI cut!:) so that it can be shown in SM. Had to fight for my right that the International Jury should watch an uncut TULI version (mind the pun again:), and succeeded. And TULI won Best Picture and I was Best Director. :)

How do you compare it with working on Pagdadalaga?
"Pagdadalaga" was my "coming of age" as a filmmaker while "TULI" was my "rights of passage" working with a mainstream set-up.

Of all the film festivals you've attended, which one stands out the most?
ImagineNative Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. A festival for native or indigenous filmmakers around the world. First nation's peoples know how to appreciate a work, they slowly approach you in the most unexpected moments and talk to you with their heart.

How do you take negative remarks from critics?
I take it as their opinion. Everyone has a different universe. You cannot please every person in this world.

Where is your ideal vacation spot?
Palawan.. and Sagada.

What's on your Christmas wish list?
... a great spirit.... more films.... perhaps a beautiful statuette.... my dream film
... kung ano man... whatever the universe gives. :)

It's been a full year of attending film festivals. What's next for you?
Been travelling all year... so it's time to make new films which I was made for. Will hopefully make two next year... one about PISAY or Philippine Science, about my high school alma mater... and a surprise film... that I have been dreaming about.

This is probably my lengthiest interview so far! Looking back, it's somewhat hard to imagine that I almost went to one of Philippine Science High School's campuses. Héhé.

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Auraeus in London, photo credit Kahloon Loke and Auraeus Solito

Posted by ilovesecondhandsmoke @ 6:49 PM