The Best Short Film
Capturing the gritty reality of life in Manila.
enfant terrible every movie industry needs one. And for
the Philippines, it is Raymond Red. "I don't make films to be
liked," says the 35-year-old director. "I make them to capture
reality. Some won't like the vision." Perhaps not. But when serendipity
recently gave thousands of Filipinos the opportunity to catch
Red's Anino (Shadows), the reaction was exceptional.
Manila movie buffs, flocking to the city's film festivals to see
imports such as the quirky U.S. production Being John Malkovich,
were treated to an unadvertised screening of Red's 13-minute work.
Afterwards, many cinema aficionados departed talking about the
bonus instead of the movie they had come to see.
The jury at the Cannes Film Festival was way ahead of Manila's
culture vultures. Anino won the Palme d'Or for short film at Cannes
this year the first Philippine-made work to capture the
coveted prize. Unlike the period pieces for which Red is better
known, Anino is set in the gritty reality of present-day Manila.
The film opens with a rich man stuck in traffic close to a church.
There, a photographer makes a living by taking portraits. A layabout
heckles the snap-shooter, accusing him of stealing people's souls.
A street urchin makes off with the camera. And soon the characters
collide with tragic predictability in a rubbish-heap magic-realist
style. The city's grime coalesces into the thoughtful but engaging
Red says every character in Anino is an aspect of himself. The
movie's triumph gives him a second chance at becoming a popular
voice. He came to prominence by screening his German-financed
movie Bayani (Patriot) at the 1992 Berlin festival. In 1993 he
made the epic Sakay. It barely broke even and marked the
first and last time a big studio supported a Red project. Fiercely
independent, he refuses to change his style to suit the local
entertainment scene, which churns out dozens of plotless action
and soft-porn flicks every year. He also refuses to heed local
critics, who are unhappy that Anino showcased the seedier side
of the Philippines before an international audience.
These days, producers are talking to him again. He wants to make
a movie on Filipinos who collaborated with the Japanese during
World War II. But to make ends meet, he has returned to freelance
work on TV commercials and music videos. He spent most of his
savings to make Anino more than $8,000. He came close to
bankruptcy to go to the Cannes festival (where he handed out photocopied
promotional flyers for his film). For Red, pursuing his art has
not come cheap.
By Clinton Palanca
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