First contact with Manila

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After visiting the day market Legaspi we took a walk around Dennis’ house and it was an amazing experience. It really felt like I was walking through a movie set. The colours, the people doing things on the roads like their were in their living rooms. It was like a photographers’ paradise. I was looking at Alem and Dennis and asking them how come they didn’t take pictures of what we were seeing. I realised that we really get used to what we have, until we totally lose the excitement,  and probably that’s why a complete stranger like me was the right person to make a movie in a place like that. I felt bad sometimes taking pictures of people that were just doing their daily things, I even felt like I was taking advantage of them for my aesthetic purpose, but that’s probably the dark side that art has within. Everyone was really receptive and natural. I felt that the camera helped me to have a purpose to approach people, like a tool to break the ice and connect with them deeper than merely using spoken language. It’s like I can dive into their personalities. Sometimes I feel like their reaction tells me in few time more about them than they probably know about themselves.

The way how they accept being photographed, the way they are shy but still want to be on the camera, some women arrange their hair for a little second before I prepare… Sometimes posing for a picture is the only moment they can show affection for each other, like in this upper picture.

But I am sure I am also exposing things about myself. How I feel excited every time they accept being filmed, how I greet happily to them in Tagalog… It’s a moment where two strangers connect in a deep way for a few seconds, until that that boundary is lost forever.

In this relation between them and me there are also lessons that I take with myself. These people have obviously very few to live, just the minimum. And still smile most of the time. We arrive in this place full of troubles and challenges in our minds, but I am sure they are carrying theirs, probably heavier than just looking for locations for a movie.

The purpose of these visits is two fold. One is to know the place through their people: their culture, their habits, how they react in the times that I interact with them even just for a second. From these observations I try to imagine how would it be to deal with these people if I was in the same trouble as Jie, our main character. Would they help me? Would they just observe me, would they all let me sink by myself in the game to pay my price for being unfaithful?

Interestingly, Alem told me that recently someone he knows shot a movie about someone who stole something in the market and ran away through the crowd. They didn’t notify to anyone in the market that they would shoot that scene, and as a result, everyone tried to chase who they thought was a real thief. That’s really interesting to know, there is a strong sense of justice in this society, and who knows if it’s more than that. Is maybe that people just wait for a justification to punish someone, as a way to find some relief from their daily issues in this harsh society? I will try to clarify these open thoughts in the next few days.

When we stepped into Dennis’ house I first thought about the Indian party scene at the beginning. Although these are not the stairs that we need when Jie is carrying the body, we could combine several locations in a single scene. The advantage is that the roof is quite low, enough to jump in that situation, and the streets around seem to be narrow and not too crowded. At least the good news is that this kind of location I had in mind looks quite adjusted to the reality, so it may not require to make too many plot modifications for the those chasing scenes, a priori.

Upper image is a detail from Dennis’ house roof. The distance to the floor doesn’t seem impossible for a chase. However, originally I was thinking on a third floor terrace where I can jump to a second floor’s terrace and then to the street. So a total of two jumps to the street. Will observe tomorrow the situation in the slums.

Inside Deenis house the stairs had that narrow and local feeling that we were looking for the film. With simple and straightforward structures and dark bluish tones that really put me in the mood of the scene. We must thank Dennis mother’s too for welcoming me to take a look at every corner of the house.

Originally the stairs where Jie is pushing the body are the stairs of a whole community so he encounters several doors on the way. We will also see tomorrow in the slums if we see something like that. These are not either like the stairs from the beginning of the movie, where he is crashing into a building and finally finds the Indian’s house. But the atmosphere of the stairs and their simplicity are just reflected in this kind of house, just as I had previously imagined.

These are details of two of the rooms, they are simple and colourful. And all have windows to the street.

The catholic motifs are really a constant everywhere I go. I feel that they help me transmit visually the feeling of grief that Jie has during the whole movie. Announcing as well a tragic ending of the story in most of the locations.

Here is a link with a rough video I did at Dennis’ house to see the distance to the floor and the situation on the terrace. Ideally would be a third floor, then jumping to a second floor.

And her finally a detail of Deenis mother’s house.