Despite his experience in creating stories, award-winning filmmaker Theodore Boborol had a lot to learn for his first experience in creating an independent film.
The director behind hit films "Vince and Kath and James" and "Finally Found Someone" is set to compete in this year's Cinemalaya film festival with his entry, Iska, which tells the story of a doting but impoverished grandmother who wants to take her 10-year-old autistic grandson to a special needs orphanage, but is deemed an unfit guardian by the media and the government.
The Cinemalaya entry, which was written by Mary Rose Colindres, is loosely based on the story of his house cleaner. "Nangyari talaga ito sa totoong buhay. Basically, I've been working for ABS-CBN since the year 2000, and I've done many stories as a writer, director, creative manager, and a story editor. Itong story ni Iska, feeling ko kailangan siyang ikuwento. Nangyari ito nung 2010. Narinig ko 'tong kwentong 'to, I was still working as a story editor of Pinoy Big Brother," he said.
"[We're having a small talk]. Kinamusta ko lang siya for the sake na may chikahan portion habang nagla-lunch kami. Eh bigla niyang siniwalat 'yung buong buhay niya at umiyak siya. Nung narinig ko 'yung kuwento niya, ang dami kong realization, una, as a person na nagtatrabaho sa media. Na-realize ko lang na napaka-jaded ko. I'm supposed to be watching the teleserye of totoong buhay, which is the reality show (PBB), and yet something is happening around me, sa mga characters na nakakasalamuha ko and yet wala akong alam and wala akong pakialam. Feeling ko lang, nag-resonate siya sa akin. Napaka-interesting ng kuwento," he added.
In teasers released ahead of its official launch, it isn't hard to notice the apparent references made to his alma mater, the University of the Philippines-Diliman. "Siyempre, nung sinabi kong loosely based 'to sa story ng house cleaner ko, yes, totoo 'yun. Nagxe-xerox talaga siya UP dati. Lahat ng mga nangyari sa kuwento, nangyari rin talaga around the campus. So, in a way, hindi naman 'yun sinadya na doon namin gagawin just for the sake of lahat ng mga pelikula gusto sa UP [mag-shoot]. Inherent [talaga siya]," he said, adding that the story features a lot of metaphors and symbolisms throughout the film.
I humbly present to you the trailer of my most personal film to date. Hope you watch our small film “Iska” this August 2 to 13, at the CCP & select cinemas nationwide! Mabuhay ang sineng malaya! Salamat Cinemalaya! ♥️ @cinemalayaofficial #Cinemalaya2019 #IndependenceDay
Direk Ted was proud to say that he went all out in creating his first independent film, maximizing his freedom in creating and visualizing Iska—from camera movement to the structure of his storytelling down to the casting. But this was all not without going through certain adjustments as a director. "I'm directing movies here in ABS-CBN and Star Cinema, so alam ko na 'yung expectation. Alam ko kung ano 'yung hinahanap ng audience, ng marketing, ng management. In a way, alam ko kung ano 'yung 'formula'. Ito kasi, nanibago ako kasi I have freedom. Meaning ifa-follow ko lang kung ano 'yung instinct ko. Hindi ko alam kung tama ba 'yung ginagawa ko, basta puso lang talaga. I'm hoping na lumabas 'yun sa pelikula," he shared.
He's also very grateful to actors Ruby Ruiz and Soliman Cruz for not only bringing his vision to life, but for being easy to work with throughout the project. "May eksena doon na na-appreciate ko si tita Ruby. May pinakita siya na kung tutuusin, malaking issue 'yun, pero nung sinabi namin 'yun sa kanya nung first pitch, go siya.
"Asawa niya rito ay si Soliman Cruz, which is, thankfully, magaling din at kaibigan na rin niya. Marami na silang beses na magkasama sa teatro, sa ibang independent movies. Si Soliman, magaling siya. Wala akong problema sa kanila. 'Yun 'yung nami-miss ko ngayon, 'yung mga artistang professional, mga artistang nag-aaral ng mga characters nila, mga artistang iniisip nila 'yung istorya, 'yung plot, 'yung authorization more than their image, more than their fans. 'Yun 'yung na-appreciate ko sa kanilang dalawa, and 'yung fact that they respect me even if they're already veterans," he added.
On the message he wanted to convey through Iska, Theodore said that he wants to leave it to the viewers to come up with their own interpretation of the story. He told, "Ayoko silang pangunahan. Gusto ko na sila 'yung magbabasa, sila 'yung maghahanap ng meaning. But, of course, it's really about the unconditional love of a person. Ano nga ba ang isang ina? Unconditional love siya ng isang nanay, na kahit na labas na ng kanyang responsibilidad at ng kanyang kakayahan, binibigay pa rin niya 'yung unconditional love dahil mahal niya ang taong ito."
"At the same time, sana rin after this movie, mao-open na rin 'yung mga tao sa issue ng mental health dito sa Philippines. Kapag napanood niyo 'yung pelikula, kahit hindi naman ito tungkol sa autism, makikita niyong marami pang puwedeng i-educate sa mga tao about mental health issues. We're very blessed na connected kami ngayon sa Autism Society Philippines. Kinwento namin sa kanila 'yung istorya. Ayaw ko kasing gumawa ng istorya about autism na wala kaming credibility. So, lahat ng autism scenes, we researched about it, nag-immerse kami sa isang center, nakipag-usap kami sa Autism Society members.
"But beyond that, I'd like to believe na ang daming puwedeng sabihin ng pelikula. Ayokong i-demand na 'Ito 'yung kailangan niyong mabasa o ma-feel'. Gusto ko lang silang sumakay sa buhay ni Iska, matuto, ma-entertain."
Other full-length features which will compete in Cinemalaya this year include Ani (The Harvest), Annak ti Karayan (Children of the River), Fucc Bois, John Denver Trending, Belle Douleur (A Beautiful Pain), Malamaya, Pandanggo Sa Hukay, Tabon, and Edward.
The film festival is scheduled to kick off on August 2 and will run until the 11th.