Weeknight Memoirs on HD: John Torres

Photo by Gym Lumbera

John Torres is trying to break your heart. Most of the time he succeeds. His films leave cuts, bruises that remind you of extraordinary stories that you have once encountered and the futures that they promise. From his trilogy of shorts to his three full length features, John’s films are high-definition mirrors to his own world, meticulously personal but still embrace universality.

For his next film, Lukas nino, which deals with the ordeal of a heartbreak, John will be crowdsourcing additional funds to make it. The film will be shot in 35mm film and is inspired by a lost Ishmael Bernal film called Scotch on the Rocks to Remember, Black Coffee to Forget.

Why crowdsourcing? 

Crowdsourcing involves outsourcing tasks to a crowd. To some, crowdfunding should be all or nothing, where pledges will be collected only if you hit that amount. another site allows partial funding which collects any amount at the end of the campaign. The crowd pledges, and whatever you have in the end will be collected all at once. What I’m doing is a straight fundraising campaign where I’m basically selling my works to the crowd, collecting payment anytime they make a purchase throughout the campaign.

Aside from seeing your name at the film’s end credits, the crowd will get DVDs of my first shorts, a limited-edition boxed set of Todo Todo TerosYears When I was a Child Outside, and Ang Ninanais[Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song], tickets to the premiere, posters, among others. Now, I am also committing to finishing a book I’m writing because it is also one of the items I’m giving out.

There’s one reward where I get to make you a short film. You choose your reward based on the amount you choose. There are eight levels, the highest of which gives you credit as one of the co-producers.

There’s a language disconnect again in Lukas, just like Ang Ninanais and Mapang-akit. Why this fascination with language?
I don’t know. I grew up learning Ilocano from hearing my parents speak it at home. I grew up speaking Tagalog but understanding Ilocano, without my parents teaching me. I am fascinated because it remains foreign to me, yet I feel like I always eavesdrop when I hear it because I understand every word. It remains foreign because I cannot speak it. There’s the aspect of mouthing it out. there’s practice, there’s the getting used to part to it. I always get a kick when i hear it spoken outside the house.

Tell us more about the book that you’re writing.
I want to share my own experience of making my early films, from the first short to the first features. It can be pretty straightforward like this. Or, I have the idea of writing a screenplay after Todo Todo Teros orYears or Ang Ninanais — scripts coming after the completed films. I can watch scenes I shot scene after scene, describing the visuals, the sound faithfully as they happen. Then, I react and put them on paper.

I know I kept my handwritten notes, drafts of the outlines. They contains a lot of erasures, and I want to scan them all and sell them as art. Haha.

I noticed that Teacher’s Village or QC itself figures into your work quite a lot recently. How important is the influence of your environment and the people around you in your works?
Sherad [Anthony Sanchez] said I shoot like I see and hear from a bus window. I made my shorts, situating them from home. Then I guess I travelled with my longer works and more recent shorts, and now, I’m missing my place in QC.

With my next film, I hope I can shoot scenes in our village. I am launching the fundraising site on Thursday, and it’s tentatively called 59 Mahabagin is near Maginhawa, referring to street names in our area.

Will Lukas nino still be as personal as your full lengths? 
My works will always stay personal and precious. Saying that, things will change as I change, right? As it is Teros is stylistically different from Years and Years, from NinanaisLukas is my first time to work with a script, a crew, and money from the crowd.

Visit John Torres’s blog for more information. This interview was originally published in Restless Cities


Sadness as a Religion: Attraction! Reaction’s Death Cab for Cutie Night

Video by Erwin Hilao

The phrase “profound sadness” may be vehemently unbearable for some people but it seems to  have been invented for bands like Death Cab for Cutie. So as expected, Attraction Reaction’s  Death Cab for Cutie night was a bittersweet blow to the skinny-jeaned crowd who all went through puberty quoting The Gospel According to Ben Gibbard and were  guilty of putting a Death Cab lyric as a blog bio or status update once or twice in their online lives.

While hand-holding was optional, the gig was essentially a hipper take of a  prayer meeting with all the sing alongs, occasional screaming and proclamations of faith to the sacred altar. It’s the moroseness that reigns supreme after all, as exhibited by Charles Dumraos aka Aww Sad who, rightly enough, opened the gig with Death Cab melodramas like “I Will Posses Your Heart”.

Other bands followed suit, establishing the night’s tradition of shattering hearts and stomping on whatever’s left on the floor. Okay, there was the occasional shifts like Don’t Bogart the Can…Man’s “Bobby, Don’t Die”, or Ang Bandang Shirley suddenly turning into Death Cab for Shirley but then they played ‘Nakauwi Na’ which still elicits cries even though it’s a happy song (it is, right?). More embracing and singing along. Then it was Hannah + Gabi’s turn and everyone’s a weeping mess.

Saving the most soul disparaging songs for the last, Hannah + Gabi’s Mikey Amistoso sang one sad Death Cab song after another like a succession of sad animal gifs. From ‘Transatlanticism’, ‘Debate Exposes Doubt’ to ‘A Lack of Color’, the crowd was bore the weight of the world’s sadness on their shoulders, braying like the kids from Jesus Camp. Sadness is a blessing, sadness is a drug, sadness is a currency.

March 5 will be insane, y’all.

Originally published in Restless Cities