When magic and realism meet

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Inspiration comes in different forms.

For Mark Raymund “Macoi” Garcia, the concept of his film floated to him (pun intended) three years ago when he was lying in bed in his dorm room, wearing nothing but a white shirt, shorts and socks.

He was a theater student in the Dela Salle-College of St. Benilde in 2016, lying flat on his back when the idea of making a film about a character who’s floating – literally floating – came into his mind.

That was the spark.

And the film was three years in the making.

For Macoi, though, the film is like fine wine; the longer it ages in the barrel, the better it tastes.

Official poster of Buding ang Babayi nga Naglutaw film.  Original concept art by national artist Nunelucio Alvarado. | Photo from Mark Raymund Garcia
Official poster of Buding ang Babayi nga Naglutaw. Original concept art by national artist Nunelucio Alvarado. | Photo from Mark Raymund Garcia

So when the opportunity came (“I felt that the stars were aligned this year!”), he immediately grabbed it.

Macoi is director of Buding Ang Babayi nga Naglutaw, one of the short film entries for this year’s Sine Negrense: Negros Island Film Festival with a screening at Cinematheque Centre.

The film is a co-production by Kayab, GPS Films, T&S Studios, the city government of Sagay and Negros Occidental second district representative, Cong. Leo Rafael Cueva.

The plot is rather simple: three people came to the police station to report a rather unusual incident: a woman is seen floating inside her seaside home.

It’s surreal. It’s strange. And stranger still is that everybody is at a loss on how to handle the situation, including the incredulous police who treats the whole thing like a joke.

Film is told through a series of flashbacks to flesh out the character of Buding, played by Camille Escaro.  The flashbacks flow with the police investigation on the phenomenon of the floating woman.  And the best thing is, film does not offer any plausible explanation for why it happened.

MARQUEZ MEETS WONG KAR WAI

“It’s Wong-Kar Wai meets magic realism,” Macoi readily answers when asked how he would describe his artistic style.  In fact, in one of the scenes, the revelation that the titular Buding really is literally floating recalls a similar occurence in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, where Remedios the Beauty floated in an image heavily channeling the ascension of the Virgin Mother.

There is also the lovely, lovely scenic shots, with romantic lighting and cinematography (courtesy of Nathan Bringuer, with additional camera work from Aldwin Juson) of the scenes by the beachside, offsetting the, uh, upsetting scene inside Buding’s home.

Camille Escaro as Buding, the title character whose unusual circumstance kicked off the action in the film. | Photo taken with permission from Mark Raymund Garcia
Camille Escaro as Buding, the title character whose unusual circumstance kicked off the action in the film. | Photo taken with permission from Mark Raymund Garcia

The film takes an unapologetic approach to the pivotal scene (Why does she float? Was she possessed? Were the witnesses experiencing a form of mass hysteria?), which is quite as well because that was the whole point of the exercise. Macoi detests the way mainstream movies spoonfeed its audience.

“I want my audience to think… think of the layers of meaning beyond the imagery,” he says, citing how his film really is a series of metaphors and allegories on pressing social issues like reproductive health, and drug abuse.

Indeed, the word “lutaw” could be any or all of those things. It could be a state of mind of a drug user, a woman clueless about her role in a marriage (Buding lost her baby in the story), or a woman who is trapped in a construct created by society, a construct that she could not get out of because she has no means to do so.

A startling discovery.  A scene from Buding.  What did the husband (played by Nico Coronel) discover? | Photo taken with permission from Mark Raymund Garcia
A startling discovery. A scene from Buding. What did the husband (played by Nico Coronel) discover? | Photo taken with permission from Mark Raymund Garcia

That added layer to the storytelling, the open interpretation to meaning could well be a stylistic trait of another director that Macoi says influenced him: Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul.  In fact, the idea of finding meaning in the mundane is a trademark of the director, who helmed Blissfully Yours.

In that film for instance, something as mundane as a picnic could be a statement of an unsalvageable relationship, a relationship torn by infidelity.

I want something like that in my film Buding,” Macoi says, adding, “I hope I was able to pull this off.”

ON TO THE NEXT PROJECT

Macoi now looks forward to his next project, which is an environmental film about Suyac Island, one of the areas that was devastated by typhoon Haiyan.

"I aim for films that make people think, because art is supposed to make people critical," Direk Macoi says.
“I aim for films that make people think, because art is supposed to make people critical,” Direk Macoi says.

“I want to show the resilience of the people; I believe without the mangroves, they would have been completely wiped out by the waters,” he said.

This particular film, he says, would show the importance of nature, how nature knows how to “give back”, with the results depending on human action (or inaction).

He has high hopes that his film – and the future ones – would find better platforms now that interest for indie films is growing.

And whatever platform it is, Macoi hopes that in the near future, he would thrive in the industry doing what he loves most: making films that would make people think, because after all, isn’t that what art is supposed to be doing?

UPDATE: The film has since won nine major awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Musical Score, and Best Production Design.

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