THRILLMAKER: Did this film director just make a movie about me?

Published August 29, 2021, 6:47 AM

by Joee Guilas

Arlyn dela Cruz-Bernal

In the same way, I once dreamt to be an actor, this movie director’s real career wish was to become a renowned thespian.  The performing talents we both had, as well as the sob story lives we lived, at that time, turned to our desires to realize our showbiz dreams –especially after the same plots were immortalized on the silver screen by the Sharon Cuneta trilogy: Bukas Luluhod ang mga Tala; Bituing Walang Ningning; and Sana’y Wala Nang Wakas.  Sadly, I guess we both didn’t have the star factor that Kuya Germs wanted then, for us to qualify for, at least, a slot in That’s Entertainment. 

So we both settled for the next best thing: still be seen on TV, not as actors and actresses, but as news people.  We both started as news reporters, and dreamed of becoming really good at it.   It’s in the mid-1990s newsroom of then ABC 5 (now TV5) that our paths first crossed.  Two dreamers who eventually became fierce rivals and then, the very best of friends.

In our more than two decades of friendship, our careers have drifted wide apart.  While somehow clinging to whatever tiny strings of connections we may still have with broadcast journalism to this day, I have already ventured into a totally different world: corporate communications.  She, on the other hand, moved closer to her original dream, and is making a name for herself in movie making.  While we are now seemingly worlds apart as far as distance and our careers are concerned, we have kept touch.  Like how really good friends are, we always updated each other on how great or terrible our lives are every now and then.

Very recently, friends from the entertainment press informed me that this filmmaker may have actually written and directed a film that may have been inspired by my own life story.  The movie title actually even carries my name.  Totally shocked with the news, I immediately called on Direk Arlyn dela Cruz-Bernal to ask if Nang Dumating Si Joey is (at all) inspired by me.

THRILLMAKER:  How did you get started into filmmaking? What made you realize that you have the knack for it?

DIREK ARLYN:  I started creating film content as early as 1999 but I did it in secrecy with only our cameraman Jonjon Tolentino as my first DOP. In short, raket namin for a government agency that needed such material then.  There was no realization. I have always wanted to do films. It was just a matter of deciding to fully enter the world of filmmaking.

THRILLMAKER: You’ve already done a lot of films.  Which one’s your favorite?

DIREK ARLYN: Maratabat, the first movie that I wrote and directed, that won several local and international awards, remains my favorite movie to date. Favorite ko siya hindi dahil sa nanalo ng mga awards kung hindi dahil a number of directors who watched it appreciated the film for what I intended to relay. Natakot daw siya sa isang particular scene sabi ng isang female director. Matapang daw sabi ng isa. Hindi daw niya akalaing ganun ang pelikula sabi naman ng isa. May isang manonood nga na galit na galit sa character ni Mayor Alfonso Abubakar. Not that I wanted to hear a form of validation. But it inspired me and gave me courage to tell more stories.

THRILLMAKER: What about Nang Dumating Si Joey? What inspired you to do it? How did you pick your cast members?  Were you thinking of some real-life people when you chose them?

DIREK ARLYN: NDSJ is LGBTQ themed film. I have seen many faces of LGBTQ that I feel are not often portrayed in films.  I choose my actors after I am finished writing the script.  Ayokong ako ang mag-describe but my intention in every film is to approximate realism as much as I can. Afterall I am first and foremost a journalist. Gahibla ang pagitan ng katotohanan at imahinasyon. Doon na papasok ang creative process.

THRILLMAKER: Direk Arlyn, be honest.  Is this movie about me?  Is it patterned after my life?  Am I the Joey (although it is a different spelling) being alluded to in the title?

DIREK ARLYN:  Not really, I just love the name as I love you. You are not only my fierce colleague and kaagaw sa banner story but my brother from another mother na minahal din ako. Siya ang unang nakakita na magtatagal ang pagkakaibigan natin.

So there.  As clear as the light of day.  That answer gave me a sigh of relief—and made me venture into  some wishful thinking: that maybe, someday, she’ll really write and direct a movie about this Joee, too.  (And who knows, make me star on it, as well!).