Four award-winning short films will highlight Pelicula-Spanish Film Festival, ongoing until Oct. 10, featuring full-length Spanish and Latin American films being streamed free via www.pelikula.es.
The short films are the Philippines’ “Tarang”, Thailand’s “Aninsri Daeng”, Australia’s “Groundhog Night” and Spain’s “A la Cara”.
From filmmaker Arvin Belarmino, “Tarang” depicts poverty from an unexplored perspective. Produced by Cut Print Productions, it tells the story of Rodel, a pedicab driver who lives along with his wife, a prostitute, and their daughter in the slums of Manila.
“Tarang” won Best Film at the 36th International Short Film Festival 2020 in Berlin, besting 69 competing entries from all over the world. It was also honored among the Top Asian Films for 2020 by Asian Movie Pulse (AMP).
“I made sure that the story’s problem was highlighted in the foreground. That’s the important thing when you make a film about poverty. I am a big fan of films by Lino Brocka because of my mother. Growing up in a marginalized place in Manila, I was subconsciously reflecting my own experience,” said Belarmino during the colloquim “En Corto” in line with Pelicula.
In the process of making “Tarang” Belarmino revealed that he had full immersion with the people who live in the slums of Ermita where the film was shot.
“I slept with them for three days. I used to live in that kind of community. It’s important to relay the issue clearly. I made it realistic giving full respect to the material.”
In most dramas about poverty, characters are portrayed to be vulnerable but at the same time resourceful and selfless providers. Much like mainstream films, the family is an important aspect of the storytelling in short films. In “Tarang”, Rodel’s small community includes a mother who has a huge ambition for her daughter to become a star and a husband who’s hoping to save enough money to bail his wife out of jail.
“A professor asked me if I was still going to make films about poverty. I told him, as long as we are still a third-world country, I will. I will keep on raising questions, but no answers,” said Belarmino.
The beauty of making short films is that filmmakers can explore a diverse range of stories with a gamut of characters in more or less 15 minutes.
In Thai filmmaker Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke’s “Aninsri Daeng” (“Red Aninsri; Or, Tiptoeing on the Still Trembling Berlin Wall”) the story centers on Ang, a ladyboy-prostitute who disguises himself as a cisgender man to spy on a student activist, Jit, only to fall in love him. Apolitical at first, Jit influences Ang and begins to see the world through his lens.
“I have many sources of characters for the film, but mainly I was inspired by a folk hero, like Batman. I thought, instead of having a straight hero, why not a transgender prostitute?” said Boonbunchachoke during the webinar, whose film “Aninsri Daeng” bagged top honors at Locarno 2020 – Pardi di Domani Locarno.
Boonbunchachoke’s added that transgender characters are considered mainstream in Thailand. “It is nice giving marginal people a voice through short films. It’s freer having to make films without having to justify for it.”
Asked if he enjoys the process of filmmaking, the film graduate replied, “Honestly it was tiring, but I enjoyed doing it, editing. Enjoy watching actors performing.”