By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – My bubbly friend Melissa Alviar was prompting me to watch Julie at the Producer’s Club the day after the opening of the International Film Festival Manhattan at the Philippine Center on 5th Avenue. I was not able to make it on time for the show because of other things going on, but she was relentless and sent me the link to the 29-minute short film which I watched while having breakfast one Sunday.
My oh my, I was laughing my heart out while enjoying my champorado that morning. Thank you, Melissa.
My daughter Nikki asked what was tickling me. I said Julie, one of the 50 entries to the IFFM this year and recipient of the best actor award for short film. And to which she said, let me watch it to and send me the link. And so in our little space, Julie is viral.
A few days later, I had an extremely fun lunch with Julie director, the young and insightful Clanch Dayve and the best actor Albert Chan Paran at the Tick Tock in the New Yorker Hotel. We are all from Cebu, hence speaking the native tongue was extra sweet. Vanette Colmenares would later join us for sugar overload – banana nutella crepe and cheesecake.
From Clanch I learned that Julie took them only three weekends to finish. They had three separate locations of the scenes in the house, aside from the construction site where Julie works.
Albert, or Julie, said that the film was made for her. It was conceived in a conversation with Clanch, as they wrestled their brains out on how to deal with a gay character who cannot find a job because she’s gay. A plus factor in the character, she has raised a son who is able to accept and respect her.
This is the admirable substance of the story – emphasizing on self-acceptance and parental respect. Being funny in delivering this difficult, often taboo message, is a stroke of genius especially on the part of Albert.
Albert is a natural. Watching her as a man in the construction site is hilarious. And sends in the message of how exhausting it is for a true gay to pretend to be a man. Behind the camera, Albert admits that changing her voice was the most difficult part of the role. “We had to dubb the male voice in me. It was so difficult. It was such a struggle. Kalisud gyud,” he says in an emphatically feminine voice.
Albert, a graduate of Psychology, is a professional actor. “I don’t do anything but act.” Julie is her third movie.
The humor in Julie is naturally Visayan – earthen, honest, and silly. Maria Presa Aparis, who plays sister to Julie is equally envigorating and embodies the respect a sibling could give to someone who is gay. Michael Banaynal as Julie’s son Jerome and Nowin Macalua as Emil, Jerome’s friend were pretty much normal portrayals of a confused and aggrieved youth.
Julie raises itself from drowning in the deluge of shallow Philippine flicks because it embraces the timeless values on love and respect. As I earlier noted, a film can be funny and substantive at the same time. Kudos to the young actors and director Clanch, who is a Mass communications graduate of the University of San Jose Recoletos. After winning in the IFFM, he seems inspired to do more indie films back in hometown Cebu.
For Clanch and Albert, creating Julie was a wonderful experience that brought out the beautiful from practically nothing but raw talent and determination. Albert, however openly admits that she would act prima donna on the set – at times defying what the director tells her to do. “But the director would not give in to my brattiness,” she laughs.
Clanch says that as a director and writer, the greatest challenge was more than just squeezing each of the actors out to be the characters I envisioned them to be. “I think the biggest challenge as a director was to pull off something of quality without any financial resources. To relentlessly believe in the positive. And I think I passed that challenge rather well.”
The film is created on an almost zero budget, with two DSLR cameras. But from it, a society finds an answer to the nagging question on how may a gay parent raise a child.
As Vice Consul for New York Khrys Corpuz had said, there is a renaissance of independent films these days, as ushered in by the IFFM. And so be it. Let a thousand and one sensible and sensitive films flourish.