A 20-minute comedy-drama travel film redefining the concept of beauty in a world of pageants and beauty contests co-produced by a Palaweña landed a spot in the Queer Asia Film Festival 2021 screening in Berlin.
In an interview with Palawan News, Danette Ann Gabrielle Orlido, a BA Communication Arts graduate of De La Salle University (DLSU) shared that the film ‘Wa, Nan’ is a thesis film submitted in 2018 as a course requirement. She and her thesis mates, Andrea Eliza Santos and Marie Bernadette Tayag, said they did not expect the opportunity given to them.
Orlido was the director of photography and production designer, while Santos wrote the film under the direction of Tayag.
“Nag-search kami ng Filipino obsessions like laban ni Pacquiao, lahat tutok na tutok. Parang beauty pageant kaya napunta kami sa idea na ‘yun so nag-isip kami paano namin malalagyan ng ibang twist na hindi lang basta beauty pageant. Naisip namin ang LGBT side,” she said.
“Noong ginagawa namin ang movie, ang goal lang namin was to get the best thesis award. Hindi naman in-expect na like magkakaroon kami ng opportunities outside school. Bago pa lang kami gumagawa ng film, sinasabi na sa amin ‘yong ganoon opportunities (Cinemalaya),” she added.
Orlido further explained that Wa, Nan is “Kaliwa, Kanan” also covers the challenge of the two characters who struggle to find their place.
It is a story between a 59-year-old transgender woman and a former beauty queen named Esmeralda who works as a car mechanic in Manila. She meets 21-year-old transgender woman Alex, an aspiring beauty queen who went to the shop to get her car fixed.
Alex has no other choice but to sneak her car after as she has no enough money to pay and is scheduled to join a local pageant. Esmeralda, who owns the shop, caught Alex but did not stop her after learning that she will join a pageant. She agreed to help if Alex will take Esmeralda with her. Both come to terms and travel to Quezon together.
The setting of the story took place in Quezon province which helped their group learn the actual trial and error process of filmmaking.
Although they failed to get the Best Thesis in college, the movie opened doors of opportunities for them. The film showing organizers in Berlin reached out to the group’s director if they are interested to show their film to the audience of the Queer Asia Film Festival.
In 2019, the movie became an official entry in the 4th Singkuwento International Film Festival Manila Philippines (SIFFMP), an international film festival that brings a collection of films that explore different genres ranging from youth, personal relationships, demise and destruction, growing up dreams, and pains and societal issues.
They bagged the Jury Prize and Best Actor for Felipe Martinez who portrayed the role of Esmeralda and was nominated for categories of Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best in Costume Design, Best in Production Design, Best in Hair and Makeup, and Best Supporting Actor for Nathan Molina who played as Alex.
“Ang pinaka-learning experience namin dito ay sa finances, sa money. Bata pa naman kami noon and first film namin na may pera talaga na ginastusan. Sa Quezon province kami nag-shoot and hindi talaga namin alam ang gagawin namin. Nag-rent kami ng equipment so pagdating namin ng Quezon province, nagtataka sila bakit hindi agad nag-start,” she said.
“For me, ‘yon ang memorable, natuto talaga kami on the spot. We learned from each other,” she added.
Aside from screening in Berlin, the movie has not yet been shown on any platforms in the Philippines. However, whenever there is a chance or platform be given to them, they are also interested to show their film to the local audience.
Representation of LGBTQ+ on screen
Orlido said it is undeniable that there are still representations of the LGBTQ+ members on-screen as salon workers who are supposed to be funny or those who spend a lot in gay bars. Her team-up with Santos and Tayag tried to break the stereotype in the film, trying to show that there are not limits on the jobs they could have.
“Siguro dahil napag-aralan din namin and we discussed this sa class lalo na sa Philippine cinema. Hindi naman natin madi-deny na sa Philippine cinema na when we talk about the LGBT community, di nawawala ‘yong stereotype na the LGBT community is portrayed na nasa lower class. Parlorista, dapat funny, they would spend money sa gay bars. We want to break that stereotype,” she said.
Filmmakers do also have responsibilities to their audience in setting the agenda of their messages.
“If we break it, if we show new things na kapag LGBTQ pwede rin pala ganito, ganiyan. They are more than the stereotype,” she stressed.
Orlido in film industry
Aside from the success of their thesis film, Orlido is also making her name in the industry.
“I have this parang tita-titahan, si Janice de Belen, lagi akong sinasama dati sa ABS (CBN), tatambay-tambay lang. Until senior year, uso naman ‘yong output. Sa akin parang I enjoy doing this pala, parang it’s fun pala. Iyon din ang lumabas sa NCAE ko,” she said.
She went to DLSU which is her dream school and enrolled in Communication Arts due to the absence of film courses offered.
Orlido became more exposed to the producer track of filmmaking. She had an internship under TEN17P of Paul Soriano during the filming of First Love starring Bea Alonzo and Aga Muhlach.
“Super good opportunity na sa startup company ako nag-OJT, may natutunan talaga ako. Maganda rin siya since sa film industry, it’s good to build connection, ang swerte ko na TEN17P, Paul Soriano, may pangalan agad,” she said.
After college, she grabbed the chance of having an internship with Mikhail Red for the Block Z film. She considered herself fortunate for those internship opportunities she had with directors in the industry. She was involved in some projects of Cornetto digital advertisement, Turks, Personal Collections, and one of the Department of Transporation (DOTr) information advertisements.
Recently, Orlido also directed and wrote for El Nido tourism promotional video under the Department of Tourism which is also challenging to promote in times of pandemic where movements are restricted.
She is now focused on making advertisements but if given a chance to be in film again, she would love to explore films like the horror/thriller movie Seklusyon directed by Erik Matti in 2016. And to produce outputs with social commentary to maximize the platform, she added.
As a 21-year-old filmmaker, it is important to expose yourself to creating outputs, learn from experiences and internships, and continuously build connections to open doors of opportunities.
Orlido stayed in Palawan after lockdown started in 2020 and is now doing freelance projects. She also coordinates with the Infinite Creations for some projects.
She encourages aspirants who also want to take the path in film making to continue creating outputs as it will help them enhance their skills and explore what film language they would like.
The continuous practice of writing and learning camera angles even at home will help to discover oneself as a filmmaker, Orlido added.
“Ang pinakatumatak kasi sa akin na sinabi ng mentor ko, si Mikhail Red, gumawa ka lang nang gumawa. Of course, hindi ka naman magiging magaling agad kaya gumawa ka nang gumawa. Iyong mga feel mo na bad output mo, malabas mo na lahat. Sulat ka nang sulat, practice ka, kasi doon mo matututunan ang film language mo,” she said.