Jun Lana highlights cinematic elements at Yabang Pinoy’s screening of ‘Anino sa Likod ng Buwan’

Funded primarily by the profits earned from working for mainstream cinema, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind the Moon) is a “passion project” which strives to engage in non-traditional ways of storytelling, accomplished filmmaker Jun Robles Lana said June 25 in a masterclass held at U-View, Fully Booked, Bonifacio Global City.

Citing influences from the 1920s German Expressionism movement, Lana described the creative choices he made in creating the one-shot-one-sequence film such as its “boxed” aspect ratio and its “VHS look” which, according to him, gave the film its “spirit.” In the tradition of the Expressionist movement, this he said, reflects the mind and the suffering of the characters portrayed in the film.

Set in Marag Valley, Apayao in the 90s, the film tackles controversial themes such as brutalities and human rights violations that allegedly happened in the region when the struggle between the Philippine military and the communist movement reached a climax.

Interested ako sa cinema of the oppressed (I am interested in the cinema of the oppressed),” the director said regarding his motivation in directing a film concerned with those caught in the crossfire in the valley.

Lana also described a “motif of displacement” which characterizes the “archaic” writing of the screenplay’s dialogue. Through this, the filmmaker said he attempts to portray the narrative as something “absurd, unreal” and yet true.

The masterclass was preceded by a screening of his 120-minute, one-shot cinematic masterpiece starring LJ Reyes, Luis Alandy, and Anthony Falcon, an event organized by Filipino pride movement Yabang Pinoy.

As of the present, the film has received international recognition, being nominated for categories such as Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Screenplay at the Gawad Urian Awards, and winning the Pacific Meridian International Film Festival, for Best Feature Film.

A theatrical release of Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind the Moon) is slated on July 20 at select cinemas to be announced soon.


Enchong Dee excited for acting comeback in ‘I Love You to Death’

Swimmer-turned-celebrity Enchong Dee expressed excitement for making a comeback in his acting career, in a press conference held June 27 at 38 Valencia Events Place for Regal Entertainment and The Idea First Company’s upcoming romantic horror-comedy film I Love You to Death.

After recording a self-titled album for Star Records and doing work outside the movie industry, the 27-year old actor said this time he would focus on honing his craft for acting, hoping to inspire a succeeding generation of artists.

Newbie actors Nico Nicolas and Christian Bables who were with Enchong and his leading lady Kiray Celis at the conference, supported Dee and said they felt inspired to work with the male lead actor.

i love you to death presscon 1

Enchong also said he felt eager working with director Miko Livelo for a film he claimed as “experimental” and “different” from his past works in mainstream cinema. Livelo said the film would be a combination of horror and comedy, with the latter he claims as his “forte.”

Kiray, on the other hand, described the movie script as smart and witty, and she proudly invited the audience to watch and support the local film industry.

The former Goin’ Bulilit cast member also expressed excitement for having worked with Enchong as her leading man, citing how at times it was challenging especially when the shoots involved intimate love scenes.

Also with Enchong and Kiray in the press conference were supporting actresses Trina Legaspi and Michelle Vito who likewise showed their enthusiasm for the release of Regal Entertainment’s latest picture.

Catch I Love You to Death, directed by Miko Livelo and written by Ash Malanum, opening this July 6, 2016 in cinemas nationwide.

MOVIE REVIEW: Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (2015)

A search for the truth behind mere surfaces—the subject matter presented to us by director Jun Lana’s 2015 masterpiece, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Shadow Behind the Moon).

I had the chance to see the one-shot-one sequence film when it was screened recently at Fully Booked Bonifacio Global City’s U View theater, an event organized by local NGO and Filipino pride movement Yabang Pinoy. It was followed by a masterclass with none other than the director himself Jun Lana who defined his work as a ‘passion project,’ a ‘personal film’ quite opposed to his mainstream cinema and TV endeavors. Hearing the director talk about his own work surely made it easier for me to organize the multitude of thoughts I had about the piece, but still, I find that the more I think about Anino, the more the work becomes profound.

Admittedly I doubted the film would be anything extraordinary, given that at face value it looks nothing more than your artsy ‘indie film,’ complete with a racy film poster and an enigmatic title designed to scare at least 80 percent of the general public—the remaining 20 percent who would see the film would be your run of the mill 20-something hipsters bracing their Murakamis and bubble milk teas. But as its name suggests, there is something behind the surface which makes this film more substantial and worth a watch than that one sketchy film sitting at a dark corner in the cinemas.

The film starts out typically, as how one would expect an indie to start: long take, purposely in low resolution, with handheld shaky shots and hardcoded English subtitles. Then it begins with a premise written white against an ominous black background; it informs us that this film would be about the brutalities in Marag Valley in the 90s, when the clash between the communist movement and the Philippine military would reach a frightening peak. It then presents us with three characters—the only ones to ever appear in the film—Emma, a housewife; Nardo, the husband of Emma; and Joel, a soldier playing the ‘good cop’ role. With these superficial ingredients on hand, it doesn’t require much thought to easily deconstruct the function of each character in the movie: Emma, as the ‘inang bayan’ archetype; Nardo, as the personification of the plight of the poor; and Joel as, obviously, the embodiment of fascism. It is therefore easy to dismiss the film as something predictable, lackluster, and even bland. But hold on for a moment and suspend judgment, because in the case of Anino, there is surely more than meets the eye.

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Immediately the narrative takes us to a dense maze of dialogue, at once colloquial, and then suddenly poetic—a joust of words that invites the audience to question the underlying motives of each persona. We witness the writer take his time, letting the words simmer and flavor with meaning, until the undercurrents boil and lay themselves bare. I found that even until the end it was difficult to answer the questions “Who is the hero?” and “Who is the enemy?” because the more the story moves forward, the more I am presented with sides I did not foresee the characters to possess. However, the complexity is not undesirable, it is in fact the strength of the narrative.

The director Jun Lana expressed that the decision to shoot the film in one long take was made due to his desire to engage in unconventional forms of storytelling. But as with every artistic decision, there must be an underlying reason that harmonizes with the central theme of the piece, and in this case, I would say the enterprise to shoot sans Hollywood-style multiple shots blends extremely well with the film’s thesis. A long take coupled with minimal editing would deprive the audience any awareness of other events happening simultaneously; instead, you would only see one side, one aspect that defines what you think of each character presented. Real intentions then, like the dark side of the moon, are hidden.

The film is therefore holistic, abounding in meaning not only with regards to its writing, but also with every aspect of its visual component. As Lana remarked about the expressionistic mise-en-scene, and the intentional boxed aspect ratio of the film, we feel, not only witness, the suffering, the darkness, and the mental torture of the oppressed. I would say its meditative pacing is even comparable to how the great directors of the transcendental genre like Ozu and Tarkovsky format their contemplative masterpieces. Except Anino does not only question supernatural forces, it deals with the immediate and the real.

With his masterpiece Anino sa Likod ng Buwan, Jun Lana invites us to question the truth, to see behind what we can perceive, to witness the other side of a surface we have taken for granted. If given the chance, I would definitely give this film another view, and perhaps I would see another side I did not initially see. Indeed, powerful in meaning and relevance, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan is a triumph for Philippine cinema.