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Pinoy filmmaker's work to premiere at Cannes

'Will my boss allow me to travel on a short notice?' was among the initial thoughts of Doha-based filmmaker Jordan dela Cruz upon reading the acceptance letter to the 67th Cannes Film Festival in France.

The 28-year old native of Bicol Province is currently working in the finance department of a British interior design company in Doha. His five-minute short film titled 'Panaginip ni Nida Chua (May 25, 1985)' is one of the nine short films by Filipinos scheduled for world premiere at the prestigious event taking place from May 11 to 22.

The entry, which is Jordan's first attempt for an international film event, is inspired by the director's recurring dream when he was a child. It was shot in his home province while the post-production was done entirely in Qatar.

The young filmmaker's initial reaction to the acceptance letter also included thoughts on whether he can actually afford to fly to France for the screening of his film. Eventually, after calming his nerves it finally hit him that he had really made it to Cannes!

In an interview with Qatar Tribune, prior to his flight to France, the young filmmaker expressed his excitement on his trip highlighting his anticipation on the festival events, including filmmaking conferences, round-tables, screening and the Masterclass with Brillante Mendoza, a seasoned Filipino director and Best Director awardee during the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. He also fondly shared his inspiration in the film industry.

Q: What were your preparations for your film entry to Cannes and the challenges you've encountered in completing the entire project?

Jordan: 'Pangarap ni Nida Chua' was inspired by a recurring dream that I had when I was a child - of a river of blood coagulating into an image of a human skull. I only had time to shoot it during my vacation so my crew and I were under heavy time constraints to complete that part of the production. Besides the remote shooting locations, another particular challenge was the fact that the opening scene of the film depicted a hospital room slowly flooding with blood. We needed to do extensive set work and to make that happen things that none of us had any experience with. We barely had enough time to get our shots during my vacation so all of the post-production had to be done here in Qatar. Upon my return I had to resume work full time so I could only edit the film during the weekends or after work.

Who or what motivated you to submit an entry in Cannes?

My teammates, writer Siege Ledesma and cinematographer Josef San Mateo persuaded me to submit our film to the festival. I was hesitant at first because I didn't really think our film was good enough for Cannes but I eventually acquiesced. Getting into the festival was not that difficult, at least in our experience. But it has to be said that getting into the Court Metrage (Short Film Corner) doesn't necessarily mean you are part of the Official Short Film Competition.

Who or what inspired you to venture into filmmaking?

I never really wanted to become a filmmaker. I shot some videos with my cousins when I was still a teenager but back then filmmaking was always just a hobby for me. After finishing my degree in BS Psychology at the Ateneo de Naga, I moved to Quezon City and was on my way to earning my Masters Degree in Clinical Psych at the University of the Philippines (UP). I became aware of my passion for cinema during my time with the UP Cinema. And so, I took a break with UP and enrolled in a short film course at the Asia Pacific Film Institute (APFI) where I studied under well-established industry professionals such as Bing Lao, Nap Jamir and Jade Castro. Nearing the end of my film course I contracted a severe case of dengue fever. As I lay in the hospital bed I promised myself that I would end my academic hiatus and go back to finish my Master's Degree. However, the first thing I did when I got out of the hospital was write a script. That script later turned into 'Bardo' - my thesis film for the APFI. The panelists had received the film very positively and they urged me to make more films. A few years later and I find myself working here in Qatar and setting aside my income in order to fund my productions. I'm fully aware that making films is not really the most economically viable of endeavours and I find myself hesitant to plunge into a filmmaker's life of endless freelancing. However, the desire to - someday - make compelling cinema haunts me and I feel like I have to see this through.

At what age did you start in the industry and what was your first film?

I started to venture into filmmaking in my mid-twenties. At times I think that I may have started too late. But then I realised that, like many people, I didn't really have anything of substance to say when I was younger so this delay may have been all to the good. However, I would hesitate to say that I am"in the film industry". Although I've been a part of several independent productions back in the Philippines, my own work has been largely self-funded. A lot of my filmmaker friends constantly complain about the creative compromises that they have to make in their films because of the pressure from meddling financiers, so I appreciate the carte blanche that funding my own work provides me. Still, producing my own films means that I often have to tone down my original vision for my projects. I have shelved a lot of scenes and set-pieces simply because I did not have the budget to execute them satisfactorily. This is also why I have only dabbled in short-form work so far. I could have attempted to expand my previous works into features but I doubt that I would have been happy with the results if I was forced to stretch my budget that thin.

What is the most rewarding part of being a director?

My first film"Bardo" was shot in Ortigas. We couldn't really get the proper permits for the shoot so we could only roll cameras after midnight when location was relatively deserted and there were no authorities in the area. The shoot involved a few close calls and a lot of running. It really made me appreciate the physicality of directing. All my projects since then have revolved around challenging shooting locations. We had to go down rivers to shoot 'Nawawara'. We had to trek into dense forests to shoot 'Panaginip ni Nida Chua'. Recently, I even shot a music video in the middle of a sandstorm in the dunes of Mesaieed. Personally, I feel that the most rewarding part of being a director is the rush that you get while shooting a scene that is difficult to pull off. When nature, logic, and circumstance fight against your shot but you manage to power through and put it in the can anyway.

What are your immediate plans after Cannes?

After Cannes, I plan to resume work on a script that our team has been developing for quite a while. This is a spy thriller/comedy about a paranoid overseas Filipino worker based in the Gulf. Hopefully, I can meet some investors who will support our project during my time at the festival.


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