Filipino filmmaker Carlo Francisco Manatad has edited nearly 100 films, but his feature-length debut is “Wether the Weather Is Fine”. This impressive drama that comes to grips with the deaths of three people in Tacloban City. Typhoon Haiyanmade its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The film opens with the sounds of wind and rain and the storm footage before Manatad takes a dazzling overhead shot of Miguel (Daniel Padilla) lying on a couch surrounded by rubble. The atmosphere is both tense and tactile, and Daniel and his friend Andrea (Rans Rifol) make their way through the water and the debris corridors in search of her mother, Norma (Charo Santos), searching for her injured husband.
As the three survivors wander the city aiming to board a ship bound for Manila, they experience a series of encounters that range from frightening to magical. But they also face some moral problems and have to make some irreversible decisions.
Manatad talked about making his ambitious and successful film “Wether the Weather Is Fine,” which will have extra resonance for people recovering from the side effects of tropical cyclones. hurricane Ida.
This is your first feature film as a director. What prompted you to tell this story after working as an editor for so long?
I think working as an editor helps. I graduated from the University of the Philippines Film Institute and wanted to be a director, but everyone in my class wanted to be a director. I didn’t want to compete with them; You can’t get into the industry that fast. So I focused on something I was interested in during film school, and editing, in a sense, is kind of directing – you have that control over the story and you can actually change some of the narrative. So I focused on editing. A few years later I realized that I edited a lot of movies, so let me try directing. I started making shorts. If it doesn’t work, I can still go back to editing.
I’ve been working on the feature for a while. I spent seven years developing it. When there’s a storm, really traumatic. I realized that I needed to tell a more detailed and personal story; I had to put my experiences on film. If I had done this earlier, it would have been a different movie. The whole process gave me the freedom and confidence to do it. Editing has helped me collaborate with directors and talk to them about their mistakes and what not to do. I got all these ideas from them.
What can you say about your or your family’s experiences with Typhoon Haiyan that inspired the movie?
I’ve been working in Manila for many years and I don’t get home to Tacloban that often. I felt awkward or insecure on the way home. i went back [after the storm]and it was the most surreal experience. I came to a place where I was born and raised and knew everything geographically, but this place felt like a new place. I didn’t know where to go. I boarded a military plane to Tacloban and got images from the news. everyone was deadAnd there were corpses one after another. On the flight, I programmed myself to kill everyone. I arrived and walking through the ruins my only concern was if I saw my family die I wanted to give them a proper burial. On the way to my destroyed house, I saw my friends die. I saw that all these familiar things were long gone. But luckily I found almost all of my family. All that mattered was leaving that miserable place. We have the concept of being very regional in the Philippines. My father said, “No, I will not go, everything will be fine.” “Look around. Nobody’s alive. It’s good we’re alive. Let’s go.” said. It was almost physically challenging to the point where we were fighting. He was born here and wants to die here.
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The scenery of the movie is extraordinary and surreal. Background characters are no different zombies walking around the wreck. What can you say about the shooting of the movie?
We shot this movie years after the storm, so the spaces we used are basically back to normal. If you go to the location, it’s like the storm never passed. We had to recreate everything from scratch. We had to recreate things in Manila due to budget constraints. There were some non-negotiable scenes for me—especially key scenes like those at the Astrodome help center—and we shot in Tacloban. I was collaborating on my shorts with my production designer, Whammy Alcazaren, and he got what I wanted. We had reference photos and I really wanted it to be as real as possible, so the smallest detail had to match the reference photos. It actually took quite a while; The set took two to three months to build. They knew the look I wanted with production design and cinematography.
The characters go to some dark places, walk through murky waters, and are constantly reminded that they may have lost everything. There is a real emotional shot that comes across in the movie, and it is felt in every viewing shot. How did you think about the use of space in the film?
In this kind of film, the use of space and the fraudulent use of space are really important. The treatment of the film will be after the typhoon. You usually see all this going on, but I’m not showing it in the key scenes where you need to see it. Because the movie is a journey of characters. You know the summary, and the field is always with them, regardless of their actions. I want the movie to watch this disappearance journey with the characters in general. I didn’t want the space to block the viewers. A messy, organized chaos. You follow something but something happens in the background, then you follow them again. Everything is traveling and there is a sense of geography but they don’t know where they are going. It’s a running movie. You walk, you get to this point, and then they walk again.
“Wether the Weather Is Fine” is in the genre of road movies that never leave the city. What decisions have you made regarding the narrative and the challenges each character will face?
I needed all these roadblocks to slowly create the essence of the violence they had experienced all their lives. At this very moment, you see how it progresses until it explodes. Certain moments may not be dramatic, but the violence of the place or event. Sometimes nothing happens actively, but it is violent in its visual essence. The more challenging the character, the greater the impact when something has to be decided.
What can you say about the themes of faith, politics and belonging in the movie? There are moments of prayer, encounters with authority figures, and a sense of community.
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country.. I went to a Catholic school when I was young. I’m Catholic, but I don’t practice. Whoever it is, I believe there is a higher being. I question how religion builds a community and how that community performs or affects another community. The biggest thing I wanted to move forward with was that money wasn’t even a currency in disasters like this. People try to find something to look at. What I’m describing with the authorities or the government is the contrasts. “The storm is coming” and “The storm is not coming.” Religion is the only thing [people] Hold on, because there is nothing else. But if you stick with it, does it give anything back? Just by believing in something, they feel something positive. I’m not saying that I am irreligious, but how do they view religion in times like these? Religion can bind people together, but by believing in something higher than you, you feel certainty no matter what. And in the Philippines this is always the case. You have to worship and pray to this God and he will give you something back. But it is uncertain. It makes them feel good. Faith doesn’t give you the answers back. It’s just there. It depends on how you interpret it and how it affects you. It is a choice and how it affects you is within you.
In addition, there are chirpy moments in the movie. You have a beautiful scene in a tattoo parlor where Andrea paints Miguel, and there’s a flash mob-like dance scene and kids playing. Can you talk about creating the tone for the movie? The images are very heavy, but there are some life-affirming scenes.
When you see all these movies discussing tragedy or “after the apocalypse“They can be super dark and melodramatic. I wanted to have certain moments of the movie that were mundane, absurd, with all the violence and the people trying to survive and all the things that actually happened. But these are some moments when their characters stop being zombies and become human again.From their future, They talk about their dreams, their hopes. It’s cliché, but it has the effect of maturing the character. Andrea is very brave and aggressive and playful a lot, but she had dreams and maybe lost her family, but she moves on. This comes from what happened. Miguel is a good follower of his mother and Andrea. He became a son, but his journey helps him find his freedom their innocence plays a greater role in the violence they are subjected to. They are more mature. r eat dog-dog is in survival mode and then you have these kids who have more control than adults. This determines what the space and place will be like in the near future.