STOP10: 'The Imminent Immanent' by Carlo Francisco Manatad

Carlo Francisco Manatad has a cute touch to the end of his most recent short film The Imminent Immanent - Jodilerks Dela Cruz is credited in the rolling credits. Jodilerks happens to be the titular character in Carlo’s last short film Jodilerks Dela Cruz - Employee of the Month, which has picked up awards at several film festivals including Cinemalaya 2018 and the Singapore International Film Festival 2017. According to Carlo, the award monies have gone into the making of The Imminent Immanent, a short film somewhat incidental by conception and one that was originally meant as a teaser for his first feature film Whether the Weather is Coming.

The feature film is Carlo’s cathartic response to impact of typhoon Haiyan which struck Tacloban in the Philippines five years ago and affected him emotionally to a large extent. Carlo’s personal experience with the typhoon and losing contact with his family members and friends opened up in him many questions about love, relationships and friendships.He is also intrigued by how Filipinos have become both anxious and indifferent towards an imminent typhoon, which is a common occurrence in Philippines. They seem to react dispassionately towards these acts of god but are really not that numb to it as well.

In Carlo’s short film The Imminent Immanent, the duality of this is depicted, together with an exploration of other dualities, such as the co-existence of small-town mundaneness and absurdity in the film.

The Imminent Immanent was screened under the Light of Asia segment of the Jogja NETPAC Asian Film Festival, which showcases short films from Asia.

Here is our interview with Carlo on his short film.

There seems to be this dual relationship you have with the typhoon? It seems something deeply affecting and yet transient. Could you share more about it?
Yes, it true that’s its both affecting, but it being transient is in a whole different level.

 It may feel (in the film) that the storm is present but not in a very apparent way. It is more of just the looming feeling linking all these (almost) nonchalant characters breathing and living  - a few hours before the wrath comes upon them.

I do feel that the typhoon is ever present and that among these characters who may seem autonomous with their mundane acts during the day –- when the typhoon finally hits them, it binds them together making all the loosely placed elements in each story of these individuals seemingly connected by a tragedy, and more importantly, as the typhoon occurs, the film (for some odd) instance became a whole.
Why make a companion piece to your feature?
Making this short wasn’t really a planned one. But I had to do something of a teaser for funding purposes. Moreover, the said produced short film was  also a practice for me and the crew working on it to see if the mood,  feel and the overall tone of the film works.

It also helps me to practice and see if the cinematic universe that I am imagining would work and also to gain foothold to the process of making the full feature – for it being one of my most personal works to date. But most importantly, the short film is independent in itself - it may look like of a non narrative but the feature will have a very strong narrative sense. So it’s a companion piece but a totally different monster from the feature that I will be doing soon.

How different is the feature film from this short?

In terms of the mood and the realist approach and the absurdity you see in the short, it will be present in the feature film. Actually, when I was making this short, it came to a point when I felt it was complete, at least for me. And also because this film is personal to me, as I have experienced the storm myself. I remember there was one typhoon episode in which I was in Manila and my family and friends was in Tacloban and I could not contact them and I was trying all ways. So I said to myself: this is a very personal story, but in terms of the characters presented, I was not there. And it came to a point when I was actually editing, and I co-edited this short film with a good friend of mine, I said why not place myself in there, like bluntly? So in this segment at the end when the girl was drenched with a sudden splash of rain water, the voiceover heard during that segment was recordings of me when I went to the affected area alone, looking for my friends and family. I recorded my own voice for a few hours just to make myself sane. And the photos that were flashed at the end of the short film are my childhood photos. 

You mentioned this is a companion piece to the feature Whether the Weather is Coming. Is the feature all absurdity and thematic, or does it have a stronger narrative arc?
It is both thematic with the elements of the absurd, the real and unreal. Moreover, the film has a strong narrative arc,  as the film is loosely based on experiences not only by me but by all the survivors of the typhoon.    I would want it be understandable,  but in a good sense,  still not loosing track of what seems to be my voice in the films that I have been doing. And I do believe that bizarre and weird thematics in the film and even in real life—when you greatly experience something that transcends your definition of the real and the absurd , the silly and the authentic – and how life makes you think in levels you would not really imagine you could.

The casting is interesting. You got a Mestizo guy with a Moreno girl. Does this reflect some form of stereotype often seen in Filipino society? Or is it just incidental?

This is both a good and funny observation. It does ring a bell if how stereotypes in the Philippine society is. But in essence,  one of the bigger casting decisions for the film was casting the mother and son tandem of Miguel and Norma (the seamstress and the prisoner),  for in reality they are not only playing the role as actors but also are both mother and son in real life, which adds a deeper level of understanding towards the character they are portraying. As to with casting the role of Andrea (the singer/bar girl), I was looking for someone that looks fiercely Filipina.

Was there any significance to the Siamese twin costume the two boys were wearing?

It was more of creating this holistic atmosphere of imitation, creating duality in individuality. As seen in the film, the format seemed to be like of a karaoke structure. Lyrics being presented on screen unconsciously the audience starts to sing with it. The co prisoners mimicking each and every word the other prisoners says.    The mundanity of how the parrot imitates what it hears. The images dictating what seems like there would be an looming tragedy waiting to happen – how piercing through the skin and piercing through what needs to cover your skin (clothes sewn by seamstress). It creates this sense of cyclical structure to the point of where do you stand – this side or the other. But at the end it does it really matter? , once something heavy strikes you, the imitation game,  the cyclical order is broken loose and you are formed by who you are regardless of how and what you believe in. (I’m not sure if I’m making sense).
What kind of themes interest you?

Themes grounded on reality. Themes of the present and not so distance past and future. Themes of real people not being seen or heard with real stories as they are not seen as stories of the extreme. I do feel these are stories bigger then the universe we are in. The absurd and the weird comes in naturally as to what we always experience everyday but not every time we acknowledge it.

Interview by Jeremy Sing
This interview has been edited as of 30 Dec to reflect some clarifications in the filmmaker's answer.
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