DIREK Paul Soriano says his film “Mañanita” is a passion project that took him three years to produce under his own company (TEN17P) in cooperation with Viva Films. The movie written by Lav Diaz opens in theaters this Wednesday, and stars Bela Padilla as a dismissed military sniper who goes on a journey in search of the man who killed her parents and gave her face an ugly scar. In the end, she will either choose revenge or forgiveness.
Direk Paul says the film is influenced by the transcendental style of filmmaking of such acclaimed filmmakers as Ozu, Bresson, Tarkovsky and Paul Schrader. It expresses a spiritual state by means of austere camerawork, acting that is devoid of self-consciousness and editing that avoids editorial comment. So brace yourselves as “Mañanita” is not your usual romcom or melodramatic escapist movie.
Mañanita is actually a practice in the Cursillo where the retreatants are serenaded and this is also used by cops in Davao who resort to non-violent means to ask drug traffickers to mend their ways by singing spiritual songs to them to touch their souls.
Why is the title of his movie “Mañanita”? “Because I want to serenade the viewers with the many Filipino songs we used in the movie’s soundtrack,” says Direk Paul.
His film was shown as an entry in the recent Tokyo International Filmfest. How’s the reception? “The Japanese audience liked it. The film’s silence resonated with them. Being a part of an international film festival is inspiring and educational as you get to watch all kinds of films and get to have conversations with other filmmakers from around the world.”
Is Bela his first choice for the role? “I’ve always wanted to work with Bela. She is one of my favorite actresses today after seeing her in movies like ‘100 Tula Para Kay Stella’. I had only Bela in mind and when I pitched the movie to her, she said yes right away. Bela is the first actor to ever say yes to me without reading a script. It was the trust she gave me that inspired me even more and I knew this is going to be a special film.”
Did he get any advice from Lav Diaz? “I respect Lav so much and I consider him a mentor. I learn so much from him, not just about films but about life in general. I’m so humbled being given the chance to collaborate with him in ‘Mananita’.”
Was he faithful to Lav’s script? “The story was actually a collaboration between us. I told him the story of the cops in Davao and he loved it, so we created the story together. The script he wrote was only about 8 pages then he let me make it my own. This is one of the most personal films I’ve ever made, only because I got to tell the story the exact way I envisioned it and it shows who I am today as a filmmaker after 13 years in the business. ‘Mañanita’ is a meditation on society and how it unconsciously manipulates us, a film told visually and also through song and music. We carefully chose several original Filipino songs that have a strong sense of identity, exude passion and speak to the soul, so I’m hoping in one form or another that this film can speak to you.”
Direk Paul looks good enough to be an actor himself, like his grandpa Nestor de Villa who’s one of the top matinee idols of the 50s and 60s. Did he never aspire to act?
“I was never really drawn to acting,” he says. “Kung mag-aartista ako, di sana noon pa. But I guess I followed more the steps of my dad (Jeric Soriano), who’s more into directing. As of now, I will just let my wife (Toni Gonzaga) do the acting and hosting part in our family.”