Maria Estela Paiso on „Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol“ / interview

Born in Quezon City, the Philippines in 1997, the filmmaker graduated with a degree in communication arts in 2016 and has since worked in post-production. After several music videos and visual experiments, she made „Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol“, her debut film as a director. In her free time, she works to perfect her karaoke skills.

What was your starting point for “Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol”?

Solitude isn’t new to me. Even before all the dark forces of the world started having a party, I often consciously chose to be alone; and that comes as no surprise since I’m in post-production. However, when I no longer had the choice to be alone and was instead forced into solitude, my comfort zone gradually became uncomfortable. It was a combination of unresolved family drama, resentment at the oppressive system, and buried self-image insecurity. These thoughts became frequent guests to my personal space, and while I entertained them, I often bid them goodbye after they’ve had their afternoon tea.

I came across a two-part comic called „Furniture“ by Shin (Electromilk) and that made me accept these guests. That comic made me realize that I didn’t need to reacquaint myself with these thoughts repeatedly–not only could I live with them, they were a part of who I am. I just had to accept them and make them real: so I wrote a short script. Besides that comic, my post-production background has played a big role as well, and so has the experience of being a young woman living in the Philippines.

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

This is my first legitimate short, so whenever I’m asked what part of the film was the hardest, I always say that everything was hard. The funny thing is when I’m asked what my favorite part is, I also say that everything is my favorite. Maybe that’s the masochism I acquired from being in post production–the harder it is, the more attached I become to the material. Or is that some form of Stockholm syndrome? Either way, that’s the path I know this short was going to take (and it did), and at the end of the day, easy does not mean the same as worthwhile.

If I really had to answer, it would be the scanning sequence: the part where Maya puts her face on the screen and different objects flow in and out of the frame. I’ve always dreamed of doing it and I’ve never done anything like it. The scanning of the objects took two full weeks of my life. That’s the longest time I’ve spent with a scanner. Considering my film is very, very personal, the scanning sequence, in my head, is an invasion of space. I wanted to evoke discomfort–how Maya is being dissected right before our eyes and she will start to unearth everything she’s been keeping to herself shortly after.

When I was 13, my parents got me a printer-scanner for school and I almost always scanned my hand whenever I used it. It could also be because of that.

What do you like about the short form?

Even before I directed this short, I usually spend my time making music videos for hiphop tracks and doing visual experiments. Because of the nature of the techniques I want to use, I’m always practicing by doing short-form projects: just videos that range from a few seconds to sometimes a minute or so. It could be rotoscoping, a mother’s day video, even a meme. I think that comes with my affinity for frame-by-frame animation, and also because I was raised in post-production. I learned early on from my coworkers/friends that online editing and CG takes time, both the process and the render. Post-production makes you appreciative of every frame.

Contrary to its label, the best thing about the short form is its length. Because it’s short, you have a limit on what you can build, but at the same time, you also limit what you need to build. Not only does this challenge you to focus on getting your message across, it’s also a perfect medium to try things that you’ve only been thinking of trying. Can I print a video, paint over it, then scan it back? Let’s try it. Can I fold a piece of paper and imitate the feeling of an explosion? Let’s see. Can I use scanning to distort the movement of objects? Only one way to find out. There are still lots of techniques out there that can be used to tell thoughts more effectively, it’s just a matter of attempting them–and that’s where the short form comes in.

Creating short projects is also more accessible since, considering the economic and class divide of where I’m from, creating is no cheap task. Almost everyone is capable of creating short-form material. You can keep attempting any technique you’re interested in, you can keep exploring any topic you’re drawn to. That’s what I like about the short form: with its limits comes your freedom and possible success in somehow getting something across (hopefully).

Photo © John Eric Bico

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„Since this was my first [film] it was very personal. […] Zambal is a language my mother and I speak at home and I decided to make [the film] in Zambal because the themes and topics discussed in the short film are very […] close to me.“
an interview with Maria Estela Paiso for CNN Philippines

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