Norwegian film festival looks through the Filipino window

The Filipino movie “Ang Babae sa Septik Tank” (The Woman in the Septic Tank) will be screened at the 22th “Films From the South Festival” in Oslo, Norway. – I really hope the Norwegians like my film, director Marlon Rivera says.

With “The Woman in the Septic Tank” the Norwegian audience will be served an exceptional treat.  What impression do you want the Norwegian audience to leave the cinema with?
“I hope they like it,” Rivera says. “I hope Norway finds it interesting, and that the audience understands the jokes.”
Having had his film screened at film festivals abroad he tells that he observed that the audience laughed where they were supposed to laugh. This he hopes also will happen in Norway.

The poor and the famous
“The Woman in the Septic Tank” depicts a double edged sword of the commercial, celebrity hype society of today. In a quest to win Oscar Academy Awards and make it to the celebrity heaven, three young film makers join forces and start imagining and living out a film that showcases the true face of poverty in the Philippines.

A rollercoaster ride of dimensions begins when a famous Filipina celebrity joins the team of three with celebrity demands of another world. The film crew understands eventually that they have constructed a monster. Rivera uses the expression “poverty porn” to describe what the film crew envisages in order to obtain an Oscar.

“This film is a commentary to how the Philippines is perceived in the world,” Rivera says.
He explains how a country’s cinema is a window to the world, and that poverty is a common association with the Philippines. But the country has so much more to offer, he asserts.

“It’s also a commentary to the condition of starstruckedness integral to Filipino culture, in addition to the programmers who filter and choose films and topics for film festivals.”
The way Filipinos admire celebrities has its grounds in how Filipinos relate to each other, Rivera says. Everything boils down to who you know. And Filipinos are quick to acknowledge other Filipinos who have been successful in their lives. He describes it as a “rally around people who has made something”.

The labor of love
The Philippine film industry is known for its mainstreaming of “telenovelas” (soap operas) where typical romantic love stories are at the center. But in these days independent movies are finally gaining more interest, Rivera reflects. However, there is still a long way to go, he says and tells that “The Woman in the Septic Tank” was a labor of love.

With this he means that it is still hard to produce independent movies in the Philippines. Although there is an increasing market, it is not easy to get funding for independent productions. But now students and young people are moving slightly away from the mainstream film industry.

”Step by step they will change it to becoming more alternative,” he says enthusiastically.

Look to the beaches
“Poverty exists in the Philippines,” Rivera says.
But you can’t judge a place by seeing only one thing. This is not the only truth, he emphasizes.
Hence, his next project will not be about poverty. He’s tired of that. Through film productions he seeks to change attitudes, and is especially passionate about exporting another Philippines to the world. Next time it would be nice to showcase a beach, he fantasizes.
“There are so many beautiful beaches in the Philippines. This I want people to know, and associate the Philippines with,” he says.

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