Carlo Francisco Manatad is no stranger to the Singapore International Film Festival. His pervious short film, Junilyn Has competed in the Southeast Asian Short Film Competition in Programme 4 back in 2015. This time round, his latest short, Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month is once again in competition this year.
Jodilerks, a gas station employee spends her last night at her job, at a gas station that is about to close down. She devotes her last night of employment to some questionable acts, while reflecting the state of society around her. It is dark, comedic and punk. Yet, it manages to beautifully highlight the problem of unemployment in the Philippines.
No matter how many times I watched the film, I can never be bored of it. I had to talk to the director to uncover the beauty behind this short film.
Andrea (A) : What inspired you to create Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month?
Carlo (C): My co-producer and I planned on creating a short film, however this was based on a feature film that I am still currently working on. I wanted to put focus on the narrative of the case of unemployment in my country – it is a crucial issue we are facing but I wanted to give it a dark and comedic tone. Is life really a bitch? Yes it is! But, it ends with a choice.
A: Can you tell us more about your thought process behind the music in the film?
C: The music was deliberately planned way before the production of the Film. A close friend of mine, Benjo Ferrer III, is in a band named “Oh Man Oh God”. I wanted to use super heavy metal punkish music to embody the emotions brimming inside the main characters’ psyche. It was a feeling of just waiting to explode and pushing forth the wildness of how Jodilerks’ thoughts are towards the environment around her. Wild, Crazy, Destructive but also proper and lyrical but in a grudging manner.
A: I can’t help but to be drawn to Jodilerks’ outlook in life. She seems numb to everything that is happening around her. For example, when her co-worker was beaten, it almost seems like it happens a lot. I If you don’t mind sharing, why the use of dark comedy to explore this?
C: My aesthetic comes from stories grounded on reality and that everything around is concrete but treated in an unconventional approach. Realism derives from real stories, real people, real events – which we don’t tend to see the magnitude. These are stories bigger than the city they are living in, even bigger than the universe we are in but we don’t seem to care. The absurdity of my films stems from my weird and dry humour – and the experiences that I have encountered. My fascination of the dull everyday life of people and what stories are behind these ordinary individuals. There is always lightness – to displeasure reality with strangeness , to temper the attention with emotion and to temper emotion with humour.
A: Were some of the critiques you made about the economic realities of the position of their jobs based on your personal experiences?
C: The chunk of it is based on the realities I’ve seen with middle class workers in the Philippines who are facing these experience of having to strive harder to survive. It also stems from the fact that even I myself would question every time I finish one project. — What’s next? Or what do I do after this.
A: The camera tends to keep its distance in a deliberate way. Is this paralleling your take on the criticisms explored in your film?
C: The film was shot deliberately in a voyeuristic approach to see how these middle class workers move, act, and react in a space where they can actively or passively move freely or be static. Also, I wanted to explore how they deal with their everyday struggle in the most mundane and private manner – sometimes whimsical most of the times – truthful.
A: Your film has been travelling to many film festivals all over the world. I personally saw it at Busan last month and loved it! Has it been received by local Filipino and international audiences differently?
C: The film has not been screened in my own country yet. So, I am more than excited to witness the reactions – or the lack of by my fellow Filipinos. As for the international audience, I’ve been receiving death threats and complaints from gas station owners. —- kidding aside – it has been well received, and the reactions are varying from being wretched to being hysterical (in a good way). The film seems to be of a punkish tone, people would seem to take it as a wild ride– but as the film ends, it is felt by the audience in a very poignant to an almost contemplative feeling of how the film is and how the characters feel as it ends.
Catch Carlo Francisco Manatad’s Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month as part of the SEA Short Film Competition: Programme 1 on 1 December 2017, 7:00pm at the National Gallery Singapore.