Watch: Behind-the-scene Featurette
Watch: Production Experience Featurette
Exposing the various classes of Filipinos living in Manila, Pera-perahang Lata is pegged with a culturally correct representation encouraging reflection, better understanding, and debate on various human and societal issues. The filmmaker has chosen to depict the richness of the Filipino Christmas tradition, particularly the children’s Christmas caroling and the “Simbang Gabi” inexposing the two sides of Manila and the idea that the country is not stricken by mere poverty due to lack of resources, but because of unequal distribution of wealth – the rich and powerful ones become richer and richer, while most of the poor ones starve more and more. To achieve a better life, should it be a combination of ultimately struggling for one’s betterment and being lucky, or is it just the latter? (Or no one could ever really tell at all?) And how far should people go beyond asserting things for themselves considering the possibilities of hurting others along the way?
Watch: Kaibigan (Friend) Music Video
Watch: Sa Pagdating (The Coming) Music Video
This film exposes the city streets that further open up to the lives of various people in the society. The Filipino trait of maintaining close family ties is also apparent in the story through simple family talks and interactions.
The film’s framework promotes a strong visual narrative infused within its dense realism. Allegories give support to the film’s theme as Nilo’s character exposes a critical outlook of a young witness to the depressing issues of his generation. Sometimes, people become very lucky either in a fun or strange way; yet sometimes, people become too jinxed and unfortunate either in a deserving or undeserving manner. And at times, people think twice on giving something for others due to certain tragic incidents of the past – making them conscious and paranoid of their own safety when helping others next time around.
View: Photo Slideshow – Philippine Premiere – Cocktails
View: Photo Slideshow – Philippine Premiere – Theater
The story explores the different venues for enriching the film’s mood and temperament and conveys hope amidst such a deplorable situation as the character’s. Aesthetic and metaphorical touches are carefully infused to the point of view of the observant Nilo. And hopefully, after watching the film, in one way or another, the viewer may have a better grasp on how to deal with life and accept things that come along the way, or at the least, be touched by what s/he has seen.
The tragic side of the film makes a good point to ponder on – that whatever action is done by a person, life is a journey no one would “exactly know” what to expect next.
Pera-perahang Lata intends to bring a fresh perspective for a film with a common theme and story. The treatment ups the ante on the bits of drama, comedy, action, and suspense elements. The treatment utilizes the richness of the Filipino culture, particularly during the Christmas season, and also the issues reflected with its coming. Its serious theme is treated with some comic visualizations and flavored dialogues. But in its very essence, the film speaks of the serious messages in the mind and heart of a young soul watching closely how the society, particularly in the Manila locale, moves in the present days – while he continues his own struggle for a better life for himself and his loved ones.
The film’s look is a combination of: the dark and gritty; and the light and Yuletide. The realistic treatment mainly shows people and elements moving in the streets, work places, and homes. More than just merely dealing with the cinematic side of mounting the visuals, the mise-en-scéne is intended to be always raw, natural, and organic like how people experience things in their own lives. And yet, the film paves way for explorative venues in storytelling, composing the shots, and editing to live up for an effective combination of the thematic, emotional, and artistic sides of the film.
The story mainly shows aspects of a lower-middle class Filipino life. Like his job within the quality control area of the factory, Nilo lives his day-to-day life journeying down the metro and seeing beyond the people walking along the streets with him, his critical mind becomes an extension of the viewers’ minds, as he sees through the diversity of the society. His work requires him to assure the quality of the cans in the factory, whether to sell the good ones, or isolate/reject the defective ones. And like the typical idealistic youth, at the back of his mind, he still wishes that he can look and segregate not just in the factory: if he can only do much more in real life for the betterment of the society. But the greater irony is that, though he sees through his work and his surroundings, he has not seen how he could have changed the fates and tragedies of the needy people in his midst.
Design, Lighting, Sound, Music
In bringing Pera-perahang Lata to the screen, the filmmaker wanted to capture the story’s tone by combining drama, dark humor, Yuletide fun, street violence, and stark humanity in its view of the contemporary crossroads where the rich and poor links and relates paths in many places. With the film’s distinct mood surging from one plotpoint to the next, she hopes to mirror that same fine line between playful satire and gripping human action, humor, and drama that form the core of the film.
She allows each individual element of the aesthetic palette to work together as part of a larger whole to create the various environments that Nilo and the rest of the characters live and interact in.
For the production design and art direction, the aesthetic pursuits are combined with how Nilo’s realistic world should look like, consolidating them with what the audience needs to understand his journey. There is a constant sense of realism and a daily rhythm established through the design heightening the emotions the characters feel.
In designing Nilo’s house, the place is very small and cramped, an outdated flat with elements of a typical lower-middle class bachelor’s pad. Wooden and semi-vandaled from the outside with raw cement walls from the inside, it shows tinges of wear and tear and some old writings and scratches reflecting the many tenants occupying the place for all those years. It has never changed much amidst the many drastic changes in time and society. And Nilo just play around with what he merely has there. The small space allows him to move around quite limitedly, having the totality of less than half a small studio-sized place for eating, washing dishes, watching TV, sleeping, and sight-seeing from the window, all in pretty much the same space.
From the inside, the window becomes a sort of a cinema or TV screen where he could watch the reality of the street outside. At the same time, from the exterior, the same window allows the people outside to have a total look of the entire house already. Various available posters and calendars are the only materials that accessorize the bare cemented walls. He sleeps on the second level of his doubledeck bed and utilizes the space on the first level as his side table and cabinet. He clips notes on the wall the way a corkboard could. He puts in some school art works of his younger sister showing their family tree as a minimal decoration, along with the small Christmas lantern fronting the house from his window to live up to the Christmas season. Indeed, the key to the design of Nilo’s apartment is for it to become his mere refuge not of his own choice but just because it is what he could only afford.
Gary’s house is also small and quite outdated, showing tinge of wear and tear as well. Raw cemented in the outside, and combination of raw cemented and wooden parts in the inside, this lower-middle class architecture renders a similarity to that of Nilo’s (reflecting the fact that they come from the same town near the factory where they work), only that Gary’s house becomes quite more extended with the presence of a second floor as he lives with his parents there. There are additional efforts of Christmas decors with the presence of his parents helping out with such endeavor.
The wake sequence shows the usual look of how a lower middle class “burol” (wake) becomes a temporary place for people to dwell around, get some time to socialize, and have a sort of reunion with the family, relatives, friends, and neighbors. It also becomes an occasion for gambling and “tongs.” Other than the grieving family and friends, there is also the presence of some merely unaffected bingo, mahjong, and card players who find a provisional area to have snacks (like nuts, candies, and coffee) and have a short-lived spot to standby and have time to play/gamble.
Overall, the factory presents a positive point of view of the workers with a good-natured boss. However, the balance is tipped by the arrogant substitute supervisor Juda; thus, creating a more tension-filled factory for the affected workers. The factory shows the machines at work where the cans are produced. The mechanical feel reflects how people tend to get to the point of living a life of monotony: losing their dreams for merely living, breathing, working, eating, sleeping, and then waking up to work again every single day.
The church shows how the various kinds of people could be present in one specific place in one time, all united during a common occasion, yet differed by their intentions of being there. The church is a large parish full of people during the “Simbang Gabi” (Christmas Novena Mass for nine days prior to Christmas Day). It is similar to Nilo’s pad in a way that it also has raw cement walls as the construction for it is still being done slowly, but surely, through the allotted budget for construction of the church. Nevertheless, the Yuletide spirit becomes very much felt with the church’s festive ambience for the Christmas season.
The streets present the unpredictability of the outside world, where everything moves around with people crossing paths that affect people’s lives in one way or another. There are ordinary times, there are happy and exciting moments, and there are shocking and dangerous instances. There are thinking times, opportunities, risks, sights and sounds of grandness and dirt and everything else in between, and chaos. Indeed, the uncontrollable situations are very much apparent.
The clothes of people within their personal spaces and their private and public places play up with the diversity of classes and lifestyles. The whole film is generally desaturated. Overall, the colors are on the cold, the faded, and the neutrals. And when the gloomy parts change into the happy and Yuletide moments, then the more festive and vibrant colors come into play.
There are recurring elements of peso bills and coins, the uttering of the word melodramatic, the cutting off of water supply, the Filipino trait of associating various things together, poking fun out of annoying people, and making a harsh life lighter by making comic interactions and finding ways to have fun even during the harshest times.
The cinematography complements the production design and art direction where the overcast lighting and the coldly realistic look is utilized, finding it quite natural to think of spaces and the characters who inhabit them as almost the same thing. This then makes all the raw elements on screen come as a whole. Effectively matching the film’s intimate and cerebral themes, the camera promotes a keen eye in capturing the inner psyche of the characters from the realistic physicality presented as a portrait of a lower class Manila commune. It brings a kind of spontaneous luminousness to the life of a human face, which is very valuable to the story. And though the visuals are mostly within the bounds of coldness, the warmer scenes are the parts where Nilo is at his most cerebral and/or emotional.
With the approach on the film carefully discussed since the pre-production stage, every decision made is aimed towards making the script still feeling spontaneous, so that the performances, from the major characters to the bit players, appear raw and candid. While getting as much information about the characters in the frame, the scales and sizes of the many spaces, as well as how light, natural and otherwise, fell into them, are effectively infused with the director’s vision for the film.
The sound design and music are mainly inspired by realism with the sound of tin cans, street sounds, and the Christmas tone of the season. And these sounds are also utilized as accompaniment of the kids during their Christmas carols.
The arc of the sound design helps articulate the arc of the visuals: further bringing in the deeper emotions providing a pulse to a story of a man getting caught with the turn of events of his life. This supplies an emotional vortex weaving together the layered and cascading instincts of the film.
The braided strands of the characters’ lives merges comedy, suspense, and sudden moments of human revelation. And the film poses utterly unique challenges for the musical scorer whose compositions further drive the film from deep within to what’s more tangible. The melodic and harmonic languages provide musical idioms that evolve and reflect themselves through the language of the music, the way melodies and harmonies work together with the emotional perceptions and the interplay of the characters.