Mapúan competes in 2016 Cannes short film category

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Gutierrez, a former Multimedia Arts and Sciences student at Mapúa, advises fellow young filmmakers to tell stories about the their own cultures and tradition.

“Surreal” was how the 23-year-old filmmaker and Mapúa Institute of Technology graduate Raymund Gutierrez felt when he received the news that his short film, “Imago,” would be screened in this year’s prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France.

“It’s my first film, I did not expect that it would be included in the festival. I was so overwhelmed because it’s Cannes, that’s like the last destination for a filmmaker,” exclaimed Gutierrez.

“Imago,” a film about funeral agents in the slums of Metro Manila, is the sole entry from the Philippines and the whole of Asia into the Short Films Competition. It went up against entries from France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Colombia, Brazil, Romania, Italy, and Sweden.

Talking in depth about his film, Gutierrez said that his inspiration came from the short lifespan of the adult-stage form of a Mayfly: Imago.

“Imagoes have the shortest span of life. I incorporated that in my story, which is really about existence—life and death—and each and every one’s perspective on it,” he said. Imago stars Ruby Ruiz and Inna Tuason and is about a single mother of a special child who has an unusual work at midnight.

According to Gutierrez’s mentor, award-winning director and regular Cannes Film Festival contender Brillante Mendoza, Gutierrez has a unique way of treating concepts and presenting them in a refreshing and original way, making his film stand out among the rest.

“His film is unique in every way—the story is uniquely Filipino,” Mendoza said. “Even the character’s occupation is very Pinoy, which I think is also important especially in competing in a festival such as Cannes because the jury is not just viewing how you made your film but also how you tell the story to the audience.”

Mendoza took the young filmmaker under his wing after a workshop where Gutierrez bagged the Best Director award for “Anggulo,” a film about students who cope with different dilemmas in making an indie film. imagho

“When he was my student, his outlook was not very different from his batchmates,” Mendoza said. “What made Raymund stand out was that no matter how simple the story was, he treated it differently for a one-take shot.”

Gutierrez, a former Multimedia Arts and Sciences student at Mapúa, previously worked at an advertising firm before realizing that his “true happiness” did not lie in “telling a story in one picture.”

“I was not challenged anymore. I got bored. I felt suppressed because I could not tell the story that I wanted to tell, and advertising’s objective was very different from the things I wanted to say so I looked for a new canvas. That’s when I discovered film,” he said. Unhappy with his dead-end job, he enrolled in Mendoza’s workshop, which he saw on a website.

“It said there, ‘extensive learning in directing.’ I got excited and I applied,” said Gutierrez. At first, the novice filmmaker’s proposals, story ideas, and plotlines got rejected because it was “too idealistic to set up, because I wanted to have a happy ending.” His rejections became his eye-opener, so he went and directed Anggulo. After the workshop, he asked to apprentice for Mendoza, who made him his crowd director on a project.

“[Gutierrez’s] journey may seem easy but it was not. He had a long and tedious learning process because filmmaking is really long and tedious and difficult,” Mendoza said. “As a student, he did not experience real filmmaking, but when he apprenticed for me, it’s real—he gained experience and exposure. In short, he went to the real battlefield and he saw that it was not easy.”

Mendoza further said that filming “Imago” was not very easy for the young Gutierrez, who immersed himself in the lives of his characters while developing the film’s plot.

“When you do a film, you do your best, but don’t be afraid to commit mistakes because that’s how you learn. For [Gutierrez], he made a mistake, he struggled, but he got up and made it right. We did a re-shoot until he got it,” said Mendoza.

(L-R) Dean of the School of Multimedia and Visual Arts Arch. Arnold P. Cinco, Raymund Gutierrez, and award-winning director Brillante Mendoza

Meanwhile, for Gutierrez, his experiences working for Mendoza taught him not to conform to the current system of filmmaking.

“First of all, you must learn to tell stories about your people, your country, your culture and we can only do that if we think from the heart. The Philippines is a diverse country with vast cultures and issues, and I think that’s our strength: we have our many different stories, which are all entirely our own,” he said.

Asked what makes his stories and films realistic, he advised aspiring Mapúan filmmakers to tell big issues and stories in the subtlest ways.

“Big experiences, big stories – only a handful of people can relate to that. But if you tell it through the life of a single mom perhaps, many can relate, and that is what makes your film realistic,” Gutierrez concluded.

The Cannes Film Festival was held last May 11 to 22.