“It’s THE BREAKFAST CLUB for eco-terrorists, a fire set halfway around the world and twenty years ago raging in the present. A ghost tells you about the last day of his life, planning the revolution with his activist friends before tragically exploding on a mountainside during their botched mission. But it’s also about love and friendship and how beautifully stupid it can be, and a little prayer that maybe the cinema of memory will keep us warm long after we’ve left the Earth.” Filmmaker Dean Colin Marcial on REMINISCES OF THE GREEN REVOLUTION which screens at the 2020 edition of SxSW Film.
Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW
Welcome to the amazing SxSW and congratulations! Are you planning to attend SxSW?
Thank you and yes! It’s my first SXSW as a director and it’s a dream come true.
Tell me about your previous experience here at the festival and what you showed.
I first went to SXSW in 2013, when I produced Bernardo Britto’s short film THE PLACES WHERE WE LIVED and a feature called BURMA (later retitled ALL THAT I AM), which won the Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting and graciously lost to SHORT TERM 12. I sadly didn’t get to attend the 2014 fest where I produced Bernardo’s follow-up YEARBOOK and edited Bryan Reisberg’s BIG SIGNIFICANT THINGS in the Narrative Competition.
What is it about Austin, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?
The first time I went to Austin, my sister and I were on a road trip and it was a stopover that lasted almost a week. We fell in love with the music, the food, and the culture. The second time, my first SXSW about two years later, I actually fell in love with someone in the closing days of the festival, and I faked more than one car accident to the airline, once with my mom’s help, to stay in town for another week and I came back that summer. That romance didn’t last though we’re still great friends and her first feature playing this year’s edition! It then opened me up to queso and the power of the Whataburger honey biscuit chicken sandwich, so Texas is a win.
How did you first hear about the SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?
Ever since I was in high school, maybe even as a tween, I heard about the festival because every movie I was into seemed to have been championed by the Texas film community. The weirdness in taste and sensibility always appealed to me, so to have my film be a part of this year’s selection is one of the few things that hasn’t disappointed my younger self.
Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!
I wrote about this right after Trump got inaugurated and I went to all the marches and protests and wanted to work out all of those feelings through another lens. I’d been fascinated by the parallels to Rodrigo Duterte, the “Trump of the East” President of the Philippines, and the cycles that led to not only their rise, but the defeats and divisions of the left that spanned decades. Specifically, I wanted to tell the story of thirty years of history in a single night, through the intimacy of best friends living like they were living the revolution.
The Tribeca Film Institute was incredibly generous in awarding my their All Access and All Access Alumni grant to develop a feature-length screenplay and a short film about this story, and with the support of TBA Studios in Manila, we shot the short in 2018, produced by Armi Rae Cacanindin at CInematografica Films. It took a village to make this movie, literally; we shot it in my grandmother’s house in the town I spent all my summers in when I was a kid before I moved to the United States.
It’s a very special movie filmed in a very special place for me and my family. Shortly before we started production on REMINISCENCES OF THE GREEN REVOLUTION, my father passed away, and I think this movie is imbued with his ghost in some way, and dedicated to the spirit of all the people lost fighting for their cause.
Who are some of your main creative inspirations?
I’m inspired by the filmmakers around me in the community: Alexa Lim Haas, Bernardo Britto, David Raboy, Terence Nance, Nuotama Bodomo, Brian McOmber, Ann Lupo, Carol Nguyen, and of course Raya Martin, my mentor and EP on this film.
The last few years I’ve been watching a lot of Mike de Leon, Agnes Varda, Martin Scorsese, Jia Zangkhe and Mia Hansen-Løve. I have always had a deep love for Kurosawa, PTA, Sofia Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, Kelly Reichardt, and George A. Romero, but if I had to put it all on one movie, it would probably be Richard Kelly’s SOUTHLAND TALES, because it showed me you can make a movie about literally anything.
How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?
I storyboarded everything on my iPhone, shooting location photos with the Panavision app and putting together a shot list on Keynote, sometimes with video for the tracking shots. We tried to rehearse as extensively as we can but in order to capture the energy and spontaneity we lit and captured everything as if it were a documentary, so that we can move swiftly without having to reposition lights, almost like a stage production.
We shot on the Arri Alexa XT through some mix-up of Alexa Mini licenses, which ended up working in our favor because the image quality was a step up and it could natively handle anamorphic lenses. We shot on an Angenieux 52-125mm anamorphic zoom almost exclusively to avoid lens changes and keep that verite feel.
The biggest technical challenge was that this was the biggest short I’d ever made from a scope standpoint. Luckily we had a lot of municipal support– the Mayor and his son were very enthusiastic about our advocacy for sustainability and the environmental themes of the short and they helped us from catering to security to busing in hundreds of extras– activists, students, and indigenous tribes– all playing themselves and are featured prominently throughout the film.
After SxSW, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?
We’re screening as part of the Slamdance Emergence Festival in Los Angeles, where the film will play at the Arclight Hollywood, a dream venue as a filmmaker. I’d love to screen it in Manila, Maryland, Vienna, London, Copenhagen, Montreal– cities where I have friends and family, to where I want to travel and make new friends, and festivals that will expand my professional and creative horizons.
What would you suggest to theatres or even film festivals as a way to show more short films theatrically or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?
I think theaters should hire programmers to curate festival shorts alongside local short films, placing those in conversation and drawing enthusiasts and supporters on a community level. Blockbusters shouldn’t be the only excuse to go out to the cinemas, and filmmakers should have the opportunity to screen their work theatrically, even when they’re starting out. You can look to microcinemas all over the world to see that there’s a very specific kind of demand instead of trying to go for the four-quadrant stuff all the time.
Film festivals, especially year-round organizations or ones with institutional support, should consider partnering with cinemas to create and perpetuate these initiatives, much like how TIFF has a theatrical presence outside of the festival. By continuing to foster a local film community while importing international cinema, the dialogue created could be enriching for the people who live there and the people who visit for two weeks out of the year.
If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker/creator, what would you suggest to get their start?
Try to make little things that give you joy out of making films as you’re working towards your ambitions. It’s hard to justify all the blood, sweat, and tears if the process is miserable and you don’t know why you’re doing it, but I think if you really seek collaborators who uplift you and search for things that feel true to you, it can get you through some of the darkest parts of filmmaking. It’s almost impossible to truly make a movie on your own, and I think it starts with finding your community.
And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?
AGUA VIVA by Alexa Lim Haas.