“The film is set in the aftermath of the strongest typhoon to make landfall in the Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan. It’s a story about a mother and son traversing their way, trying to find liberty and freedom amidst the destruction of their space. The film is a probing reversal of how films about the greater tragedy are presented.” Filmmaker Carlo Francisco Manatad on WHETHER THE WEATHER IS FINE screening at TIFF 2021.
I hear you are back at TIFF this year! Tell me about what you have had here in the past and your experience.
I had two short films that played the festival, Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month (2017), and The Imminent Immanent (2018). I attended the festival in 2018. The experience was amazing to say the least. As TIFF has been one of those festivals, I look up to having a good and robust balance of film selections and programs in conjunction with the events playing at the festival. So being selected again in the festival with my first feature feels reassuring that I am on the right track of the works I make. And TIFF gives that sense of approval that I did something right.
So let’s hear more about you and how you got started in the business and what you have worked on in the past!
I have mainly been working as an editor for shorts and feature films for almost a decade before i started delving into directing. Unconsciously it helped me grow and push things that I learned from my collaborators. I would not have experienced things that I would have known if not for working with all these filmmakers.
How did this project come together?
Important to state that the film is loosely based on my personal experience. Trauma would always be there and part of this process. But I made it into something comforting and, in a sense, unfolded all these stories that I had collected throughout the journey of making this film.
It is not usual for films from the Philippines, especially first feature films, to take this long to make (7 years to be exact). But I think the process helped in terms of the clarity of things I wanted to portray in the film. A lot of challenges came upon, surprisingly for a film this big in scope, the bigger problem we faced was we got stuck in post-production because of this pandemic that everyone is facing. But luckily, during the break, the situation made me realize and question things that actually had a more significant impact when we started going back into the cutting room. More than anything, the film speaks greatly in essence with the situation that everyone is facing. And leaves all these questions to be processed and talked about.
What keeps you going while making a project? What drives you?
What drives me is the need to tell this story. It may be culture-specific. Since not everyone has faced this kind of tragedy. But more than anything, the film speaks for everyone. It’s something universal in one way or another. There will always be this sense of disjunct but also a connection to how this story is presented.
What was your biggest challenge and what was the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
I think rewarding is an understatement. I just feel that the whole film, regardless of its success in terms of where it gets shown the most that I feel happy about, is that we were able to finish production just before the pandemic happened. And also a feat in itself to finish the whole film in its entirety during the pandemic.
I must get on the technical side! I would love to know about the visual design of the movie and how it was made.
Everything was built from scratch by the talented and patient art team headed by the production designer, Whammy Alcazaren. Everything was based on actual photos from the devastation of typhoon Haiyan. We wanted to create a more authentic-looking approach in the set building and not lose those little humorous details that may or may not be noticed since the film is ever moving. It was hard work for the Production Design team since they were only given a small amount of time to build these large-scale setups.
It was a mutual decision to build these setups from scratch since my hometown (now) looks like no storm actually passed since its been years after the tragic moment. However, there were non-negotiable locations that I fought for, to be shot in my hometown, Tacloban. An example would be the Astrodome (relief center), mainly because these were iconic places that play a big part in pushing the authenticity of playing with the space in the film.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at TIFF?
It’s always the audience. Either the love or hate the film. I am always curious about how the audience acts and reacts after they have watched this experiential film.
Clearly this is such a different time with hybrid festivals and online screenings, and TIFF is no exception as some are attending in person and some are doing it virtually. How do you feel about the future of film festivals?
The industry is ever-changing. Watching a film at the Cinema is always a no-brainer. Still, we should also adapt to change and how the situation around puts us , the filmmakers and audience, and the film in such circumstances that we still need to show the film in whatever way possible.
Where is the movie going next? More festivals? Theatrical release? Streaming?
After its world premiere at the Locarno film festival under the cineaste del presente competition and its north American premiere at TIFF, the film will continue to play in festivals in the coming months. Bucharest, Guanajaoto, Hamburg (unannounced). And a few more. Of course, what would mean the world to me is to have it played back in my own country. Hoping the situation becomes clearer to plan out accordingly its local release.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or work in the business. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into filmmaking, especially now as things are evolving at such a fast rate?
Here’s the thing. Filmmaking would always be seen as something frantic. But I would just say take your time and be patient. It goes a long way.
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
A lot, but what comes into my mind right now is Poetry by Lee Chang-Dong.