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14 November 2006

FOCAL POINT : Cesar Buendia, “Idol: Pag-asa ng Bayan”

Cesar BuendiaTHE ROOTS of Cesar Buendia's craft lie in his growing years. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was one of the most popular figures at the UP Integrated School, running for the student body, writing poetry for the school organ, singing for the UP Cherubim and Seraphim, and appearing in stage plays. Those were also the years of literary talents who wrote screenplays and of avant-garde filmmakers who dared the authoritarian rule of government.

After college, amidst the social turbulence of the late 1980s through the 1990s, Cesar became a most-sought-after scriptwriter for a television network. TV, in fact, had acquired a potent form during those years. Middle-class families stopped visiting movie houses to watch home videos, and television stations ventured in mainstream film production.

Such influences are visible in Cesar Buendia’s debut feature “Idol: Pag-asa ng Bayan”. I spoke to him about writing and directing a film that defined a generation faced with powerful questions of art and moral values.

What separates Cesar Buendia from other debuting directors?
Apart from his weight, Cesar Evangelista Buendia is different in that he is a director who is committed to the truth first and art only second. He recognizes that his talent comes from God and therefore must use it only for God and not just to earn a living.

Tell me a little bit more about Idol: Pag-asa ng Bayan.
A Palanca Awardee friend of mine says that Idol is not even just post-modern. It is contemporary art, which means that it is even more advanced than post-modern art. Well, it does subvert many conventions and yet manages to use the standard literary structure in doing so. This creates a shocking, disturbing, thought provoking effect on the viewers.

Idol does not prescribe solutions, but provokes discussions and debates. It compels us to take a long hard look at our values as a people.

Is the film inspired by your own personal experiences?
Not really. Some characters are, but it is really more fiction than anything. But I did research to make sure that the plot is possible in the real world.

What was it like working with veterans Michael de Mesa and Jacklyn Jose?
K lang (It is okay). It was my first time to handle veteran performers. Nung una, china-challenge nila ako (They dared me initially). But I think I proved myself along the way. Kaya later sumusunod na lang sila (They followed my directions later on) .

Filipinos of late have again been getting attention in international film festivals, notably your friend Jett Jeturian. Any plans for entering the international film fest circuit?
Sana (Hopefully). But the iconography of the film is very local. Baka hindi maintindihan ng international (the international audience may not understand it). Will try, though.

What is your dream project as a director?
My next project—if God permits—is a film about gay discrimination and the Filipino gay culture. This one, my friends say, is even more shocking daw. (Laughter)

If you weren't a director, what would you be?
Let me know ha. Not a whore, I would starve. (More laughter) Maybe a choir conductor.

Idol: Pag-asa ng Bayan” will screen on 28 November 2006 at the Henry Lee Irwin Theatre in Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines. View the trailer at Nina Saldaña’s blog Life in Kilobytes.

For tickets, please contact Cesar Buendia at +919189235515 or email me at Proceeds of the screening will fund various endeavors of the UPIS Batch 1982 Alumni Association.


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