Award-winning director helms first Virgin Labfest play at CCP
When it comes to the big screen, director Carlos Siguion-Reyna—who is also well known in the industry as Carlitos—may have reached heights in his career most budding filmmakers can only dream of. But as a creative who is always hungry to take the reign of narratives, he believes there will always be new films to conquer. As such, Siguion-Reyna has found a new field in which to grow via theater.
It can be said that Siguion-Reyna was born to be in the entertainment industry what with Philippine movie and music icon Armida for a mother. However, instead of following her very footsteps and performing in front of the camera, the young Siguion-Reyna fell in love with the process that went behind it.
In his biography in the Film Academy of the Philippines’ website, Armida’s only son’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts degree (Interdiciplinary Studies) from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1979; and Master of Fine Arts degree in film from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1986.
Two years later, Siguion-Reyna made his big screen debut as director in Misis Mo, Misis Ko (Your Wife, My Wife) starring Dina Bonnevie, Edu Manzano, Jackie Lou Blanco and Ricky Davao. Working excellently on the gifted scriptwriter and his would-be wife Bibeth Orteza’s, the newcomer bagged the 1989 Star Awards Best Director plum.
That same year, Siguion-Reyna swept a number of international accolades when he received a “Films of College and University Students” award in the US for his New York University thesis film Patas Lang (Fair Exchange). His narrative dramatized a painful story of illegal Filipino immigrants and informers in New York City.
From then on, there was no stopping the young director from churning hit after hit—his 1992 film Hihintayin Kita sa Langit (starring Dawn Zulueta and Richard Gutierrez) won him the 1992 Best Director at the Urian Awards; while Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal (also starring Gutierrez, this time with Maricel Soriano) swept the Best Director awards from Famas, Film Academy of the Philippines, Urian and Young Critics Circle Awards.
More blockbusters ensued for Siguion-Reyna, among them Inagaw Mo ang Lahat sa Akin (Harvest Home) and Tatlo…Magkasalo (Three), that he soon conquered the international circuit as well.
Aangkinin Ko ang Bukas (Tomorrow Will Be Mine) won Best Movie for Television in the 1996 Singapore International Film Festival; Ang Lalaki sa Buhay ni Selya (The Man in Her Life) won Special Jury Prize at the Teddy Awards in the 1998 Berlin International Film Festival and Best Asian Film in the 1998 Newport Beach International Film Festival; and Kahapon May Dalawang Bata (Yesterday Children) won Second Runner-up and People’s Choice Awards in 1999 Toronto International Film Festival, as well as Best Foreign Film in the 2000 Newport Beach International Film Festival.
Finally, his 2000 film Azucena (Dog Food) won the Grand Jury Award of 2001 San Diego Asian Film Festival. It was his last big screen outing until he took a 14-year hiatus.
During his extended break from cinema, Siguion-Reyna never allowed his passion for directing to stop. In fact, he nurtured it even further by teaching film at New York University Tisch School of the Arts Asia in Singapore.
He made his homecoming in 2014 to head the Cinemalaya Institute and direct his comeback film, the critically acclaimed Hari ng Tondo.
More significantly, the director diverted his passion in directing for live performance.
His first formal theater directorial debut—after first dabbling in music theater with mother Armida’s Aawitan Kita—came in 2012 in the form of Walang Sugat, which was Tanghalang Pilipino (TP)’s banner show for its 26th season.
The same theater company, signed him up in 2016 to do his first straight play, Pangarap sa Isang Gabi ng Gitnang Tag-araw, Ronald Tinio’s translation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has also agreed to do TP’s Walang Aray for its upcoming season.
This year too, Siguion-Reyna is determined to accomplish more theater firsts as he embarks on the annual Virgin Labfest (VLF).
Considered a “baptism” of sorts as a festival for untried and untested plays, VLF invited Siguion-Reyna to direct Ricardo Novenario’s “Nothing But Dreams” for its 13th edition.
“I’ve long wanted to do VLF, but I couldn’t commit to it since I was still adjusting to teaching at the Cinemalaya Institue,” Siguion-Reyna explained during VLF’s press conference.
Three years into the program, Siguion-Reyna got more used to his schedule, thus allowing him the time to finally join VLF. Luckily, he directs a play he said is not far from his own familial experiences.
“I really liked the material—it felt like a real dysfunctional family drama. On the surface, it’s like a sitcom, like ‘John en Marsha’. I also thought I could just recall all of the weird funny moments in my own family and I could relate and recognize certain things. That basically started it—from the memory of observing strange behaviors in my family and other family gatherings like Noche Buena and things like that,” Siguion-Reyna related.
Difference in directing
Considered an institution in Philippine filmmaking, it is not surprising for Siguion-Reyna to be asked about the differences he encountered directing in a new field.
“I enjoy [directing]both [film and theater]. Relatively, this is only my fourth theater project so I don’t have as big of an experience as other directors and playwrights but for me, the difference is to have weeks of rehearsals—it’s an absolute luxury,” Siguion-Reyna exclaimed.
“In films, basically, you have a lot of pre-production but due to the budget and the schedule you can’t really get actors to spend rehearsal period because the funds won’t stretch anymore. [Rehearsal] is not really in the culture whereas it is in the theater,” the director further detailed.
Looking back Siguion-Reyna said he is lucky enough to get two or three days of rehearsals on the set of a film, or at least of some exploring before shooting day.
“Most of the exploring of the movie happens on the day of the shoot. You rehearse, practice a bit on the technical and then you shoot it. It’s like compressing what in theater would take days into one shooting day for the movie,” Siguion-Reyna noted.
In ending, the director said he is enjoying doing his very first 20-minute play for the Virgin Labfest—rehearsals and all—and that he hopes his audience will do too when Nothing But Dreams debuts on Saturday, July 1 at the CCP Little Theater.