Though fairly new in the field of filmmaking, Diane Ventura’s material is topnotch. With a penchant for presenting things differently, what would normally be a straightforward love triangle gets a shot in the arm with this young director at the helm.
Her first full-length film, Mulat is a psycho-thriller, a time-hopping mystery and a perspective-rich romance all rolled into one. The movie challenges linearity and refashions logic, making it difficult to watch for some, but definitely worth the time of an open-minded moviegoer.
And the critics agree. Since its global debut at the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival’s New Wave Category, Ventura spent the next two years doing the rounds of international film festivals and bagging awards along the way.
At the 2015 International Film Festival Manhattan, she won Global Feature Best Director, while Mulat’s lead Jake Cuenca snagged the Best Actor Award. Back in May, over a year and a half since the movie’s world premiere, the film also won Best Narrative Feature at the World Cinema Festival in Brazil, and again a Best Actor Award for Cuenca.
In preparation for the film’s commercial run in the Philippines beginning today, the Cinema Evaluation Board gave Mulat an “A” rating.
An actor’s director
“I couldn’t ask for more in being part of this movie,” enthused Cuenca at Mulat’s latest news conference in a Quezon City restaurant. “This being our director’s first film, plus the fact that we only shot Mulat for five straight days, I was surprised by the awards I got from the international festivals.”
Giving all the credit to Ventura, Cuenca echoed how the critics have hailed the director’s singular style and vision.
“In other indie films, we’re used to seeing shots in gorilla-style. But with Direk Diane, her film still gives this mainstream feel with very beautiful shots, even with time-hopping feature. And within that, she directs us to act in the most natural way possible, and never stylized as other indie directors require.”
With much pride the actor added, “During Mulat’s screening abroad, the different audiences really appreciated Direk Diane’s work, and for that I’m so grateful to be part of it. I just hope that when we show it here, people will come to appreciate it as well.”
Lure of the indie
Just like other leading actors of his generation—among them John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, Richard Gomez and Gerald Anderson—Cuenca first made a name for himself as a mainstream actor, but found himself drawn to independent filmmaking.
“I guess it’s the different perspective an indie asks of an actor in creating a story,” he explained his fascination. “Sometimes we’re used to TV shows and commercial movies that using one formula. Sure, they have different titles, show different tandems, but they’re all the same when it comes to concepts. In indie movies, what you didn’t think possible becomes possible. You won’t think of doing it in terms of blockbusters, or profit—what you’ll just want to do is to tell a very different story.”
Mulat (Awaken), which will have its commercial screening on November 2, will be coupled with Ventura’s short film TheRapist—her very first venture into filmmaking. Another psychological vehicle the short film is yet another less-is-more craftsmanship, and it approached weighty issues such as rape, abuse, sexuality and psychoanalysis with deft hands. It is starred by veteran actress Cherie Gil and Marco Morales.
Mulat leaves a question how much do we have in shaping our destinies. The story revolves around Sam (Burgos) who is about to make the big leap and marry her boyfriend (Eigenmann) when a powerful dream convinces her not to continue. Starting over, she meets Jake (Cuenca) whom she believes is her soul mate. However, a strange mental affliction threatens to change her life—possibly her last chance in achieving happiness for good.