Dreaming in triptych

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TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA

First-time movie director gets trio of ‘medyo weird’ shorts into PPP

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Even at 31-years-old, it turns out that young creative Miguel Franco Michelena has gathered a great deal of experience in media and movie-making all the same.

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from De La Salle University—and a hard drive of “secret” short stories and short films he would only show his closest family and friends—he realized he had a passion for moving pictures, and headed out to be one of the last fortunate few to train under the late noted director Marilou Diaz-Abaya.

Michelena took up took basic and advanced directing classes under the multi-awarded filmmaker [Metro Manila Film Festival Best director for "Brutal” in 1980, "Jose Rizal” in 1998 and "Muro Ami” in 1999], locked his knowledge in one compartment of his cranium, and went on to apply for the range of positions that make up a production. He became a light man, PA [perso[personal assistant]riptwriter, among many other jobs before finally finding the courage to whip out his ingrained talent and learned skills, and combine them in a full-length feature.

The result is a three-panel narrative on three different character studies, aptly titled “Triptiko,” or the Filipino word for an artist’s “triptych.”

Of fears and dreams
Triptiko is one of 12 feature films chosen by the Film Development Council of the Philippines to comprise the first nationwide Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino from August 16 to 22. A veritable coup by the agency, the festival line-up will run sans competition from big Hollywood movies.

Naturally, Michelena is ecstatic over the turn of events and describes it as a dream-come-true.

“I’ve been working on this movie for many years—from writing the script, raising funds for production, getting the stars to come on board, and finally shooting and releasing it at the PPP no less,” the shy albeit very enthusiastic young director said at Triptiko’s grand press conference.

“I’m so excited and grateful to be part of the PPP because hindi lahat ng pelikula gets this opportunity to be shown nationwide. I’m really very lucky this is happening to me.”

Pulled aside by The T-Zone to feed her curiosity, Michelena openly answered the barrage of questions she had like, “Have you had any short stories published as a Lit major?”, “Any short films screened what with courses under Abaya?”, and “What on earth stopped you from releasing any work until now?”

He answered the first two with an honest and slightly sheepish, “No.” For the third question, he reflectively cited “fear” as the best possible reason why it took him this long to do what many other young and less-experienced writers and aspiring filmmakers have done in this heyday of indies.

“I guess I’m pretty much like the characters in Triptiko—three young men whose fears in life come out in the course of their stories. Like I said, I’m handy with lighting, I’ve been a PA, and I’ve gone as far as writing and shooting documentaries for a number of cable channels. But I guess I only felt the time was right to make my movie when the idea of Triptiko came along. By then, I had experienced as many aspects of production as I could, and maybe that’s when the fear went away.”

‘Weird’ promise
How ever long it took Michelena to unleash his creativity in front of an audience—rewarded by the heavens as it seems for choosing to work his way up to the director’s chair with Triptiko’s inclusion in PPP—the teaser of his movie debut shows a lot of promise.

With #MedyoWeird for a subtitle, Triptiko initially comes across as an artsy independent movie what with three strange story lines for the characters of Albie Casiño, Joseph Marco, and Kean Cipriano.

Kicking off the movie is “Swerte” where Casiño is Jake, a hot blooded, young man who thinks he is the luckiest guy on earth. Unfortunately for Jake, his luck is about to change. In a startling turn of events, Jake witnesses a murder and finds himself being chased by the killer. He then finds himself caught in an awkward situation experiencing nonstop mishap one after the other.

“It’s a rambunctious escape-and-chase story with an ending that questions the very meaning of ‘swerte’ or luck,” Michelena explained.

The next story, “Hinog” stars Marco as Jason, a male model who wakes up one day to discover a shameful ailment spreading all over his body. Unsure how he was afflicted with the mortifying disease, he tries to do whatever he can to save his dying career. The truth is later revealed during a session with a notorious shaman—a “medicine man” who is able to access the supernatural.

“Jason is then faced with a moral dilemma to test his resolve,” continued Michelena.

Finally, there’s the tragic tale of “Musikerong John” where the title character is played by Cipriano, a folk musician returning to the stage after a two-year hiatus. In between songs during his live set, he tells the heartbreaking story of Ann, the love of his life played by Kylie Padilla.

“Built around Musikerong John’s three original songs, the story slowly reveals how his relationship ended in a painful conclusion when Ann started to transform into something he does not fully understand,” the director explained.

Taking a closer look, the teaser will then show the benefits of devotedly learning the craft of moviemaking as Michelena did.

How so? Cinematography, even in snippets, were clean and clear. Lighting was put to good use especially in the more mysterious storylines. Acting skills were challenged to show the audience something new and something more from already popular celebrities.

All jumping out the screen just from his teaser, it comes as no surprise that Michelena’s “passion project” has been graded A by the Cinema Evaluation Board.. And given all these, it is safe to say that Triptiko is a must-watch at the PPP, to know for sure if Michelena’s story and “dream-come-true” is worth the wait of Philippine Cinema.

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Triptiko is a film by Michelena Brothers Production and Barrio’s Pictures, and distributed by Star Cinema. Others in the cast are Kylie Padilla, Jerald Napoles, Art Acuna, Jay Gonzaga, Pinky Amador and Karl Medina.

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