‘Oro’ remembers ‘Gata 4 Massacre’ victims

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Socio political film Oro (Gold)—one of this year’s eight finalists in the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival—aims to show the public how corruption and violence destroys the true spirit of the law.

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Based on true events now dubbed as the “Gata 4 Massacre,” Oro depicts the life of four small-scale miners who were murdered on March 23, 2014, a Sunday night, at their small but gold-rich community in Barangay Gata, Caramoan, Camarines Sur.

(From left) Sue Prado, Joem Bascon, Irma Adlawan, director Alvin Yapan, Mercedes Cabral and Sandino Martin

(From left) Sue Prado, Joem Bascon, Irma Adlawan, director Alvin Yapan, Mercedes Cabral and Sandino Martin

As the story goes, theirs was a peaceful location until an armed group, Patrol Kalikasan, masquerading as environmentalists, disturbed their livelihood with the target of cartelizing the production and trade of placer gold nuggets.

The tragedy was never picked up by major media outfits, and will certainly be the first time for many Filipinos to learn of when the Oro opens on Christmas Day.

“It was actually former Congressman Arnulfo Fuentebella of District 4, Camarines Sur who approached me to make this film,” director Alvin Yapan told The Manila Times at the sidelines of Oro’s press conference on December 17. He knew that I’m also a Bicolano and an Atenean. Through my cinematographer, they came to the office and asked me to help them in their advocacy.”

Taken by the injustice, Yapan immediately agreed to Fuentebella’s proposal with only one condition.

“I told them I’d do [the movie]as long as they give me full creative control, and they agreed. I was thinking that if they’d meddle, the film might just like a re-enactment, rather than come out artistic as well. In the end, we were all happy with the output,” the independent film director added.

As such, Yapan was given artistic licence to weave the story together, thereby adding some fictionalized parts in the movie. Nevertheless, he ran these by the congressman and his group to ensure he doesn’t veer away from the group.

Gone to Gata
Shooting was done all the way in Gata, and Yapan and the film’s cast were surprised to discover how everyone in Barangay Gata knew they were going to do the movie. Understandably, the entire community was emotional, having lost family members and friends. Very supportive of the movie, many people watched the shoot, no matter how painful it was to remember the worst night of their lives.

Adlawan as the ‘kapitana’ of a once quiet mining community

Adlawan as the ‘kapitana’ of a once quiet mining community

“We were told the members of the community cried when they learned we were going to make a movie on the Gata 4. They’re crying until now, and we’re as emotional as they are because up until now, the case is still pending at the Regional Trial Court.”

Recalling the actual shoot of the massacre scene—where the four miners were fallen—Yapan told The Manila Times it was the most difficult part in making the movie.

“As a director it was hard because you know people really died and the emotion is intense; but at the same time, we had to be aware that those who lost their family and friends were there so that we had to be sure we handle the scene ethically and not exploitative. In telling the story, we had to memorialize the event, and avoid using it just to draw attention.”

Yapan even told the victim’s kin that perhaps they should not stay for the shoot, but they assured the production team they wanted to be there and even thanked them for giving them a voice.

Choice cast
Described by Yapan as a “drama, crime, thriller and narrative film” all rolled into one, he knew he needed a talented cast to pull of the challenge. His found them in Joem Bascon, Irma Adlawan, Mercedes Cabral, Sandino Martin, Sue Prado, Arrian Labios, Cedrick Juan, Biboy Ramirez, Ronald Regala, Tracy Quila, Timothy Castillo, Sunshine Teodoro, and Acey Aguilar.

“They are all great in delivering their roles—intellectually, emotionally, and physically,” the director said of Oro’s stars. “I’ve been friends with most of them, so I knew I’d be comfortable on the set. Most importantly, they are the ideal cast for Oro.”

Finally, asked for his reaction on the MMFF drawing flak for selecting an all-independent film line up this year, and in effect highlighting social relevance rather than entertainment during Christmas time, Yapan humbly said, “Give us a chance. Socially relevant films have been there for a long time. It’s what made the careers of Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal and the National Artists for Cinema—and their movies were blockbusters.

The director added, “We should not see it as watching a socially relevant film, but instead simply watching great actors portraying characters in a great story. That’s what I want to say because some people think that watching this type of movies is boring. But we watch these films because the acting and the performances here are superb, and because it is artistic and cinematic.”

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