Hung Out To Dry

Date posted on July 6, 2006

Originally written on 11 April of this year.

I’m still reeling from the excitement.

A few hours ago, I was in the process of reading and cleaning my email inbox. After deleting countless egroup digests, an email that started this way, popped up:

April 11, 2006

# 38 Kalye Emerald, Tierra Pura VI
Tandang Sora, Quezon City

Dear Mr. de la Torre,

I was instantly curious about the formal salutation and eerily precise address…

In behalf of the Cinemalaya 2006 Organizing Committee, I would like to inform you that your entry to the Short Feature category…

I called out to the high heavens even before I reached the end of the email. I was ecstatic. I didn’t need to finish the email, and it wasn’t after jumping up and down for a good ten minutes did I actually finish reading it. I was hugging Sherlyn, a close friend who happened to be reading my email over my shoulder at that time (a pet peeve I managed to let slide this one time). The email, as it turns out, came from the Competition Director of this year’s Cinemalaya. It bore the news of my short film “Labada” making it to the Cinemalaya’s Short Feature category’s finalists.

It is such an unbelievable feeling.

You wish it would happen. You pray for it to happen. You go over and over the circumstances that could make it happen… but when it does, you still can’t believe it’s happening. Being a finalist makes me feel like I’ve already won. I used to think that when Oscar nominees say that during the red carpet interviews, it’s just a load of bull. Now I realize they probably mean it, if my own incredulity is any indication.

When I submitted “Labada” as an entry to the Cinemalaya short feature category at the beginning of the year, I kept it to myself and a few members of the crew who worked with me. I’m terribly insecure about things like this and I wanted to shield myself from the potential disappointment of not making it as a finalist. After all, my fears were founded. Last year’s Cinemalaya festival, which produced wonderful works like Mansyon (short feature best picture), Pepot Artista (full-length feature best picture), Big Time and Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, was groundbreaking. It opened the eyes of many film buffs to the local independent cinema. As a result, more aspiring filmmakers were inspired to venture in independent film making. Myself included. I figured this year’s competition would lure more films. It’s like opening the floodgates.

The truth is, I had confidence in my short digital film. I always tell my friends that as long as I am entertained by my own work, I consider myself accomplished. I usually think this way about the storylines I submit to Star Cinema. Nevermind if the core group (the elite circle of power-wielders in the company) doesn’t find my storyline good enough. Long as I’m happy with it, the pain of rejection becomes more bearable.

That’s also true for “Labada.” However, I felt that in Cinemalaya, it’s just not enough that you like your work. The competition committee must like it too. And considering the subjective nature of film viewing, and the number of entries they must have received (36 short films this year, I heard, unless I’m mistaken), I couldn’t help but think there’s bound to be 10 other films better than mine. I believe in the wealth of undiscovered, unrecognized talent out there, and despite my desire to be included in their ranks, as most struggling artists are usually predisposed, I just didn’t believe in myself enough.

Thus my reaction to the email that I just received.

* * *

Almost three months after receiving that email, I’m still reeling from the excitement.

In an effort not to preempt the news and jinx my good fortune, I put the publication of this entry on the back burner. I finally managed to write about it after the press conference last July 5. That, and a few newspaper articles that featured my name as finalist, finally legitimized the deal. I just submitted the miniDV copies for the Jury. Prior to that, I kept going back to the ‘cutting board,’ desperately figuring out other ways to improve the film before finally leaving it at the mercy of the viewing public. I’m done with the washing, it’s time to hang it out to dry.

The excitement has been laced with an anxiety borne by the thought that no one might watch it, or conversely, that people might and wonder why Labada was included. God knows I’ve felt that way about a lot of films featured in various festivals (last year’s Cinemalaya included). Anticipating being at the receiving end of all those criticisms scares the hell out of me. I can’t help but feel personal about it. Like my film, I feel like I, too, have been hung out to dry.

It’s a realm of emotions I’m willing to tread, however frightening it might be. I just comfort myself that if all else fails, I at least have my own sense of fulfillment to retreat to.