Lav Diaz, John Torres, and Raya Martin are but some of the Filipino filmmakers who have all inspired the promising Shireen Seno to sit on the director’s chair herself.
In an interview with Bulletin Entertainment and select members of media, the director of the movies “Big Boy (2012),” which premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and won the prize for Best First Film at the Festival de Cine Lima Independiente in 2013; and Nervous Translation” (Silver Hanoman award at the Jogja-Netpac of the Asian Film Festival in Jogjakarta, Indonesia in December 2018) recalled how her career in film started.
Shireen was born and raised in Japan. They eventually relocated to Toronto, Canada where, in college, she initially thought of getting a degree in architecture but got sidestepped into taking taking a class in Japanese cinema. She found the study of the development of capitalism and cinema “interesting.”
“It was like the coming together of things,” she said. “I really felt the power of film and so I wanted to study more. Eventually, I got a double major, in film study and architecture.”
When did she see herself coming home to the Philippines?
“I was hearing about the amazing independent film scene in the Philippines and so I wanted to see for myself what it was all about,” she said.
“Going to Manila on my own, I really felt everyone (Filipino filmmakers) is doing his own thing and finding ways to make their works come to life even without having the right amount of money to see it through. In the end, it was all about finding their own voice as filmmaker and I was very inspired by that.”
Before “Big Boy (2012),” Shireen worked with Lav and John, taking stills for them. They premiered her second feature, “Nervous Translation,” the following year.
Asked if she has a specific Filipino tradition or culture she wants tackled in her next films, Shireen revealed it will be “the (supposed) idea of Filipinos being better outside the Philippines.”
“I want to explore that idea. I mean, why do we always move away? More than just the economics of it, of course, it’s mostly economic decision but what are the conditions and implication of this? What happens inside and outside?”
As director, Shireen said she’s not really a fan of hardsell messages or answering questions through her projects.
“I try to leave that (answer) to each viewer. I prefer films that make you… just continue to work on you. I want the viewer to digest, linger hopefully,” she noted.
What’s her advice to Filipino filmmakers, we asked.
“Just find their own perspective. Filmmaking is about creating a world so explore your own self then try to connect with others.”
Bulletin Entertainment caught up with Shireen at the recent Singapore Media Festival where she was one of the jurors of Southeast Asian Short Film Competition.
Also, “Nervous Translation” was featured in the On Screen Asian Vision window along with other Filipino selection like Brillante Mendoza’s “Alpha, The Right To Kill,” Christopher Gozum’s “The Ashes And Ghosts Of Tayug 1931,” Mikhail Red’s “Eerie,” and Lav’s “Season Of The Devil.”
As part of Singapore Media Festival’s Country of Focus initiative, the 29th Singapore International Film Festival turned its spotlight onto the Philippines as the country celebrated its 100th year of cinema.