Philippines more than just disasters

Director wants audiences to look beyond headlines

TOKYO -- Filipino director Raymond Red wants his country to be known for more than crime and natural disasters, but despite a recent resurgence in the industry making films is a still a struggle.

"I'm lucky. I do TV commercials for a living, which pays quite well," he said Tuesday at the Tokyo International Film Festival, where his film "Himpapawid" ("Manila Skies") plays in competition.

The film is a crunching and powerful tale of a conscientious man driven first to crime and then to a desperate hijack by poverty and the many traps that limited his ability to lift himself through honest endeavor. Lead actor Raul Arellano is already being tipped by critics as a strong contender for the best actor prize.

Red won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2000 for his short "Shadows," but "Manila Skies" is his first feature since then. Despite that accolade and his position as tutor to many of today's Filipino new wave directors, the three projects he has touted to local financiers had all been rejected. "Perhaps they were too complicated. Finally, last year I decided to do something with more (commercial) potential instead," he said. "Now I hope to speed up, I've got my adrenaline up."

Asked about the gulf between commercial cinema in the Philippines and the indie scene he said that Filipino independent cinema is currently gaining recognition around the world, but he wondered how far away it could get from ghetto themes.      

"Darker, socio-political issues in our film-making are not new. It is a predominant theme. With 80% of the population still living in a state of poverty it is inevitable for most filmmakers," he said.