UP Open University

UPOU Chancellor Grace Alfonso shares experiences in making new film


Gigi Javier Alfonso shares her experiences in directing her debut film, plus her take on the local film scene.



Dr. Grace J. Alfonso is known to the academic community as the current Chancellor of the UP Open University. But to the celluloid world, Gigi as she is called in inner film circles is mostly known as a film critic and chair of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

This year, Gigi Alfonso tried her hand in film direction via the full-length feature Flames of Love written and independently produced by veteran screenwriter Baby Nebrida.

The director has worked with Nebrida in several drama anthologies made for television. “She (Nebrida) wanted a woman to direct it and she thought of me,” said Dr. Alfonso.

“On my part, I thought of putting back the (dramatic) genre into big screen with some aspects redefined. This genre has stereotyped women as virgins, prostitutes and martyrs… so this is a good time to redefine the ‘bad girl’, ‘the good girl’ and take away the ‘martyr’. Women are complex human beings. So are men.”

As a director, Gigi Alfonso treats her screenwriter’s work with respect. She explains, “I wanted to be true to the material and I wanted to capture the rawness of the emotions in the scenes. The dialogue is a strong aspect of the film.”

The film was shot in Metro Manila and Subic Bay for 10 days in a span of about a month and a half.  The lead actors include multi-awarded thespians like Christopher de Leon, Dina Bonnevie, Ricky Davao, Jaclyn Jose and Allen Dizon, and younger actors like Valerie Concepcion, Megan Young, Mavi Lozano and Jodi Nebrida.

Working with seasoned actors was enjoyable and exciting for the director. How did she motivate her actors? “We went through a story conference, explaining the whole point of the movie, the motivations of the characters that they needed to internalize. Each sequence has to be discussed on the set, and most specially the objectives of the characters in each scene.”

Making a full-length film frees Gigi Alfonso from some of the constraints of making dramas for television. “The TV drama form is determined by the TV distribution system and ratings environment in the broadcast industry. The system greatly influences the production value in terms of content and format.”

Independent film production has enabled local filmmakers -- like her -- to work on stories that are normally looked over by commercial theaters. This is one of the reasons behind the recent growth of independent films, which she explained have done a great deal in questioning the film norms in mainstream movies.

While supporting the independent spirit, she also understands that a film is both public art and popular culture. “The whole creative process is participatory performance and exhibition. If there are no viewers, the creative process cannot happen.”

Flames of Love maybe considered as an independently produced film that embodies, and at the same time questions some of the norms of the traditional film form,” she said.

For Dr. Alfonso, filmmaking is part of her advocacy for doing narratives in whatever medium.  She is excited by the possibilities arising as the film language migrates to multimedia in these digital times. As she stated, “It is right here with us waiting to be explored for the co-creation of texts. It is an age of participation and collaboration.” (Primo Garcia)



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