Sunday, July 2, 2017

Film Talks with Nick de Ocampo. Part 3: Documentary

Professor Nick de Ocampo is featured in Ayala Museum's trilogy lecture series on film. I'm not a film buff nor a film-maker but I wanted to spend my Saturday afternoons educating myself culturally. So I ended up taking a seat in his film lecture series.

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Because I learned a lot during Nick de Ocampo's lecture about the horror genre, I decided that I'd watch the last of the trilogy of his lecture series. This one is about his cinema of choice: the documentary. He defines it as a genre composed of films that represent reality to record (or reenact) history, to educate, or to share narratives about one's experiences.


This lecture really allowed him to showcase his work. He is, after all, commissioned to make movies on how climate change affects communities living near it. He's also been selected to showcase his work in various film festivals. I'm not familiar with his work because I'm more of a tv documentary watcher... I'm a big fan of the PROBE Team, for instance. And I like National Geographic... a lot. 

What I learned this time is about how difficult it is to develop the documentary; it is so technical! I thought that it was just a matter of switching on the camera and letting life passing by get recorded. Apparently, (and the director and the producer of a documentary called Sunday Beauty Queen attested to as well) it is one of the most difficult genres to work in because of many uncontrollable factors. Nevertheless, people looking into this genre must do their homework even before going into the shoot: research on the topic of the documentary, write the script, and visualise scenes via a storyboard.

It sounds so much like creating a Presentation Zen slide deck, if I may say so. 

After everything under the director's control are prepared, God takes control, as Nick says... all the director can do is not get rattled when the story takes an unexpected turn. This was his experience while working on a documentary about Leandro Alejandro, a leading activist during the Martial Law years. He was murdered; thus, Nick lost the subject of his documentary in a snap. This was also what he experienced while working on a documentary called Private Wars, a story chronicling his search for his father. While filming, he went to the place where his father was last seen a day after his father was there. However, he couldn't return for one reason or another. Hence, it's as if God has conjured obstacles to ensure that the the father and the son wouldn't meet at that occasion.

How could a director continue making a film if his subject is out of reach? That is the challenge of the documentary. The director must be quick on his/her toes to make an alternative approach.

What I saw in this lecture is a filmmaker who has shown his vulnerability to move the boundaries of his craft. It was so obvious that he has put his heart and soul into this genre that it is so difficult not to be curious about his films... because he has somehow put a part of him in them (but not in a horcrux kind of way). The sentiment and the personal attachment were apparent here; the energy he exuded in the documentary lecture was not there when he talked about comedy and horror. 

This last lecture was a wow moment for me.

And now, I resolve to find his historical films and watch them... plus the comedy films he featured. I opt not to see the horror films.