Aside from the fact that the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival returns to in-person screenings this year, the roster of the 11 full-length feature films in competition will excite film buffs. One film to watch out for is from acclaimed director Real Florido (1st Ko Si 3rd). His new opus, entitled Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin (Tell Her) aims to cut through the noise of today’s content-saturated world and give us a marriage story that speaks loud even in the absence of spoken language.
We recently caught up with the young director to talk about the inspiration behind his film and the message he wants to leave viewers with.
Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin (Tell Her) by Dir. Real Florido for Cinemalaya 18
Dir. Real Florido’s film is about a deaf couple, Miguel (JC de Vera) and Nat (Janine Gutierrez), struggling to keep their marriage afloat. After a huge fight, Miguel leaves his wife alone in Manila and decides to live in Baler with their kids. As he starts a new life, Miguel is reminded about the reasons why he married Nat by his family’s relentless stories about how modern a woman Nat is, and how he failed in so many ways to recognize that he fell in love with a younger deaf woman. One Christmas Eve, Miguel finally makes a move to tell Nat everything she needed to know.
8List.ph: What inspired you to explore a film centered on a deaf couple?
Dir. Real Florido: I got intrigued by the deaf people that I encountered. I haven’t really seen a movie during this time that has fully used sign language. Incidentally, I had a casual conversation with a friend about this, she is Flo Reyes who also writes for TV. I found out that her parents are both deaf. So it sparked something inspiring there. We started working on the script in 2018.
It amazes me how loud deaf people can be when they are together, an irony of how we usually define their case as people who can’t hear or speak. With this film, I’d like to dabble into that world where no word is needed to say what you want and how you feel. And at the same time, it is harder to get resolve when you can’t find the right message to convey. I would like to create a portrait of this unique story of two people. I want to make a film that shows the beauty, pain, and chaos of love where no spoken words exist.
8List.ph: How did you approach the film knowing that it’s a story about members of the deaf community?
RF: Authenticity is a key factor in this film and we put great importance on portraying the roles of deaf people. Everybody in the team needs to fully understand our characters, the story, and what the film represents. In order to do that, we took advantage of the lull time that we had during the pandemic in the past 2 years and spent it on training for Filipino Sign Language together with the help of deaf advocates and scholars. These trainings include not just learning the FSL but also ushered in having a deeper understanding of the situations of deaf Filipinos in our country.
RF: We strongly considered inclusivity by doing year-round auditions for deaf actors. Together with the help of Jon Verzosa, Senior Creative and Casting Director, we were able to find hidden gems from the deaf community. One of them is Disney Aguila, an LGBTQIA+ member, and advocate who played the role of Janine’s friend and also the official translator and Filipino Sign Language or FSL coach.
We are hoping that this project will open doors for the members of the deaf community to find more roles in the industry whether on-cam or off-cam.
8List.ph: What was the biggest challenge in writing and filming Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin?
RF: The biggest challenge in filming Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin was the process of translating the script into Filipino Sign Language without neglecting the emotional requirement of the story. It is a meticulous process from workshops to translating the script, to create a video guide, to on-set coaching and on-the-spot revisions of the signs, to editing and subtitling. It took so much time and energy but it is an exciting process that we all experienced for the first time in filmmaking.
8List.ph: How is Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin different from all projects you’ve worked on?
RF: This is different in many ways primarily because of the process that it took to create the film. Although this is a love story, the treatment is really different as it tends to be sensory and aims to give the experience of making people feel how it is to be deaf.
8List.ph: Why did you choose JC de Vera and Janine Gutierrez for the roles? What was it like to work with them?
RF: JC and Janine are two top-caliber actors of our time. When we first pitched the story to them, they said yes right away. But what’s more important was their 100 % commitment to the project.
8List.ph: How did they prepare for their roles?
RF: The actors went through a series of training for Filipino Sign Language, immersions, and acting workshops. It also helped that the FSL coaches were present on the set during the shoot.
8List.ph: Is there anything you want the audience to take away from this film?
RF: More than a story about marriage, Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin is my thesis on communication. I want the audience to ask themselves how they communicate with the people around them, most especially to their loved ones. Do we really need words to say what we want to say? Do we need spoken language to make people feel that we love and care for them?
Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin (Tell Her) will have its premiere in Cinemalaya 18 starting this August 5 to 14 in CCP Theatres; August 10-17 in select partner cinemas; August 22-29 in selected regional communities; and, October 17-31 via CCP Vimeo account.
Other movies by Real Florido
Dir. Real Florido is no stranger to Cinemalaya. His full-length feature 1st Ko Si 3rd debuted in the 2014 Cinemalaya before it went on to win and compete in QCinema International Film Festival 2014, the Hawaii International Film Festival 2014, Jersey City International Film Festival 2015, and won the Rising Star Award for Full-Length Feature in Canada International Film Festival 2015. You can watch it on Netflix here.
A screenwriter, director, and producer, Dir. Florido’s works also include co-directing Kabisera (2016) with Dir. Arturo San Agustin, and producing Theodore Boborol’s Iska (2019), which won Best Sound, Best Script, Best Actress in Cinemalaya 2019, and the Best Actress plum in Harlem International Film Festival.
After working in GMA 7 for 13 years, he now manages his own film and digital content production company, Firestarters. His current movie and series projects include Pilgrim: 500 Years Of Catholic Faith In The Philippines (2022); Habangbuhay (2022); and Kumusta Bro The Series (2022).