Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | February 23, 2008

A chat with Maximo Oliveros’ dad

The well-lit bar was filled with its decent share of habitués—not so packed to the point of losing a sort of homey feel to it and not as empty as to make an isolophobic dude slash his wrists.

The band, playing on a makeshift performance area that looked nothing like a stage but a cordoned-off section of the bar, filled the air with a hybrid jazz tune, infused with heavy doses of punk. Or was it the other way around?

In one unobtrusive corner, the UP Cum Laude and I were trying to hold a conversation with someone who will probably be remembered for “fathering” two of local cinema’s more memorable characters: The iconic Maximo Oliveros and the lesser-celebrated yet equally comical Bronson of the Kasal… franchise.

His name is Soliman Cruz.

No matter how many movies, stage plays and commercials he has starred in, I will always remember him for his performance in “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.” Not really because of the way he fleshed out his role there. But because it was in that movie that somebody casually mentioned that we looked alike.

Anyway, we chanced upon him at a bar in Malate, where the UP Cum Laude and I went out with a group of friends to celebrate (mourn?) someone’s decision to try her luck in another country. It was a despedida of sorts. And we decided that the best way to mark the occasion would be to listen to a gig of the Radioactive Sago Project, without doubt the best under-the-radar band in the country today.

It was somewhere during Sago’s “Astro” that someone from our group spied him. He was head-banging his way through a wind-heavy instrumental while holding a half-filled bottle of red horse.

A few members from our group decided to have their pictures taken with him. And when Sago was done with its set, frontman Lourd de Veyra approached me, shared a few drinks and then suddenly made introductions.

The UP Cum Laude, a film buff, jumped on the chance for a conversation with Mr. Cruz. It was an opportunity to clear out a few questions we had about independent movies.

“Just call me Sol,” he said.

And immediately, we jumped into our queries. In an era where independent movies are starting to have their own niche, their own following, where exactly does one draw the line between an artsy film and one made for commercial profit?

“Indie filmmaking is actually an offshoot of the advancement of technology,” So said. “Nowadays, technology has made it possible to create a film without the need for expensive equipment. That’s why at the start, you could recognize an independent film because it is mostly shot using digital video cameras.”

“But if you want to define exactly what independent film really means, it will be difficult because you are faced with one question: An independent film is independent from what, exactly?”

Exactly our point. The UP Cum Laude and I wanted to know if a story, even before it is visualized by some director and transplanted from a writer’s manuscript into a movie screen, has some inherent genetic imprint that people can easily identify as either independent or commercial.

We have had countless debates on that subject matter, the UP Cum Laude and I, in between rounds of sadomasochistic sex. And the question that bugs as most is, after reading a storyline and getting to the point where the words The End crop up, can one tell if it has the qualities of an independent movie before it is subjected to the technological definitions of movie-making?

Does an independent movie have some sort of a default commitment to its audience to always present something new? Something fresh?

“It is something new mainly because of the tools that it takes to get an indie film done,” Sol answered, rubbing his chin and then staring into nowhere in particular.

“But again, you have to go back to the main question,” he added. “An independent film is independent from what? From a story point of view, people say that it is independent from external influences. The writer of a story has more creative freedom.”

“But from an actor’s point of view, external influences are often helpful because in the movies that I was part of, a script has always been a work in progress. Everybody who is part of the filmmaking process pitches in his ideas. There may be no commercial restrictions to the script, but it does not exactly mean that there are no influences outside of the writer’s.

“As an actor, I look at independent film as being physically independent from the restrictions of commercial filming. Commercial films use cameras that are heavy, that’s why shots are framed and an actor has to work within those frames. On an independent set, because digital cameras are lightweight, actors can move more freely and can create their own frames because cameramen can easily adjust their movements.”

But then, what about an indie movie’s commitment to its audience, we asked him. I, for instance, enter a theater showing an indie movie, and automatically, my expectations shoot up even before the opening credits roll.

After all, with no preset profit target and with no need to pimp the product out to the paying public, an independent film should, at the very least, tell a story on an elevated plane. Right?

“Well, it is your right as the audience to demand something different from an indie film. But I don’t think of it as a commitment. It’s more of a responsibility of the filmmaker to try and give you something different to watch,” Sol explained.

We wanted to extend the explanation more but we had to go so we told Sol that we hoped to catch him someday in another of Sago’s performance.

After all, I still have many questions to ask. The current rage of indie cinema reminds me of the time when alternative bands made its way to the mainstream and forced people to listen to other forms of music.

The great debate then was: Did alternative music really represent a better form of music or was it nothing more than just a fresh departure from the formulaic melodies foisted upon listeners by money-grubbing producers?

Everybody thought pop music was headed for archiving in some museum for the arts but then guess what? After alternative music liposuctioned huge chunks of cheesiness off the airwaves, people would catch a whiff of that same cheese years later and think that they were listening to something new.

Suddenly, Backstreet Boys was to Rage Against the Machine what Rage Against the Machine Nails used to be to Backstreet Boys.

Is the quest for something new going to end up back where we started in the first place?

If the whole world listened to nothing but Sago for a year, would critics sing hallelujahs for Hale and its endless renditions of “she’s already taken meeee…?”

What, exactly, is indie cinema’s commitment to its audience?

Sol promised something more definitive, a more exhaustive conversation, perhaps, the next time we bump into each other.

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Responses

  1. We have had countless debates on that subject matter, the UP Cum Laude and I, in between rounds of sadomasochistic sex —– what the? hahahaha

    Blurry na talaga yung line between infie filmmaking and commercially made movies. Yung iba they would tap known “indie actors” just to prove they’re indie but then theyd hype the movie up for profits.

  2. yeah. but my beef really is with indie films that fail to live up to potential. i am the cheapskate equivalent of the movie buff. anything that has opening an closing credits does for me. but when i step into a moveihouse showing an indie movie, my expectations soar exponentially. so, you know…


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