Dagsin: A Day with Benjamin Alves and Janine Gutierrez
By Patricia Simone Dauz
An Ilocano word for heaviness or weight, Dagsin is an official entry to the 2016 Cinemalaya Film Festival.
On the Blogspot account of the film, Magadia explained why he decided to pick that venue for majority of the film’s scenes. “Iam using the location itself, an old house, as a character in the movie. Now decrepit and falling apart, it mirrors its owner Justino, who is now old, worn out and nearing his end. Like a ghost, Justino now wanders within the shadows of his past in this mausoleum of memories.”
The film’s period spans mostly the Japanese era and the Martial Law years. The story revolves around Justino, an atheist and a paraplegic, the former being the result of the latter, the latter the consequence of an attempt on his life. After the demise of his wife, Corazon, he attempt to hold on to her memories by reading her diary and eventually uncovering a secret that shatters what he believed in.
On Benjamin Alves
In Dagsin, Benjamin Alves plays the young JustinoRazon (1938-1950). The lead actor of the film, Tommy Abuel, plays the old Justino(Martial Law era to 2001). The same timeline applies to Justino’s love interest Corazon, Janine Gutierrez being the younger version and Marita Zobel being the older one.
Alves is set to play the titular character of Manuel Quezon in Jerrold Tarog’s historico trilogy since he played the same role in Heneral Luna but nothing has been formalized yet. “I love the challenge of having flashbacks and doing a period film again. We speak English in the film. The real challenge is making sure I sound like Tito Tommy ‘cause he has the bulk of the load of the script.” Alves worked with Atom Magadia, the film’s writer and director, on his character’s back story. With regards to his character’s nuances or mannerisms, Alves trusted when his director said that something is or isn’t right for the character.
Alves was part of the GMA teleserye Beautiful Strangers. Right now, he’s focused on shooting this particular film. “I had a pretty busy second half of the year. It’s always nice to unwind.” When the Yuletide season comes, he plans to go back to Guam and spend time with his family.
On Janine Gutierrez
Janine is currently playing Rosa on the GMA 7 daytime TV series Dangwa. She gave a lowdown on her character in this film, Corazon. “I come from a family of soldiers, so, when the war comes, tapos, Justino enlists….pinaka tatatakutan ko yun, yung mawala yung mga minamahal ko. So, it goes from there.”
Her most memorable experience on the set so far was a confrontation with Alex Diaz’ character in the film. It involved some very physical stuff, something that Janine hasn’t done yet in her career as an actress since prior roles she’s done were of sweet girls who couldn’t hurt a fly. “Mahirap, kasi it’s also a period film, so kailangan mas conscious ka sasinasabi mo and yun…nakakapressure.” When she was aked about her lovelife, she just gave a mysterious smile and said it’s “good”.
On Tommy Abuel
Also an attorney by profession, it’s been a long time since he played a lead role in a film. He gained prominence for his roles in Itim and Maynila, Sa Kukong Liwanag, as well as other films done around the late seventies and the eighties.
He described his experience on the set as nothing short as pleasant. “Very relaxed atmosphere…mas gusto ko ‘yon, ayoko nung mga tili nang tili.” He’s excited about his last scene which will involve a stunt. Atom said they devoted a whole day just for that scene to make it believable.
Abuel found the script “too dark and gloomy” but liked it at the same time that’s why he accepted the role. But, he did emphasize the romantic side of the film which involves his character’s relationship with Corazon. ”May forever sa kanila, the love between two people.”
On Atom Magadia
“We are using RED Scarlet cameras, one MX (used in Heneral Luna) and one Dragon. The MX is shooting at 4K while the Dragon at 5K. Both cameras are sponsored by Beimann Produktion Haus our co-producer. Dexter Dela Pena and I are co-DPs,” Atom described the equipment they are using.
This is Atom’s first foray into film making. He is known as a professional photographer. “I operate two fully equipt studios in Manila under the name Photon Studios. But I frequently travel to Los Angeles on assignments. My specialties are Celebrity Portraits, Fashion, Beauty, Glamour and Art Nudes.” This was what he wrote about himself on the website of Model Mayhem.
He said he cast Tommy Abuel for the lead role and Sue Prado for Grace, a support role, based on the suggestion of popular manager-producer Ferdy Lapuz. The latter also gave him the information that “Lotlot De Leon was interested in playing Mercy”. Lotlot, in turn, helped him get Benjamin and Janine on board. “Alex Diaz, Arpee Bautista, Sam Furman and Yuri Morales Dela Paz were all picked during the Cinemalaya auditions.”
Atom initially thought the house in which majority of the scenes takes place was too big. He eventually realized that the house can be used for several settings and he did 3 or 4 in it. “Yung ishu shoot naming ngayon, Manila Hotel. You cannot recreate that old Manila Hotel look ‘cause bago na lahat. So…dito yung hotel. Yung bahay mismo, dito rin.Tapos, ginamit din naming apartment ni Grace.” When this writer paid them a visit, it was the 5th shooting day.
Ironically, Magadia “literally had to defy gravity to make this movie.” He further related: “We have encountered possible shut downs by the Barangay; Actors backing out for one reason or another (thankfully not the main ones), an actor getting sick, a reshuffling of our crew, delays, budget problems, etc. You name it, we’ve had it! Talk about Murphy’s Law…”
The script of Dagsin was borne out of a script he wrote for a writing class ages ago. Titled Mortal Coil, the original narrative was simply “about an old man wanting to commit suicide after the death of his wife.”