By Alwin M. Ignacio

“My victory, I think is a testament that Filipino films are appreciated by international audiences.”

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Another big reason why we must be proud as Filipinos is the success brought to us by a young film-maker. Carlo Ortega Cuevas, tinseltown’snewest director, brought home the proverbial bacon, the Best Director in a Foreign Language Film award at the recently concluded International Filmmaker Festival (IFF) of World Cinema in London for his debut film Walang Take Two (No Second Take).

Direk Carlo’s maiden motion picture was produced by Iglesia Ni Cristo’s INCinema.  It was also nominated as Best Comedy Feature Film.

Walang Take Two revolved around the ambitious, but poor young Filipino filmmaker (Hapi), who wanted to make it big as a first-time “indie” director and filmmaker. The twists in Hapi’s life and those around him were punctuated with hilarious comedic situations and dramatic turn of events guaranteed to make you experience “laugh out loud” moments and pull your heartstrings.

In the best director category, there were 11 other nominees which he bested. The young director shared, “When my name was called during the awards night, my mind went blank and I was totally speechless. I was so overwhelmed because I did not expect it at all. Yung pagka-nominate pa lang at nakarating ako sa London which was my first trip abroad was already an award for me.”

“I share this award to my team — the cast and crew who were all part of the creative process and making me realize my dream film. Personally, winning gave me a confidence boost and I know there are still so many dreamers out there, mga kapwa ko filmmakers. I hope my film inspires you to share your story as well, ipakita niyo rin sa mga pelikula ninyo ang natatanging kwento na nag-ugat sa kultura nating mga Pilipino.”

He carried on, “I think what the jury liked was how I presented our Pinoy culture and the variations and charms of the characters in film.film. Ang daming subplots, and I think I was able to tell the story clearly, naikwento at naitawid ng malinaw, and the audiences can follow the stories without getting confused.”

The director and cast of Hapi Ang Buhay
The director and cast of Hapi Ang Buhay

“What brought me so much joy was the fact I was able to prove through this film na pwede tayong gumawa ng movies na nagtuturo ng values,” enthused the first time best director winner.

Direk Carlo graduated with a degree in Communication Arts at De La Salle, Lipa City, Batangas.  In his junior year, film-making bug bit him after all the short films he did and submitted as course requirement. He recollected that his very first short film won in a regional school film festival and it also received an award at UP Diliman.

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He related, “My passion for film-making intensified, which led me to do more short and documentary films, although ang gamit ko pa noon was a mini-DV. I just wanted to tell a story and doing it through this medium, is the best way for me to express it.”

After graduation, the young director worked as director of photography (DOP) on ABS-CBN shows like Krusada, Pinoy True Stories and Mission Possible.

When he joined and competed at INCinema’s annual Excellence in Visual Media Awards and was named Best Director for his entry RitmongPangarap and also won Best Film, Lady Luck was most kind to him. INCinema eventually tapped him as the first resident director for full-length films.

Based on its media release, INCinema films are among the many projects of INC to hone the cinematic talents of members who are interested in film-making, not only in the Philippines but in other countries, as well.

“When INCinema finally decided to produce a full-length film, I was fortunate to be chosen as its director. I submitted them my story Walang Take Two na three years nang naka-bangko. It was approved although there were minor changes, mayroong binawas at mayroon ding dinagdag,” direk Carlo divulged.

He did not deny that there were struggles prior to this triumph. “Angdami pong conflicts. Hindi lang ako ang first time, kahit mula sa cast at sa buong team. During our first day sa set, medyo nagulat ako, eto na pala. Totoo na pala,” he recalled. “Dumating rin ako sa point na kasi nga nakaka-overwhelm ang mga nangyayari sa shoot, I had my doubts na baka di talaga ako pang film-making. Proud po ako sa sarili ko na hindi ako umatras at nag-quit sa project. I thank everyone who trusted me, I thank God, of course.”

To allow more people enjoy and appreciate his brand of comedy, Walang Take Two is now a weekly situational comedy billed as Hapi ang Buhay, also written and directed by Cuevas.

Hapi Ang Buhay stars John Stevenson Tabangay as Hapi, a starry-eyed filmmaker who is out to fulfill his dreams. Joining him are Onyok (played by Edward Flores), his levelheaded ally who tries to steer him into making rational decisions; and Caloy (Erbil Escaño), a loyal but carefree friend whose overconfidence often puts him in precarious situations.

This sitcom reminds you of the classics such as Home Along Da Riles, John En Marsha, Palibhasa Lalake but with a “twist,” lessons and values for the audiences are integral to the story and it is imparted in the most entertaining manner.

Also in the show are Wilson Tapalla as a loan shark, Dennis Garcia as the mischievous Oblax, Genesis Gomez and Mike Magat.

The charming John Stevenson quipped, “ Di ko kine-claim na ako nagdadala sa show, but bilang ako ang bida, ganun rin ang attiute ko sa movie.  Basta ginagawa ko po ’yung part ko as Hapi. Masaya lang kami sa ginagawa namin.”

And why must we make the show a weekend habit? Direk Carlo answered, “There are two great reasons to watch Hapi Ang Buhay. First, it surely lives up to its title, entertaining and filled with lessons applicable in life, and second, the quality of the program. 100 percent po ang work na ibinibigay namin dito and world class po talaga ang show. Salamat siempre sa suporta at guidance ng INC. ”

Hapi Ang Buhay airs every Saturday, 4 p.m. with replays on Sundays, 9 p.m. on Net25.

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