Tomes have been written about the necessity of art, each and every splinter of argument exhausted and charred to a bloody heap, but when it comes down to it, the artist is, really, an artisan of self-actualization. That may sound terribly cynical but it’s true: the first and final arbiter of a piece is, ultimately, its maker.
The artist being his or her own worst critic, that dog-tired cliché, really resounds as clearly as a summer day. This was what Filipino-American filmmaker Diane Ventura had in mind when she was shaping her short film, TheRapist, into form. “When I made it, I just wanted to do it for the sake of doing it, as part of my learning process,” the director, also the figurehead for DVent Productions, admitted.
Once in a while, however, the artist’s intent and the audience’s—often a reluctant pair—end up in a blissful tango. This was the case for TheRapist, which stars veteran Filipino character actress Cherie Gil and newcomer Marco Morales in the lead. The film ended up getting nods from the International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM) in New York, making it to the Most Popular Films and Best Short Film lists, holding its own alongside 42 other shorts from USA, Taiwan, Australia, Belgium, Russia, United Kingdom, South Korea, Italy, France, and New Zealand, among other countries.
TheRapist is a compact, no-frills vignette that juxtaposes talking-head testimony against slivers of flashback; a subtle whodunit suspense where a suspected rapist, played by Morales, is probed—perhaps a trifle more confrontationally than usual—by a vixen of a shrink, played with characteristic restraint and clarity by Gil. The “couch” (both physical object and cultural artifact) stands in for self-exorcism, naturally, and the monologue-sashaying-as-dialogue between patient and doctor reaches suspenseful depths and lengths. In the process, the very notion of rape is unravelled, probed, if you may, taking a pseudo-philosophical tack.
“It was actually an accident how [TheRapist] got in. It was practically a shelved project. This was just my passion. I didn’t even want to submit it,” Ventura reiterated, adding, “It was only shown once, and then I forgot about it altogether.” But a good thing, they say, always deserves a second turn. After its successful exhibition in New York, a good year after the fact, TheRapist will now be enjoyed online exclusively via Viddsee.
Viddsee, a Singapore-based online media platform with a growing catalogue of award-winning shorts from filmmakers in the region, is made up of similar-leaning souls as Ventura. “[Viddsee] found me through a friend and approached me. They’re engineers, but they’re also filmmakers, and I kind of connected with them on that aspect, that we were all passionate about film,” the filmmaker began. “They were all just doing this for love. I’m social-media illiterate, really, but when they explained it to me—how they’d promote it, and open up discussion groups about films in general—I was into it. And they were into it for the right reasons.” Filmmaker-engineers Ho Jia Jian and Derek Tan, the people at the helm of the company, are themselves accomplished directors whose works have been exhibited and awarded at various festivals worldwide.
Despite Ventura’s relative youth in filmmaking, she is by no means a stranger in the world of entertainment. Her production outfit, DVent, is heavily involved in concert, music, and independent video production. Perhaps her biggest laurel, however, is having produced a string of sold-out arena shows in the US, Canada, Dubai and Singapore. She executive-produced the massively successful Eraserheads Tour.
Nevertheless, though the filmmaker’s managerial savvy has taken the limelight for a while now, her artistry (albeit less publicized) has never entirely taken the backseat: she has written songs (lending her by-line on quite a few tracks by acclaimed Filipino rock act Pupil, among them “Nasaan Ka?,” which bagged Best Rock Song at the MTV Music Awards, and “Set Me Apart,” which was used by cable channel Animax as its theme); produced music videos (the video for “20/20,” still by the same band, made it as a finalist to this year’s IFFM selection, while “Blow Your House Down,” which she co-produced, found its way to the soundtrack of the animated film Hoodwinked); and helped mount television specials (working as managing director on the GMA-7 TV special EBXL, featuring Filipino rock icon Ely Buendia
It was high time, then, for further growth. “I kept directing at bay because I became preoccupied with the business aspect of things. I studied all aspects of filmmaking here [in New York]: scriptwriting, cinematography, acting, digital filmmaking, and directing. I figured, why not put all the things I studied into action?” Ventura cracked a smile. “The acknowledgement [that TheRapist got at the IFFM] gave me the boost and encouragement to keep doing it,” she added.
The exclusive online run of TheRapist, which will be Viddsee’s featured film this October, is only the tip of the iceberg. This early, work on at least two new films has already started. Diane’s next short, which will begin shooting in November, will explore “the possibilities of different dimensions, dreams, and reality,” while her first feature, which will reportedly involve local New York talents, will be about “dealing with and trying to overcome tragedies in your life and resorting to addiction.” In both films, Ventura (who counts David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock among her personal icons) is studied but spontaneous, embracing whim over outline, circumstance over sheer craft, and feel over dead-bent purpose. “I like being spontaneous, or kind of stream-of-consciousness; I don’t adhere strictly to outlines. I like to balance strategic planning with carefree spontaneity.” the young director revealed.
For now, though, all eyes are on TheRapist, which is poised to be a great addition to the already-stellar Viddsee roster of around 150 Southeast Asian titles, which includes fellow award-winners 3 Days Grace by Kenny Tan and BREAK by Ray Pang, as well as works by Yasmin Ahmad, Anthony Chen, and more.By Aldus Santos