After almost 27 years in showbiz, Direk Joel Lamangan has touched almost any subject under the sun.
In the last two years, he megged a well-received monumental film about a religious leader and on the other hand, he has to deal with the Wattpad generation hooked on bestselling romantic novels and in one of his latest output, he churned in another well-received romantic comedy.
But in reality, the director’s heart belongs to subjects way below the social ladder or better known as a group belonging to “nasa laylayan ng lipunan.”
For now, he is probably dying to touch the life of Mary Jane Veloso now languishing in an Indonesian island jail.
Indeed, who can forget “The Flor Contemplacion Story” and the “Sarah Balabagan Story”?
In his latest project “Bhoy Intsik,” Direk Joel is back to familiar subjects and even more familiar surroundings.
His location shoots are in a cemetery in his native Cavite where he grew up knowing the exploits of the true-to-life “Bhoy Intsik” who would steal from the rich to share the loot with the poor.
Direk Joel admits the subject is akin to the exploits of Robin Hood but his film focuses more on the personas and what make them unique as cinema subjects.
Playing the title role is Raymond Francisco who is better known as the Puccini heroine in M. Butterfly with the late Behn Cervantes playing the ambassador.
Direk Joel knows the distinct advantage when two stage veterans work as leading man and director.
He cites the common language stage actors is familiar with and the similar obsession with which they try to reach out to the audience. “In the theater, you tell the actor to project to the last man in the audience in the last row. But on film, you didn’t have to exert too much effort because the camera will do the job for you. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. You have to minimize movements, you have to act as though the camera is your audience and within that instrument, you have to deliver your message and project the art of acting.”
He has something to say for those people who think an acting workshop can make one a great actor. “The acting workshop helps the beginner and further hones the veteran actor. In that sense, a workshop is a must especially when you are preparing for a role. But it is not everything. A bad actor can’t be helped by workshops. Sometimes an instinct for acting is better than the thoroughly studied ones. Because to me, acting is not performing. It is just being yourself and being honest and having the right attitude.”
On this subject, Raymond finds Direk Joel the perfect actor’s director. “Since he has extensive experience both in theater and on film, he knows what will work for the character and how they can enhance the story.”
In terms of acting experience, Raymond and co-actor Ronwaldo Martin are virtual contrasts. He is working with someone who hasn’t known theater and whose acting credits are just starting.
In situations like this, Direk Joel enjoys the job of getting a good character contrast while getting the best from the individual actor.
After some 27 years in showbiz, Direk Joel knows that the learning process for the director never stops. “Where I came from, there is no school that taught me how to direct. I observed directors on how they deal with me as an actor. You just have to absorb a lot to get the right nuances, the right approach and the right balance of temperaments.”
But then the story of “Bhoy Intsik” might as well be his favorite subject as it deals with the perennial rejects of society.
Because deep in his heart, his sympathy goes to those who have nothing. He likes characters who like to survive and learn to live by the skin of their teeth.
It is when characters like this appear in stories that his artistic reserve finds real challenge. “I grew up learning how small people like ‘Bhoy Intsik’ live. He is a familiar character in my hometown. He has long moved on but his story lives. I really hope my film will be another venue on which I can re-live tales from my youth and childhood.”
“Bhoy Intsik” directed by Joel Lamangan and staring Raymund Francisco and Ronwaldo Martin opens on March 9 to 14 in SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, Gateway and Glorietta 4 Cinemas.