Myra Medrana, Deaf Filipino Filmmaker to Watch

August 24, 2009

I saw “Dinig Sana Kita…” during the Cinemalaya Film Festival, the only film I managed to see and did enjoy watching. Afterall, it touched on certain truths about “hearing” and “not hearing” our children’s woes. It featured Deaf people I know—Romalito Mallari, CJ Patriarca and Bronson. They were students of DLS-CSB School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS) the time I was studying Filipino Sign Language (FSL) as part of my research for “Silent Odyssey,” a docu on my entry into the Deaf world. Currently, Romalito is still enrolled at SDEAS.

My initial reaction was of joy for having another filmmaker in the person of Mike Sandejas to take the advocacy path, the subtle but effective way of showing what Deaf can do and that they are no different from us. I have read that Mike wishes for a Deaf filmmaker to be at best make films about themselves—the same wish that I had the first time I got a glimpse of Deaf student’s video/multimedia work while I prepared to handle a Film Language workshop, in summer of 2007.

There is a Deaf Filipino director! A choreographer, and an actress [theater and film] as well. And her name is MYRA MEDRANA. I consider her as the first Deaf Filipino who made the first-feature narrative film “Empathy” [80min] which she wrote and directed. The film tells of Deaf experiences and discrimination in the hearing world. CJ Patriarca [Deaf] played as the main character who became friend to a hearing person who later got enlightened about the Deaf person’s plight.

Before that, Myra already made a few short films. However, only “Empathy” used sound—both dialogue and ambient, and hearing persons as participants. All their previous works had only videos acted in by Deaf persons or used music as background. There were no sound and dialogue tracks. In most of the films that I have seen, the sound track was totally deleted. Hearing person’s part were acted by the Deaf themselves.

Multimedia students at SDEAS are required to make/present video projects as part of their classroom work or as their thesis project. Taught to advocate for their welfare and to show that “Deaf can!” the student’s works mostly dealt on their difficulties in a hearing world and how they overcome it. I have twice acted as defense thesis panelist at SDEAS and I have seen Deaf student’s potentials in a few who I am sure would succeed if properly guided and would continue taking the filmmaking path.

In “Empathy” I was convinced to act—my first time. And as a villainous mother at that. Portion of my role can be seen in “Silent Odyssey” on the segment that touches on “audism” or Deaf discrimination. SO is a straight, advocacy film on Deaf Filipinos and their culture. Myra was interviewed in the film as the choreographer of Silent Steps and Dulaang Tahimik ng Pilipinas. Myra shot “Empathy” following an edited picture in her mind. She had the storyboard in her head. She didn’t shoot the way we were trained, and that is to shoot all the scenes on the same angle before transferring the camera for a reverse shot if we only have one camera. It could be tedious and could lose the momentum built by stopping a dramatic scene being shot, for example, so as to transfer and continue the next line on the reverse angle. Cutting the shot from A to B, back to A then B again could be distracting to the actors. I could understand however that that must have been the practice or eventually the “habit” or “pattern” she developed because nobody told her what could help her the easier manner, that cutting in the shot to the master shot would make her life easier. Unfortunately, my session on the film language workshop was only up to storyboarding. Production or how to shoot what is on paper or in your head was not assigned to me. Nonetheless, the long or shorter way, she had been successful I would say in making her films. And she has quite an eye for good camera angles and composition.

Technically, “Empathy” needs improvement but setting that aside, the insights, the thoughts, the ideas Myra wanted to get across and the feelings of a Deaf trying to make her hearing audience learn of their plight succeeded. The Deaf audience loved the film and cried as they empathized with a discriminated character. Helped and guided through, Myra can equal, even better any of us. Myra is a person to watch…as a good Deaf Filipino director. Another promising Deaf filmmaker is Mark Joseph “Macky” Calbay who shot the footages of the interview of Raphy Domingo with WFD President Markku Jokinen in SO. I am hoping and sincerely praying that they will continue to pursue the filmmaking path as they can powerfully tell the people what they want through that medium. As I have always said, it is an effective Deaf’s channel to creative expression.

May they be inspired to make more films that depict their lives for everybody to watch. Meeting Deaf people in attendance during the Deaf Cinema Night at Brussels Independent Film and Video Festival in Belgium some eight years ago made me hope for the same event here in our country the first time I saw the student’s films at SDEAS two years ago. I broached the idea to Tikoy Aguiluz, my friend, founder of CineManila International Film Festival and we had since been talking about having the same activity here to promote Deaf culture and awareness hopefully with the help of Robert Malengreau, Brussels organizer. However, when I contacted major Deaf schools as sort of a survey towards that end, I realized that very few Deaf are engaged in filmmaking or video production. They need training. Dreaming alone is not enough. But with current rising interest in making drama films with Deaf artists, the future is really bright for them.



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