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In Nomine Matris Director’s Notes

Director Will Fredo

Director Will Fredo

“What made this film worth making?” I asked myself.  It’s been a journey, and the journey was good.

Mining the dramatic Spanish-Filipino narrative, the idea of fusing Filipino dances with Flamenco, the possibility of collaborating with Bob Aves, Philippines’ foremost world-jazz musician, and showcasing the hustle and bustle of contemporary Manila are the elements that first and foremost got me really excited in developing this film. You see, I watched a lot of telenovelas with my mother growing up. And a lot of such influences somehow got channeled into this movie. But my goal from such dramatic elements was to show a level that would be relatable to a lot of people.

The script was inspired by my friend’s real-life personal story. I further interviewed a lot of Flamenco dancers, and saw an abundance of passion to the art form. I see it as a devoted lifestyle, not just a dance form. I wanted to capture that and I wanted to utilize a dramatic narrative technique that is embedded in the Spanish influence on Filipino culture. But I realized, I cannot claim that we’re doing a flamenco movie, for the story is beyond the dance form. I see this movie as a homage to the dance form, to our Spanish influence, and an appreciation to our unexplored heritage.

After writing the first draft, I was motivated to tap on the growing popularity of Clara Ramona’s Flamenco Dance Company in Manila.  Her dancers are already experienced in Flamenco dance. Clara Ramona, herself, is a passionate dancer and a fiery choreographer.  Perhaps one should see her perform live in order to understand what I am talking about. She is that good. And surprisingly, for a first time actor, her attack on Mercedes Lagdameo character, the unseemly cold Flamenco maestra in the movie, is something critics should take notice.

It is widely known that the Philippines was under the Spanish rule, and its influence abound. In spite of this, however, Flamenco remain a relatively new dance to the general populace.  In a way, it is still in its infancy, thus when the core crew was auditioning for more dancers we had to tap those who come from different dance backgrounds—modern, jazz, even hip-hop. We had them undergo a grueling three-month training designed by Clara Ramona. The best thing about Filipinos is that they are a quick study. They seem to be born to dance, born entertainers.

The music is a challenge. I approached Bob Aves early on in the project and bounced off with him about the idea of fusing Filipiniana with Flamenco rhythms. Fortuitously, he was developing Kundiman music for the enigmatic singer Grace Nono, so he was receptive to the innovation. He was intrigued by the idea of using Flamenco’s 12-beat “compas” in Filipino music.  The result is a glorious pieces of music. The dancers themselves were in awe, and could not believe they were dancing to some new music.

When it came to deciding as to who will play the main character, the award-winning actress Liza Diño was a natural choice. She’s a flamenco dancer herself. I have previously worked with her in the film Compound, where she was cited for her acting in an international film festival and earned her Harvest of Honor Award bestowed by the Philippines’ National Commission for Culture and the Arts. I was excited to work with her and was not a bit disappointed by the performance she turned in. In fleshing out the main character, the inexperienced vulnerable yet driven Mara Advento Bonifacio, Diño’s characterization and performance can only be described as tour de force. Hopefully, it will engage the general audience and critics alike.

Aside from Diño, the rest of the principal casts were a bevy of talent and easy to fall in love with. Biboy Ramirez is a dramatic soap opera actor in the Philippines. Playing someone that is a bit of unsure of himself and lacks confidence about what he feels is outside of the screen characters he had been associated with.  His acting here cannot be ignored, it is beautifully understated. Al Gatmaitan is a trained classical singer schooled in Italy, and is relatively new to Philippine independent cinema. He gives off a nice opposition to what Biboy is giving in the movie.  They are quite a pair of young actors.

Rounding off the mother in the movie is Tami Monsod, a respected theatre thespian. She tackled the role of Mara Advento Bonifacio’s mother with such depth and subtlety, resulting in an unmatched performance caliber. Her take on the disabled and “laos na” (has-been) dancer is chilling at the minimum.

Mixing different mediums of performances is something I consciously wanted to do, there’s dancing, some singing, and even open-mic poetry. The much heralded open-mic poetry scene in the movie is my way of summarizing my personal take on the movie. I am surprised how audiences react to it — they laugh at the beginning and get tense at the end.  “Kuti-kuta”, a collaborative piece with poet Roldan Din, that Jam Perez recites in the middle part of the movie is my take on what we feel as artists— that gnawing itch.  The poem could mean a bunch of things but for me, as a filmmaker, it’s that ever-burning itch to do, to make, to create, to feel.

Perhaps it is that itch that prompted me to make this film. It is that itch which determines that choices we make in life. But in hindsight, I recognize the strong female, specifically mother, figures that bring out the best of me as a Filipino. From the story of a female friend who was on the brink of motherhood but tragically lost her baby, from the stories and memory of my mother, the choices she made as a mother, from the tales of all the mothers I have met, from the culture that I grew up in that is undeniably matriarchal. What I make of me as a Filipino, and perhaps every Filipino, is in the name of the mother.