“Kun Maupay Man It Panahon” (Whether the Weather Is Fine), inspired by events that happened during super typhoon Yolanda in 2013, just snagged the Cinema e Gioventù Prize from the Concorso Cineasti del presente Junior Jury at the 74th Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. The award was part of the festival’s educational initiative and was presented by the youth juries from Switzerland and Northern Italy.
The film, starring Charo Santos-Concio, Daniel Padilla, and Rans Rifol, was written and directed by Carlo Francisco Manatad, one of the country’s most sought-after film editors. “Whether the Weather Is Fine” competed in the abovementioned category against 14 other films from countries such as the USA, Italy, France, Chile, Mexico, India, Switzerland, Germany and China.
The movie is 33-year-old Manatad’s first feature. He’s previously directed a string of short films that were likewise screened—some even bagged awards—in a number of major international film festivals including Cannes, Toronto, Busan, and Clermont-Ferrand.
“The film expresses an understanding of a devastation that has changed a ‘community’ and humanity as a whole,” the Tacloban-born director tells Locarno Festival about his film entry. He describes the film as “a commentary in the form of a satire and deals with the absurd generation we have become today.”
The typhoon, while obviously a major part of the story, was actually not part of the initial concept. Manatad told CNN Philippines that prior to the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda, he had written a story about a mother and her son. It involved a tragedy, yes, but a typhoon didn’t figure in the story. “At the time, I felt it was complete. But I also felt it wasn’t,” shared the University of the Philippines Film Institute graduate. “I was trying to find kung ano ‘yung kulang but I couldn’t.”
He had started collaborating with his good friend and co-writer Giancarlo Abrahan (“Dagitab”) when Yolanda hit the Philippines. The aftermath was incredibly devastating, leaving many in Tacloban either dead or missing. Like many who survived, Manatad experienced the agony and anxiety of not being able to reach his family members and friends who were based there.
Happily, his family survived and Manatad tried to go about his normal life. But there were strange emotions raging inside him—anger mixed with disappointment, joy, and shock. “There was one particular moment when I went back home and I just started crying,” he told CNN Philippines. He finally identified it as “built-up emotion” he was trying to hide as Yolanda was wreaking havoc. That was how he realized what was missing in his movie: himself.
Finding his place
Like “Whether the Weather Is Fine,” which took years to develop, it took a while before Manatad realized it was in filmmaking he was meant to commit to. Yes, he had started toying with a camera as a young boy—a graduation gift from his father —but he never considered making movies as a career. His family was mostly into business so he took that as a sign to take up Management.
Realizing he’d never be happy in a 9-to-5 office job, however, he eventually shifted to Materials Engineering. But he also didn’t last long the course. At the back of his mind, he wanted to do something connected to the arts so he finally decided to shift to BA Film and Audio Visual Communication in UP. Immediately, he felt at home. “I would watch films every day, talk about it and discuss with people unflinchingly. That started my never-ending journey towards loving and learning anything about filmmaking,” he told the Singapore International Film Academy.
Manatad knew he wanted to direct. But since everyone else in class wanted the same thing, he decided to take the film editing route. It was a good decision. He enjoyed the unique storytelling process of editing. He would volunteer to edit the thesis films of friends, which is practically how his editing career started.
Before graduating from film school, Manatad was already editing for CinemaOne Originals (“Dagim” back in 2010). In 2014, he was hired by Chito Roño to edit “Shake Rattle and Roll XV,” which would become the first commercial film the young man worked on. Through the years, Manatad established a name for himself through well-received movies like “F#*@bois,” “I’m Drunk I Love You,” “Meet Me In St. Gallen,” and “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness.”
All those years, he had put his directing dreams in the backburner. But in 2015, thru the encouragement of Balangiga helmsman Khavn De La Cruz, Manatad finally decided to try his hand at directing via the short film “Junilyn Has.” The project competed at the Locarno Film Festival and got good notices in several other festivals: Clermont Ferrand, Uppsala, Winterthur, Busan.
His “Fatima Marie Torres and the Invasion of Space Shuttle Pinas 25” (2016) won awards in Russia, Romania and the USA, including Best Comedy Short at the Aspenshorts Fest, an Oscar qualifying film festival. “Jodilerks Dela Cruz, Employee of the Month” (2017) was selected in competition at the 56th Semaine de la Critique at the 70th Cannes International Film Festival.
More could definitely be expected from the very talented Manatad. He says he wants to tackle themes that are grounded in reality. “Themes of real people not being seen or heard,” he shared in another interview. “I do feel these are stories bigger than the universe we are in. The absurd and the weird come in naturally as to what we always experience everyday but not every time we acknowledge it.”
One of his foremost goals is to promote Waray cinema, especially in his hometown of Tacloban where film remains underappreciated.