Claudette Chiong is a film student in the UP Film Institute in UP Diliman. She embarked on creating Rita, Rita to challenge herself with two things. Getting over her fear of horror films and taking on the challenge of the genre. We speak to her about her film and the concept surrounding it.
This Juree PH 2019 finalist film is about a little girl who is dropped off at her grandmother’s for no apparent reason who starts experiencing recurring dreams and hallucinations while staying there. This eventually leads Marita to discover something she already knows.
Truth’s True Horror: Knowing The Truth Or Not Knowing?
Chiong wanted to steer away from the usual scare tactics like jump scares, screaming and gory scenes that more horror films use.
She set out to create something more realistic that anyone could relate to, focusing on things that happen in real life. We see this in Rita, Rita when Marita discovers a huge part of her younger childhood that her family hid from her.
“And to think! Living with a relative who hid the truth from you this whole time – horrifying!”
Chiong implores the audience to think about the following. Are we afraid of knowing the truth because we might not be able to accept it or are we afraid of the uncertainty of not knowing the truth?
“Personally, I think it is scarier not to know the truth at all. At least with knowing the truth, we can be at peace, and we can think of ways on how to operate and make changes. If we didn’t, we’d lose the chance of growing and changing for the better.”
She attributes the inspiration behind this concept to her personal experiences and the ones people shared with her.
Marita Is Not Your Typical Horror Movie Character
Rita, Rita is seen from the perspective of a child. Chiong was sure to convey the authenticity of this childlike experience, especially during the eerie moments of the film.
“Marita is smart and unlike your usual kids in conventional horror films who would approach a supernatural entity and run for their lives after. She is a brave and curious child who wants answers to why she is experiencing her unusual dreams and hallucinations.”
Masked by her innocence, she remains aloof when it comes to why she was left with her grandmother in the first place, which sends her on an inquisitive trail.
Disclaimer: This Horror Filmmaker Is Afraid Of Horror Films
“I’m going to start by saying I am not a fan of horror films. I love watching them, but I also get scared to the point of covering my eyes throughout the film.”
She then realised that she wanted to make one as well as overcome her fear. “I wanted to make something different, yet still have elements of horror.” Thinking of a concept didn’t come easy. But Chiong is thankful to have had friends brainstorming with her as well as a very passionate and talented team that helped bring this film to life.
“We all had that shared adrenaline rush, especially after we slept in the old house we filmed in. This just proves that there is nothing to fear when you are surrounded by people you trust.” Chiong is extremely thankful for her cast, crew, friends and family for turning her idea into reality.
Filming in Nature Can Be Very Unpredictable
The biggest challenge Chiong and her team faced was shooting the river scene with the child actors. “At one point, there was a sudden rise in water level, and it was rapid! We were warned not to step foot in the river as it was very dangerous.”
What made it extra scary was that the actors for that scene were children. They were all forced to halt the shoot until the river was calm again. But even then, they were met with a drizzle. All they could do was to wait it out.