Christian Rae Villanueva is a filmmaker who is heavily influenced by the neorealist movement. With the belief that cinema is a mirror of our reality, the graduate of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde crafted ‘The Lessons Of The Night’ (Ang Mga Turo ng Gabi), a searing drama about a desperate mother in search for her child while battling postpartum depression.
Christian shares more about his Viddsee Juree Philippines finalist film below:
Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your team!
I was born in Sta. Mesa, Manila, but spent the rest of my life in Santa Rosa, Laguna when my family moved away from the city. I dreamt of being a film director after watching Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill Vol. 1’ at the age of seven. It opened my eyes to what a film could be because of its use of different film elements – lightning, colour, sound, camera, mise-en-scene, editing and special effects.
This film is my capstone project for college and my team consists of young professionals from my school and other universities.
A scene from ‘The Lessons Of The Night’ featuring Sheenly Gener (Juanita) and Erin Gray Ricamara (baby)
Q2. What is the inspiration behind this short film?
I have always been fascinated by motherhood and how complex and beautiful it is. This film is my love letter to all the single mothers who are being judged by the society. The film shows their hardships and the lengths they go through just to show their unconditional love. This film is personal because I grew up with a single mother, so I experienced firsthand their undying love.
‘The Lessons of the Night’ also tackles mental illness in the Philippines. Depression is still considered a sin because people still deny the fact that depression is a real illness, and the “it’s all in your head” stigma is still rampant. I want to raise awareness on this topic. I want to help those who are being belittled to stand up and find their purpose in life.
A scene from ‘The Lessons Of The Night’ featuring Dylan Ray Talon (Jal) and Sheenly Gener (Juanita)
Q3. Could you share with us what your main challenges were in putting this together, and how did you overcome them?
The screenplay is always the biggest challenge because it is the foundation and backbone of the film. If the filmmaker starts with a problematic script, they can only do so much in directing and editing to save it. I had three completely different storylines for this project, but this one worked the most for my creative consultant and producer.
Research is the hardest part of scriptwriting, but the most rewarding if you portray it right on the screen. I had to dive into my protagonist’s characteristics and personality by doing research on the symptoms and causes of postpartum depression.
The only thing I maintained in that three different storylines is the message and statement I want to tell. A filmmaker should always know what message he wants to deliver to the society because it will be his guide. It can always be a different plot, but the message should always remain.
Christian is one of the ten finalists of the Viddsee Juree Awards for the Philippines competition, a filmmaker community initiative to celebrate and support filmmakers and film communities in Asia. Check out the rest here.