Making films with a social eye, Filpino filmmaker Arvin Belarmino aims to expose the ugly truths and reality of the dark, convoluted side of the Philippines. Arvin, a self-taught filmmaker, came to the craft by watching Filpino films and learning from them.
His dramatic thriller ‘Shackles’ is a short film that’s in competition at the Juree Philippines 2019; it also won the Independent Achievement Award at the International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM) 2018.
‘Shackles’ exposes horrifying truths about a father-daughter relationship in post-apocalyptic Philippines. We speak to him about his inspiration behind the film, and how he came to develop this unique lens and style.
A scene from the dramatic thriller Shackles by Arvin Belarmino
The Ugly Truths Of Reality In The Philippines
“(The Philippines) is a convoluted place, filled with all kinds of danger and conflicts. I wanted to find my own emotional connection to it, translating it to cinema.
“A film for me is an expedition. It clears my intention and always move towards it.”
The beautiful, the pristine, the fairytale is easy to love. Not so the ugly and filth. Arvin yearns to connect with the motherland — the Philippines — in an emotional way, and with exactly that.
Shackles by Arvin Belarmino features first-time actress Nicole Aprid as Ara and Ricky Rosales as Ed
“I have an emotional connection towards the dangerous and filthy side of our country. Not that the country is all bad and wretched but there’s a part of it that is. In Shackles, I veered away from the street, slums and gangs and get to the heart of our society, the family.”
“I have always been fascinated with the idea of a post-apocalyptic setup. In my narrative, although the family is in a small room, one could feel the desperation and helplessness the so-called end of the world brings.”
The character of the father and daughter, Ed and Ara, was written to reflect an aspect of society as through Arvin’s eyes.
“Ed is dominant, but vulnerable when intoxicated; while Ara is both naive and dangerous.”
Both characters were played by first-time actors, Nicole Aprid and Ricky Rosales. It was a challenging and also proud achievement for Arvin and his team. “It takes time, determination and passion to play these characters. I’m proud that we pulled it off well.”
His advice for younger filmmakers to develop their unique identity, style and lens is by living and seeing, and witnessing life.
“Immersion (is what you need). When you experienced things first hand or when you get into deep conversations with the abused and the sick, you will have it in you. You’ll make a way on how to channel those emotions you feel through film.