Shares her filmic vision
interview: katrina marie zablan styling: Debra Bernales | makeup: amanda padilla Hair: anne castaño
Lyka Gonzales would have never expected that her old routine of watching movies at Greenhills cinema after school when she was a child could lead her to a profession in film and documentary making. Let alone for a film of hers to be featured in both local and international festivals and film houses, including the prestigious Cannes Court Métrege. But after having a chat with her, we say it isn’t much of a stretch to say that this woman’s name was meant to be in lights.
From starting her own production company, eleven eleven, while she was still in college to now traveling all over the Philippines to make documentaries of different indigenous cultures, you could say that Lyka has already proven her worth behind the camera, but now we get to see how she is as a subject and believe us, we’d be fools to let this chance to get to know her more go to waste.
Can you tell us more about your film, Agos?
Agos is a fictional depiction of a Filipino urban migrants' fantasy. It explores the vision they have of Manila and the dreams they wish to fulfill. I made Agos when I was still a college student. We filmed it in 2014 and released it in 2015. It was based on our thesis on urban migration and how the vision of Manila, the rhetoric and the fantasy, is shaped by the narratives we tell.
How did filming in the province affect your art?
The storytelling became more intimate. It gave me a clear sense of place. There were raw moments with the people I was shooting that I was able to communicate in the film. Let’s say, kunyari, a farmer, tapos tatawa siya or like, ewan ko, may moment lang and you would see that in the film, but in a way that it’s become more intentional and purposeful.
You also do documentaries, right? Which do you prefer: the feature or the docu?
Now, I like documentary films. I like covering stories of people from all over the world. In my assignments, I’d be sent across the Philippines to know the story in that place. Tapos nakikilala ko yung mga tao roon and yung culture nila and it’s a different way of seeing the Philippines.
Why, what about our country that some people have trouble seeing?
When you’re in Manila, or when you’re in the big cities, parang you get jaded by what you see and what you hear in the media. We see the Philippines this way–its all political wars, a lot of murders, and a lot of deaths so parang I’m trying to show a perspective that’s not usually seen in the mass media. I’ve met people who are doing things differently in, let’s say, Sorsogon, or Palawan. I want to recognize these people who are doing something for the country, doing something for their community. And that gives me hope.
Do you have any unforgettable experiences out on the field?
I met this furniture designer in Sorsogon who, apart from designing his own hotel using materials you find in nature, also designed spaces in Sorsogon where communities can gather—and the design itself was inspired by nature. He used bamboo, wood, yung mga ganun. It’s more sustainable that way because it helps lessen the carbon footprint. And when you see people doing things differently, and thinking differently, I get inspired. There’s hope for this country because some people believe in their own communities.
When you visit these communities, do you detach yourself from your subject or do you feel the need to connect with the people you shoot?
When I’m shooting I just don’t shoot and leave. Most of my assignments last from three days to a week. I stay there for as long as I can and talk to the people so I can build relationships with them. I want them to know that we are equal, that we can share the same emotions the same experience even though we come from different backgrounds.
Have you ever felt that you were too close to your subject that it affected you and how you handled the assignment?
I do have to step back at times in order to see the bigger picture of the story but it’s never a complete detachment. It’s about finding a way to be able to dig deep into a story but still have a way to resurface without drowning and losing yourself in the process.
So, how did it feel being in front of the camera for a change?
It was both fun and challenging, playing characters and channeling different parts of myself I don’t usually present. It gave me an understanding how it is to be the subject. I realized that, if you’re behind the lens, communication and establishing a good relationship with the team or your subject are essential in telling the story and presenting an image that is true to the vision.fhm