For the 22-year-old Bulakenya filmmaker Leslie Ann Ramirez, love knows no language especially the one we receive from our parents.
And that undebatable fact paved way to her film dream to happen.
At a very young age, this Sta. Rita, Guiguinto Bulacan native has already proven her talent in the film industry. Her film entitled “Kasilyas” was well-recognized by various film festivals and it is no surprise because the story alone is exceptional on its own.
“Kasilyas,” revolves in the story of a creepy school janitor who is assigned at the ladies comfort room. The way he looks at the students, especially with the girls, is chilling. He would consistently close the comfort room at one in the afternoon as it is under maintenance. But little did they know, the man they are afraid of has one touching secret story. Far from their impression of a frightening man, is a loving father who has to keep her daughter with a speaking disability in the CR stock room because they don’t have a home to stay in.
The film has brought out all the emotions in me and I just found myself crying. The message they want to convey is sincere and it would probably be one of the most remarkable short films I’ve watched.
In contrast to that drama, Leslie has a fun anecdote on how they came up with the theme of “Kasilyas.”
“Nagsimula ang ‘Kasilyas’ sa isang biruan lang. Nasa meeting ako noon kasama ang mga miyembro ng film organization naming BulSU Cinephilia at gusto ko lang takasan sandali yung stress ng meeting kaya inaya ko ‘yung isa naming kasamahan na mag CR. Habang nasa loob kami ng CR at nag-aayos ng sarili, pumasok ‘yung janitor na lalaki hindi ko alam kung bakit tinititigan ko siya kahit wala namang siyang ginagawang masama at saka ako bumulong sa kasama ko na “What if si kuya may tinatago dito no?” Natawa na lang kaming pareho kasi kung ano-ano na naiisip ko dahil sa stress.”
While in a jeepney on her way home, Leslie can’t help but still imagine the joke they made inside the comfort room. She really wants to prove herself right-- that it is really possible that a janitor is hiding something in the corners of a CR.
“Mahilig akong mag observe ng mga tao, minsan kapag may nakikita akong kakaiba sa isang tao mapa-damit o kilos man ‘yan matagal kong pinag-iisipan kung ano ang dahilan. Hindi ko ugali na magtanong ng istorya ng iba, mas gusto ko na kusa nilang ikinukwento sa akin ang buhay nila sa pamamagitan ng mga kilos at gawi nila.
Nilagay ko lang muna sa notes ng cellphone ko ang ‘what if’ sa utak ko. Sakto nabasa ko naman na open for Student Short Film ang MMFF, namotivate ako lalo na mag isip. Binalikan ko lahat, una gusto kong ipakita sa tatay ko kung gaano ko siya kamahal kaso hindi ko alam kung paano at pangalawa gusto ko i-justify sa sarili ko ‘yung ginagawa ng janitor sa loob ng CR. Napaisip ako nito, bakit hindi ko pagsamahin? Wala naman sigurong mawawala sa akin. Kaya ang simpleng “what if” ko ay naging “what if mayroong isang janitor na gagawin ang lahat para sa kanyang anak?”
Her vivid imagination coupled with the inspiration from her father who works as an Overseas Filipino Worker, “Kasilyas” came to life. Because of the geographical distance, she finds it challenging to make his father feel how much he loves and appreciates him for all the sacrifices he makes for his family.
“Dahil ilang taon na naming hindi nakakasama ang aking ama ay napakahirap para sakin na ipakita kung gaano ko siya kamahal at gaano ako nagpapasalamat sa lahat ng naging sakripisyo nya para sa amin.
Her film, dedicated to her father, opened a lot of doors for Leslie. Her film eventually won Best Student Short Film at the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival, 2019 Kislap ng Sining sa Bulacan awardee and was event nominated for Best Short Film and Best Film Director at the 2019 PMPC Star Awards.
True enough, God really rewards hardworking people.
“Hindi ko talaga malilimutan ang pagkapanalo namin noon bilang Best Student Short Film sa MMFF 2018, noong gabi na ‘yun, gusto kong halikan ang stage sa sobrang tuwa. Makikita mong pinapalakpakan ka ng mga taong hinahangaan mo lang at higit sa lahat nagbukas ito ng mga oportunidad para makilala ang aming organisasyon.”
Winning all those awards mentioned above is a testament to their exceptional work, but mind you, film production entails a lot more. We can all agree that along the way, you will encounter challenges that will push you to your limits.
Leslie shared with The Film Dream that before reaping all those rewards, she and her team had a struggle finding a location and considering the time constraints and the requirements they had to deliver, it was really a test of character.
“Umabot sa punto na napaupo na lang ako sa gilid ng corridor ng aming kolehiyo habang umiiyak. Thankfully, tinulungan kami ng aming Dean para mapapayag naman ang Dean ng College of Architecture and Fine Arts na isara at gamitin namin ng maghapon ang palikuran nila.”
Pinilit naming matapos ang shoot sa loob ng isang araw dahil na rin sa kulang sa budget, umabot sa puntong sa loob ng CR na rin kami nananghalian habang nagtatrabaho. Hindi pa doon natatapos, maging sa editing ay nagkaroon din kami ng problema, nakailang revise kami at muntikan ng hindi makaabot sa deadline dahil walang Internet connection noon sa school.”
Despite all these, Leslie and her production team withstood all the challenges and focused on their goal of unfolding a powerful message to their audience.
“Ang pagmamahal ng isang magulang ay walang lenggwahe. Hindi man kayaning ibigay sa atin ang mundo, sapat na ang walang hanggang pagsasakripisyo upang patunayang mahal nila tayo.”
At present, Leslie is part of the production team of the Municipality of Guiguinto Bulacan where she is very grateful because she’s able to apply the skills she gained as a Mass Communication graduate from Bulacan State University. Given the opportunity, she is eyeing a directorial project for a documentary film in the future. Hopefully after the pandemic and when everything gets more stable and safe, she will finally start filming the new story, which took her almost a year to craft. Another wonderful narrative, for sure!
Leslie Ann Ramirez is a talented filmmaker, not to mention, a wonderful daughter. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, I’m buying a movie ticket for her film showing on the big screen.