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Shiri De Leon: A Rising Storyteller of Filipino Narratives

Updated: Aug 19, 2021


The overwhelming attention from numerous press interviews after being proclaimed as one of the finalists for Cinemalaya Shorts 2021 could be tiring, yet for Shiri De Leon, a Bachelor of Arts Major in Film student at Meridian International College in Pasig City, everything's just falling into place.


Being able to produce a film during the pandemic, the young and passionate director of “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi” couldn't keep the mixed emotions she and her crew are feeling.


“I’m just a young filmmaker and just being able to get into Cinemalaya was already like, it felt like a dream. The fact that I’m here right now... and being a part of this amazing experience, I just feel so grateful.”


When their film was selected, Shiri honestly said that it's hard to share the milestone while others are barely surviving. As a filmmaker who aspires to create materials that discuss societal issues, she can’t just dismiss others’ agony; rather these realities must be empathized and become an inspiration of the film industry in telling stories.


“I feel shy whenever I post my achievements or [when I] share my journey with Cinemalaya, when I know [that] there are people who are going through tougher times. It’s more on just making sure that I feel okay, I feel contented but at the same time, I can't dismiss what other people are feeling."


Although De Leon’s film already made it as a finalist, didn’t you know that she never thought that Filmmaking would be the career she would pursue?


REALIZATION OF AN UNFORESEEN DREAMS


The media world is no new to Shiri as her grandfather, uncles and cousins whom she grew up with were already practitioners on the field.


“When my grandfather was still alive, I would watch whenever I would visit his house. He has a room for like the production where they edit the videos and stuff. It was like an old school pa, like the tapes. I remember memories of him winding back and time marking pa what to cut!”


“At such a young age, I was always curious about the media style and being able to create videos. But I let it slide, you know okay, you’re so cool what you're doing, but then I shrugged it off until I got my first cellphone which was around 4th grade. I got a tiny Nokia phone.”


Little did her younger self know, the curiosity she always had with editing and media would work like a slingshot, which threw her to run toward the filmmaking industry.

Official Film Poster of "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi" directed by Shiri De Leon

“When I was in 6th grade, I started editing videos and I never really wanted to pursue film… [especially] when I was in 11th or 12th grade because you know that was the time where I wasn't sure if my family would be fine with me pursuing a filmmaking career.”


The heightened stigma in the Philippines surrounding Arts pursuants also feared Shiri to live her dreams. Fortunately, her family’s relentless support affirms her to just be the person that she always wanted to be.


“It’s really hard but I'm really thankful that my family was super supportive and they allowed me to just do what I want to do.”

While De Leon’s family are media enthusiasts, her current technical, writing and organizational knowledge isn't something she always had but was earned. Shiri shared that even if she started editing during the secondary level, her knowledge of how a film production works is just the tip of an iceberg. Like a soldier with no bullets but only guns, she goes to college with a certain love for film.


As a newbie back then, she was not hindered to produce her first proud work entitled, “Marry Me”, an academic-based output that challenged her creativity and perspective of romantic relationships.


Coming from a family that I have, [as] my parents are separated and… romantic love is not what I'm used to seeing growing up, I was like ‘how am I gonna do this?... What is my interpretation of love? That really pushed me…”


As a storyteller, Shiri believed that challenges like these are necessary in telling people’s stories as one’s story may speak and reflect others’ narratives and may also encourage discussions.


When asked what film she’s always struck on, the young filmmaker shared how ‘’Requiem for a Dream’’ awakens her perspective and approach in storytelling. “I always want films that still address something important, something that is happening to a lot of people now, but I love it in a way na it is expressed in a very creative way. There are other ways for you to speak your truth and to let others see the truth.”


Shiri’s hope to write stories that arouse unconscious minds is definitely the principle and guidance she had all the way when she thought of how her film will blow our minds.

BTS photos from the Film Production of "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi" directed by Shiri De Leon



HER CINEMALAYA JOURNEY


Prior to the film festival, Shiri and her friends would always make jokes with their families that they’ll be at CCP and it seems like the universe conspired to make their dreams become a reality! Law of attraction, isn't it?


“I think, what makes our production so easy was because they were my friends and because I know how they work. They were all very professional, they made the shoot so much easier for me. They did a lot of logistics for me already. It was a surreal experience because we only shot that film for like one and a half days.”

Shiri highlights that everything went so smoothly along with the great actors, Ms. Ruby Ruiz as Lola Mayumi and Julian Roxas as the young male escort. For them, they are just young at age and being included as finalists on the most prestigious national film festival for independent filmmakers in the Philippines is already a win.

Director Shiri De Leon with the production team behind, "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi"

“It's more like, everything went into place perfectly, which is very surreal to say. We're all still doing our bachelors in film and to be in the festival is pretty mind boggling.”


WHAT'S MORE TO ‘’ANG PAGDADALAGA NI LOLA MAYUMI’’


Shiri knew so well that the film’s title might spark questions and intrigue minds, since a lola is considered a grown woman and the term pagdadalaga are those who are in adolescence. In the Philippines, pagdadalaga is when a girl already had her menstruation and is expected to marry someone or has slept with a guy before she reaches old age.


The film which will revolve around Lola Mayumi, will be challenged by her own views with men as she gets entangled with a young male escort whom she hired to experience pagdadalaga or adulting.

Film still from "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi," an entry to the Cinemalaya Film Festival 2021

“That is the biggest problem with Lola Mayumi that despite her old age, she doesn't feel like a real woman and she wants to experience what it feels like to be a real woman.”


De Leon’s entry will bravely explore the most controversial issue in the country: sex and prostitution. To know that the inspiration comes from a young film-student, it is surprising and interesting to witness the film’s boldness in addressing perceptions about sex and how we define pagdadalaga.


As gutsy as her film is, Shiri is not afraid to break the stereotypes for women who create films that initiate uncomfortable and sensitive conversations. People would always see film as a form of escape and entertainment but Shiri is turning the table upside down, turning her bottled emotions of anger and frustrations into a film that will establish pagdadalaga as an in-depth self-realization and not a standard of a patriarchal society.


“This is still a very heavy and serious topic and people would ask me like why did I decide to make a movie that tackles [such]. I am an advocate of addressing social issues. Of course, we make films to entertain people but at the same time, I don't want my film to just be shallow. I wanted to still have some sort of substance. I wanted to show the reality of what's happening to a lot of Filipinos today.”
Film still from "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi", an entry to the Cinemalaya Film Festival 2021

A YOUNG STORYTELLER'S CALL TO HER FELLOW ASPIRANTS


“Just keep writing. Keep getting inspired,” she highlights.


The pandemic may have stopped independent productions from working the way it is but the advances of technologies are like windows of opportunities in finding notions and flairs that speak truth. Just by listening through music, engaging with conversations and listening to people’s random thoughts, we might discover worlds, ideas, perspectives, and characters that haven’t unfolded yet.


For Shiri de Leon, whose film is a brain child of experiences and emotional turmoils, films are collections of people’s stories. And the younger generation should know that a filmmaker should have an eye on all stories that need to be heard and told. There might be no assurance for every aspirant to be a great director someday but it's through a filmmaker’s lens that a story will have a relevance.


Everyone has their own story. Everyone has a remarkable story to tell and it's up to us to collect the stories and to be able to share them properly.”
Director Shiri De Leon with her production team and lead star, Ruby Ruiz

Watch “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi” starring Ms. Ruby Ruiz as Lola Mayumi and Julian Roxas that will be premiered under Cinemalaya Shorts A with other prodigious independent films. It will run from August 5 to September 6, 2021 at ktx.ph.








Watch Shiri De Leon's The Daily Daily video HERE.

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