A Conversation with John Torres
Interview by: Alexis A. Tioseco
AT: Itís kind of a similar feeling that I got as well, [something] that you touched on earlier. You touched on going abroad, and perhaps making up for the time that you didnít have as a teenager, dating or meeting interesting people. And the feeling that I had is kind of, I know you as a friend, and I know you as a very kind and warm and loving person. It is easy for you to get comfortable and affectionate with people. And even more so I think when you are abroad with new experiences, and with people of the opposite sex who are quite attractiveÖ
JT: Of course, of courseÖ
AT: And itís an admissionÖof that weaknessÖ
JT: I will never hide my weaknesses. I will boast of them even more. Because when you see me triumph later on, I would want you to keep in mind my own setbacks. And that has always been what Iíve been telling my friends, actually, whenever I cry in front of them, or whenever I give away all these things [painful details]. I always make it a point to tell them: remember this, because when we get there [where we need to be], this will all become sweeter. So there, itís tough, but thatís why, you know, my three short films it paints this picture that thereís this romantic person, this very idealized-- not really idealized but very human also-- but thereís character, thereís this narrator, from all these films that stands for these ideals. And you see this next film and you see that heís very weak, he has made a mistake. Does [that] not mean that he doesnít stand for the other things that he said? Thatís the question. I donít know, Iím not answering that.
AT: Though I think Tawidgutom also admits a bit of weakness there.
JT: Oh, of course. Yeah, but itís much easier to swallow because the need for companionship and the need for love is there.
AT: Because itís more of a defensive weakness, than an offensive weakness.
JT: I guess so, I guess so. And who would blame you for asking for love, for asking for affection, you know? But I guess itís another thing, when you know, you ask for one more. (laughs)
AT: So, you have admitted these weaknesses, and [now], the other big question: you have gone back to Berlin. And you have made a concerted effort, to go thereÖ
AT: And also, to other festivals.
JT: (laughs) yes.
AT: Do you have confessions to make?
JT: (laughs). Well, I am still the same person that really is still attracted to other people, you know, butÖ and is as weak. But I guess you will have to watch my next films for me toÖ because Iím still also trying to make sense of whatís happening. Of whatís going onÖthis is not a cycle you know, donít get me wrong, but this is a similar situation that I am into. I would like to think that I am moving forward. I find myself sometimes in a similar situation. But I guess itís this, itís a constant struggle, sometimes itís a cycle; it never goes away that easily. But stay tuned for the next film. (laughs).
AT: Itís a cycle to me in a sense that there is a repetition of those same emotions, those same feelings. And by repetition I mean you go to another festival, you meet interesting people, and there is a repetition [of feelings, excitement in meeting new people].
JT: Yeah, I guess I just have to get used to the fact that other people are also beautiful, even people who are really different, coming from different backgrounds, different places. They are very much different from us, but they can be beautiful people.
AT: Oh definitely. Weíre not arguing that. But your films are very personal, so weíre delving into similar territory. So when you went back to Europe, you were 60% done with your film, and that 60% hadnít yet told you, hadnít made you as strong as you are now. Do you mean to say that you are stronger and wiser now than when you went back to Europe for the second time? Meaning that you are more learned now and if you went backÖ
JT: Yes I would like to think that. I would like to think that what I know now makes me stronger and wiser.
AT: But when you went back to Europe, you werenít yet at that point.
JT: Well, I was still in the process. As I am still in the process also.
AT: So that 40% was very, very important?
JT: Who knows, even that 5%, if it completes the other things that you have to tackle about. I donít know, I canít really answer that completely, but I would like to think that I am more equipped now.
AT: I ask this, not in an accusing way, but because you said you need to sit and let these ideas and topics ferment, and you need to resolve them. And that when youíve finished the film, you have.
JT: Haha, okayÖ(laughs)
AT: Meaning, in that 60% you hadnít, and in that time since, you have.
JT: Yes, hopefully. I have a lot to learn, still. Iíve finished the film, Iíve learned a lot of things, and I still have a lot to learn. It doesnít guarantee that I wonít make the same mistakes over again. Who knows? I would hope not. Itís in everyoneís minds also. People who go through the same thing, you just hope that they donít make the same mistake again. You just hope that you behave and respond in a way that is, that speaks of what youíve learned so far. Does that make sense?
AT: It does.
JT: Alright. You can never, you can never claim that youíve already figured it out. Even after making films. You donít just close it and say Iím a master of this. I have a PhD. on this already and I just wonít make that mistake again. HopefullyÖ
AT: How has your girlfriend been taking the whole process?
JT: (laughs). Amazingly, she was the first person to watch the film, and it was amazing because she is such a very, very good person, and she really liked the film. She was holding me close most of the time, and, whenever she would ask about things for clarification, she would ask me point blank. That was so cool. It was a very nice experience. I was really nervous, because I didnít know how she would react.
AT: She must be quite an amazing young womanÖ
JT: Ah she isÖ
AT: I mean in all sincerity, considering the nature of your filmsÖ
JT: Sheís one of a kind. It helps also that sheís crazy like me. Sheís into the arts also, so sheís very, very open-minded, very forgiving. She speaks my language, also, which really helps a lot. Iím really grateful.
AT: Formally, well not formally, but content-wise, first question: why changeóbecause itís a very personal situation, you have Olga thereówhy change the female protagonist to a wife and a not a girlfriend?
JT: Well, I just, I justÖ I felt that I needed also to address the sacrament of marriage. Because sometimes you know for some people itís not as serious to see other people when itís just your girlfriend, you know. It takes it to another level when itís your wife already, and thereís this commitment, a legal contract you know; sometimes people reduce marriage to a legal contract, legal commitments. Even legally you canít do that, you know. At that level [marriage], itís a whole different ball game, and I just needed to address that.
And that is also one big fear of mine, that when I get married and I donít have an excuse anymore, because I missed out on my teenage years or when I wasnít married and I could just do all these stuff. But when Iím married you know, thereís this commitment, and itís really official, you know. Not that it makes it less important if you donít have a relationship within the context of marriage, itís not that. Itís just this way of addressing my fear that hey, marriage is very important to me and I donít want to mess it up. I donít want to break it. I donít want to put it all to waste.
AT: Are you referring here to marriage, or are you referring here as well to Ina, and that the gravity of your relationship means this much to you, and thatís why you put it in the film in the context of marriage?
JT: Well, now that youíve pointed it out, yes also. But my obvious intention is what I said. But yeah, my relationship with Ina is very serious, and if it does get into that level already, Iíd be glad to, Iíd be the happiest person on earth. So yeah, youíre correct in that senseÖ
Do I get to interview you after? (both laugh)
AT: Tignan natinÖ [weíll see] (laughs). The film had three main characters, basically, which are the character of the narrator or ďEarlĒ so to speak, Olga, and Bughaw who plays the character of the wife. The last portion of the film focuses very very, very strongly on her (Bughaw), with little voiceover. Perhaps text appears, but correct me if Iím wrong, thereís isnít as much voiceover [in the end] as the rest of the film.
AT: And itís mostly the images of Bughaw and her projecting the images of Olga. Why end with her and not with youóyou, or you the narrator ďEarlĒ?
JT: (laughs). The most important thing for me to say is that after all these things, after everythingís been destroyed in your life, after youíve been terrorized, what matters is that youíve processed all these things, and you learn to move on and you learn to embrace all these things. Thatís the most important thing for me to say in this film, and I just felt that because itís obvious that she has been terrorized and all those things; the love story between the two characters, Olga and her, the sweeter it got the more bitter and more painful it became for this person.
AT: The sweeter it got between Olga and the narrator?
JT: Yes. The more painful. And so I revealed it at the latter third of the film. And all the time, you were rooting for these two people. And as a viewer, everything changes when you see this last third of the film. And man, youíve taken part also in that in a way, rooting for that relationship to blossom. Now, things have changed, and you see the effect on the person of the wife, who has suffered so much. And I felt that I just needed to show a person moving on and emerging from the ashes, after everything has been destroyed, after all the world has rooted against you, or you know, has shared in this act of terrorism, even if they didnít know it.
AT: In the film, by ďall the worldĒ, aside from the narrator and Olga, are you also referring to also the other people watching the film, as in the children, or do you mean the audience watching the film?
JT: The audience watching the film.
AT: I understand having her character there, to show her pain, but what does the ending of the film mean to youóhaving her project these images, having other people see them? And this is her dealing and coping with the pain: what now?
JT: If you notice in the end, itís already a dance with all those emotions, itís already a dance, but itís not a very easy dance to make. As you see, there will be times when you recall and when you mourn, but you learn to accept, eventually. Actually interestingly, she also becomes a terrorist in a way, because the action that she took after holding that, taking into possession that piece of film, she acts in a way that somehow terrorizes the husband, by number one, staying silent and number two, showing the world that yes, she is suffering and yes, she is not ashamed of it, and number three, being present in that film owning that film, because you notice, youíll see that it was not a direct reproduction of the film that she got, but itís one that has her, also in the film already. And in the end, you know, itís surviving all these. And thatís terror enough for the one that has destroyed a lot of things.
AT: By you, you mean Bughaw?
AT: But we donít have any sense of reconciliation [between the couple], or even of the possibility of it at the filmís end.
JT: ActuallyÖwell itísÖ
AT: Öor just a reconciliation with herself.
JT: Itís reconciliation first with yourself. How do you see that? Gusto mo pa sabihin ko? [Do you really want me to say it?] Because I want them to think about the lastÖ just take note of the motion, of the actions in the last scene, you know, and hopefully youíll get it. The message Iím trying to convey there. Itís an embrace of some sort, coming to terms of some sort. And a really very important good point that you mentioned, reconcilingóreconciling with your own self.
AT: I was very curious; there was a reconciling with your own self. On the part of the narrator, we hear that, but we donít see it. On her part we see thatÖ
JT: How did youÖ can you tell me more about that? With the narrator you see that thereís reconciliation.
AT: You hear it somewhat, in his admissions. They could be onscreen text admissions, or they could be ones that he admits in a voiceover.
JT: Actually, the narrator, man, heÖ I would like to see how he copes. How he deals with whatís happening now. Thatís the next person Iíd like to see. I actually think heís veryÖ he has been troubled. You know, and when he gets a hold of this filmÖ
AT: Oh Iím sure that that will be the next step. Which is part of the point that Iím trying to make. He is dealing with it, in himself, but he is not confronting it with his other. And she is dealing with it herself, but is not confronting it with her other. You donít see them, if Iím not mistaken, onscreen together.
AT: And you donít see them interacting.
AT: Was that something that happened with you, and was that also something very personal? Did you have your own individual reconciliations that did not involve each other? And if it was not something that happenedómeaning your reconciliation did involve the other, then why did you not include that in the film?
JT: (laughs) Again, again pleaseÖ
AT: In the film, the narrator at least reconciles his action with himself, somewhat. In the sense of the text that appears on screen, and the way that heÖ
JT: From which particular text did you get that impression?
AT: Well, his admissions in the way that he would relate to her, her being Olga, I think part of that is steps toward his reconciliation. Whether we have a grand final one, we donít, but we have his steps towards his reconciliation. We have admissions. And on the part of Bughaw, we see her reconciling with herself, but we donít see her reconciling with the other.
JT: Ah, okay, okay.
AT: Was that the way it was for you in real life, and if it wasnít that way, why did you make it that way in the film?
JT: WowÖ I would need another hour or two for that though, man. Itís, itísÖ [tape runs out, flip to other side]. I would think itís going to take a lot more time than another story to tackle all these issues, all these ideas.
AT: Is that to say that your reconciliation in real life did not involve one another?
JT: I made peace withÖ[pauses]
AT: Meaning at least, at firstÖ this film is true to life. And the next step was reconciling with each other.
JT: Ah yes, definitely. So thatís the first step. And then after that, you also make peace with the other. But the more important thing is that you make peace with yourself first. That you reconcile with yourself first, before jumping onto that. I donít think it will work if you make peace with the other without forgiving or reconciling with your own issues, by yourself, on your own.