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Two Pinay directors shine in US film festival

Two Filipinas proved their mettle in filmmaking when they were named as two of five outstanding, young directors in a film festival in the United States.

Adrielle Esteban, 21 years old, and  Inshallah Montero, 20, were named as two of the five recipients of the honors for their films screened at the Manhattan Film Festival in New York City in the United States. As a result of their victories, their films will be screened at the United Nations in April.

The film fest took place between Feb. 22 and Feb. 24 and is a project by the World Youth Alliance.

Esteban and Montero shared with GMA News Online their motivations for making their films, their reactions upon learning of their distinctions, and what's next for them.

Esteban took up film in the University of the Philippines-Diliman while Montero was a full scholar in the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila who took up digital filmmaking.

Esteban said she thought of becoming an editor or a colorist after graduating from college.

"I was putting much effort in learning post production. But then after my thesis, and realizing that I was able to create such a film, I felt like I am also called to direct and write films. My dream is to write and direct a full-length someday," she said.

Montero, however, said she came into filmmaking "spontaneously." When she was in high school, she took up creative writing, which she said is her first love, in the prestigious Philippine High School for the Arts.

"I just started directing films when I was in 2nd year college. I came in to the course spontaneously and I have learned to love the art so much that sometimes I even direct my dreams," she said.

The women expressed their joy at being able to represent their homeland.

"I was really happy! (Esteban) became my friend and I loved her film, too. I'm proud of being a Filipina, we are happy and honoured to represent our country," Montero said.

Montero was also grateful to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for sponsoring her trip to US.

"I was super proud of the Philippines. There were Filipinos during the screening, and to see them rejoicing with me and Inshallah, I felt so honored. Honored to have represented our nation. I am happy for Inshallah and very proud of her also! World class talaga ang Pinoy," Esteban said.

Following the Manhattan film fest, Montero, currently doing freelance work, said she will focus on looking for a job as well as film grants for now. She said she has a lot of projects in mind, but that these need time and money to create.

Meanwhile, Esteban, working currently as an editor and trainee colorist, said she has some short film concepts in mind, too, but that for now she is saving up for a new camera to be able to produce a new film independently. She shared that she could possibly create a film about her travels, since she loves to embark on adventures.

Both women shared their insights about filmmaking, which both acknowledge takes passion to make and finish.

"(Filmmaking) will really test your patience, character and skill. You will have many reasons to quit, but persevere! Love what you're doing," Esteban said.

"Just make films that you truly want to make. People can tell if you have put your heart into your work, and it comes out more beautiful that way. When making a film, don't make winning competitions the ultimate reason, make films because you want to," Montero said.

Their films

Montero described her film "Man of Squares" as a "surreal story" about a businessman incapable of emotion who is tasked to draw squares on paper in return for gold. "

Trapped and brainwashed in a room by greed," the man becomes oblivious to the outside world until one day, a succession of visitors as well as a clock change him.

"I made this piece because our generation today revolves around money. We do need it but what happens is we are trapped by it, we cannot live without it, so we end up in a world of routines that involves us somehow trapped in a room, offices and buildings,"she said.

"Then we end up spending money on our materialistic desires than spending time with loved ones. It's more important to invest in good memories," Montero continued.

Meanwhile, Esteban's "Tanglaw" is about child trafficking. Acknowledging that the issue is complex and difficult to solve, she said she gave her film an ending where the victim was freed to symbolize "hope that never fails" in spite of all of the negativity that surrounds us.

"I used the environment of child trafficking as a symbol of the Filipinos' negative mindset. I'm sure you've heard of people saying pessimistic statements about their lives," Esteban said, noting that even she is not immune from making such declarations.

"I personally lost hope for the country. But I realized that I'd rather be part of the solution than to do nothing. I'd rather think positively than give in to my pessimistic thoughts," she said.

This inspired her to make a film about holding on to hope.

"The film is about hope that never fails. The film is about awakening our child-like faith. We were born with so much passion, so much joy and love. So much hope. Until we get exposed to the 'reality of life" and we forget about dreaming,' Esteban said.'

"The film encourages us to hold on to a hope that never fails even though we feel like it's illogical and unrealistic because it leads to our freedom/redemption," she continued. - VVP, GMA News