An Interview with Jet Leyco (Director)
An Enduring History of Violence in the Philippines
Q: In addition to scenes of real people, this film also contained fictional scenes and re-enactments, with a combination of black and white and color scenes. Why did you make the film this way?
JL: My first plan was to shoot a short fictional film, but then people told me stories about the rail police, and it started to grow into a documentary. Of the people who appear in the film, 70% are real, and 30% are actors, and I use black and white as well as color, though not always to represent the same thing. Some of the actors are the staff and cameramen I worked with in television. There was no problem with permits, and it cost maybe 400 dollars to make the film. The hardest part was the editing, because there were six or seven hours of footage, and the problem was what to use or not to use, and how to end the film was also one of my problems.
The important thing in the film was the central idea of violence. It happened in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, and until now. This violence is real, whether it’s fiction or a documentary. That is why there is black and white and color—to break the time passage. You don’t know if it is present or past, or if it happened at the same time. It’s like fragments of memories, dreams, and actualities. In this film, I thought it was important to use imagination like this, and there was actually quite a lot of wordplay also. For example, the title refers to an “express” train, but the fact that it evolved out of a television project also makes it “ex-press.”
Q: In your film, what did the railroad symbolize?
JL: The train is a metaphor of the government. There is the government, and there is a suppression that is happening. On the train are the railway police, who represent authority, and the people are the victims of the suppression that is happening. The rail policeman is also a metaphor of a real character in the Philippines known as “the butcher,” who is wanted for killing. The character in the film has almost the same name as the real “butcher,” who is one of the most wanted men in the Philippines, and people who see the film will recognize that it sounds like him. It’s sort of a reminder of violence, and that maybe the system is trying to help this man. There is still ongoing corruption in the Philippines. For example, we have a new train, but the railroad system is still not very good, so what is the point of having a new train if you can’t solve the railroad problem? It’s a bit ironical.
I also wanted to create the human condition of the railway policeman, as a family man and as a worker, and to weave this story around him. There aren’t many women in the film, and when they appear, they are hidden—which may represent the patriarchal system in the society. As for the people throwing the stones, they used to live in the shanties around the railroad, but now they’re gone. Throwing stones at the railroad was like a sort of revenge before they went.
Q: One of the keywords in your film is “violence,” but did you feel this violence in your daily life?
JL: I live in Manila, but sometimes we don’t feel safe even if we are in our own houses. There are rich people who live in secure subdivisions, but sometimes murder happens there too. I feel very different when I walk at night in Yamagata, and it feels safe even if I walk alone. Even in your convenience stores, there are no security guards, but in the Philippines, every store has security guards.
I don’t want to push the people watching the film to do something, but Filipinos, in my opinion, have a short attention span, so maybe this will be a reminder of all that has happened, and what we can do about it.
(Compiled by Sato Hiroaki)
Interviewers: Sato Hiroaki, Kusunose Kaori / Interpreter: Tanimoto Hiroyuki / Translator: Kato Lisa Somers
Photography: Handa Masahito / Video: Ukai Sakurako / 2013-10-13