YIDFF 2019 Double Shadows 2
People Power Bombshell: The Diary of Vietnam Rose
An Interview with John Torres (Director)

A Broken Dream Beyond Words and Memories

Q: The original footage itself looks very interesting. Did you ever consider reconstructing the film according to the original screenplay?

JT: I never got to read the script and did not ask the actors to recall their lines for me, because I am more interested in their experience of making this film. There was no effort to have them recall the script. The struggle was rather with how to integrate some of the interviews of the actors with the scenes we had at hand. So I devised a plan to shoot people listening to the voices elsewhere. When they are talking, the visuals show people hearing them in another room. I tried to create, in this way, a unified and rounded story of their experience of the production.

I wanted to limit myself with the visual material. The footage has eventually degraded, and I wanted to show visually, and more so to convey the feel of what the story seemingly is. Do they seem like they are talking about hunger, or about sex, or about the director being lazy, etc? I wanted to go by the visual material and be guided by the interview extracts that I planned to integrate.

Q: You have been playful with how you put the visual and sound material together.

JT: The playfulness came from my own experience watching 80s and 90s films. At that time, film soundtracks were mostly edited after shooting, so one can sometimes see that the sound is not lip-synced. I really wanted to retain this experience, in fact take advantage of it as a way to tell the audience that this is not reality. It could be a certain tone of an experience, a dream, an altered state, or a joke. Whatever it was, it was not in its ideal state. But to be poetic you really want to portray a different tone of reality.

This all helps convey how memories could be unreliable, that we do not know if things have actually happened. Sometimes the interviews reveal that people do not remember some event or some person being there, or their memories would clash with each other’s. As an artist, you try to embrace all these things—the brokenness of their narration and the gaps from the unreliability of everyone’s memories.

Q: The film does turn out like a broken dream, probably of the main actress. To what extent did you have to consider her feelings during the creating process?

JT: I did. It is very important actually. One thing is that being a man, I needed to be very sensitive about a lot of things I don’t see as a man. So I involved (the main actress) Liz Alindogan throughout the process, from pre-production to production, after writing the script and even to editing. I would call her and see if things were up to her memory or her impression of things, and if she was happy, we could proceed. Meanwhile, I surrounded myself with people who were open, critical and sensitive, people who were sharp on how I frame things. I have my own regular team for production but for this film I chose a crew that was mostly women. We did not want to stray away from the more important and ambiguous things that we wanted to portray in the film.

Liz and the other actresses shared a feeling inside—like something at the back of their mind they could not get rid of. Now their experience was captured on screen for them to re-live. At the end, they watched the film in Manila. While the swelling emotion was still with them, they are at peace with it now. Liz is really happy with the film. She said now she can have closure, and can move on with her life. Slowly she started acting again. This is what I find very magical about making a work, whether documentary or cinema. Capturing things beyond words or in-between words is very important to me.

(Compiled by Sit Pui Yin Annie)

Interviewers: Sit Pui Yin Annie, Inotani Yoshika
Photography: Morisaki Hana / Video: Morisaki Hana / 2019-10-15