Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yam Laranas: A Filipino’s Chilling Echo To The World

Originally posted Feb 2010

Lino Brocka is arguably the best Filipino Director. He was effin’ nuts to have dared to say things in his movies about Philippine society no one else dared to do so even in the privacy of their own bathroom. He spoke about every possible issue there was and is – prostitution, poverty, hypocrisy, religion. Many directors and writers followed, some may even argue that some of those were better but Brocka cleared the trail they walked on and no matter the distance they go they will always have to look back and thank Brocka for it.
There is one director who has gone farther than everyone else – Yam Laranas. To date, he is the ONLY true blue Filipino director to have ever directed a Hollywood film from a story that originated in the Philippines. Roy Lee, producer of The Departed among others, was in a haunt to find more Asian horror movies. He kindda figured we have a knack for scaring ourselves and there is no better continent but Asia when it comes pea-inducing scare. He came across the movie Sigaw and found it so unassailably cool he didn’t only buy the story, he also asked the director to pack his bags and move to Hollywood so he could make some awesome scary sh!t.
Do you know how many Filipino Directors have made a Hollywood movie? One – Yam.
US Version of The Echo's Official Poster
US Version of The Echo's Official Poster
Now, I just want you to pause and consider that for a moment. Yam didn’t seek out Lee, he didn’t do no effin’ reality show to demonstrate his skills, he certainly didn’t have Hollywood in mind when he was making Sigaw. He did for the local market under a local producer. When Roy Lee called him up it was an expression of his respect and faith that a Philippine Director can kick any Hollywood director’s ass just as hard. He could have asked another American director to do this, less complicated and cheaper but he didn’t. He wanted Yam.
Now, when i say Lee sought him out, Lee sought him out. Lee didn’t know how to get in touch with him so he flipped the DVD he was holding and contacted the distributor which happens to be Regal Multimedia. You’d think he’d write Mother Lily or Roselle directly? No. He wrote the customer f*&kin service. It was a good thing Roselle checks her emails one by one (she’s an OC) and trusted her guts that this Roy Lee is really the asskickin’ producer and not some lunatic hoping she’s stupid enough to fly to Africa to smuggle drugs. The rest as they say is history.
No selling out, no compromise, Yam got there because of sheer talent.
Yam on the set of The Echo with Jesse Bradford
Yam on the set of The Echo with Jesse Bradford
Sigaw was retitled to Echo and has been released all over the world. How the movie turned out is something I will leave to history to decide and it is not the point of this article. The point is the respect that you have to give this guy for that animalistic fortitude he displayed for going out there and putting out the future of his ever precious Filipino male pride on the line. Hollywood is not a friendly place, it’s a dark galaxy filled with giant insecure and angry monsters dressed in Valentinos and Armanis armed with crazy technology. The ones with the biggest firepowers are the most stupid (and aren’t even aware of it) m0th3rfuck3rs who think their celebrity make them superior than everyone else.
Yam took care of business like Yoda took care of the force. His cast, his producer and his audience saw how he translated his original vision to a piece that will be appreciated by the whole world. And shit, did he represent. He is also not some celebrity with illusion of grandiosity and shows it by acting humble and preppy pink. He doesn’t make you want to vomit by not taking in any credit or by crediting everything to luck. He tells everyone it was hard work. Having the right people to support him helped but more than anything, hard work.
Just to be extra awesome, he also became the first Filipino director to receive 100% financial grant by National Geographic for a TV special.
NGC Poster about MV Dona Paz directed by Yam Laranas
MV Dona Paz - Nearly one fourth the size of the ill-fated Titanic. Almost 5000 souls lost in the world's worst peace-time maritime disaster.
Sadly there are a lot of Filipinos who look down on Filipino films. I say just shut up. When Echo was shown here not enough people showed up. He got more in Europe and North America than in his own country. If you’re not watching our films you ain’t got no right to comment or criticize. Only people like Yam who work their effin’ ass off to make films and people who spend their hard-earned peso to support people like them got a say.

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