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Diving into Deeper Truths: Sparking Conversations About Martial Law

Poster of “This is How Her Home Was Built” Impact Event
Poster of This is How Her Home Was Built impact event

Guest post by Aly Suico

Filipino director and producer Jaime Morados makes films tied to a bigger purpose. Raised with a love for history and the discipline to always ask questions, Jaime turned to crafting stories that unearth truths long buried in the interest of those in power. Driven by his advocacy of combatting historical distortion, his films Protacio and the Bum (2021) and Ang Pagliligtas sa Dalagang Bukid (Saving the Country Maiden, 2022) are inspired by his desire to make history accessible and relevant to the younger generations.

Under EngageMedia’s Tech Tales Youth film collection and mentorship program, Jaime was introduced to impact filmmaking by producing and distributing This Is How Her Home Was Built. Jaime shares his journey using film to create more impact for his advocacies.

On bridging gaps

Jaime has always had a good history teacher.  In the 7th grade, his teacher would encourage the telling of stories not much taught in general Philippine history lessons. Because of this approach to truth-telling, Jaime was inspired to read critically into the major narratives seen in Philippine culture and politics today and, more importantly, to do something about it.

Watching Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Filipino historical classic Jose Rizal at the age of nine exposed Jaime to the harsh truth of Philippine history and society under Spanish rule. Yet these truths weren’t as widely known as he thought they would be. This realisation helped pave the way for the role of impact filmmaking in the practice of truth-telling. 

He attributes this to his family environment which welcomes open discussions and his early love and appreciation for history. Through conversations with family and friends, Jaime quickly realized that not all truths make it to the surface. More lies and half-truths have become the foundation for current narratives. The rise of historical revisionism in recent years adds to the decay of the Filipino collective memory. This was an easy trigger for Jaime to get even more involved, leading up to his first time participating as a Filipino citizen by voting in the 2022 elections. 

On truth-seeking impact

Poster of the Tech Tales Youth film This is How Her Home Was Built

In making films with advocacy, an easy pitfall is to craft stories purely on emotion, with a loose grasp of the facts at hand. But it is also just as easy to depend on data that prove one’s arguments while inadvertently shedding less light on the faces and stories behind the numbers. Impact production aims to improve storytelling practices by balancing both sides of the scale.

Making the impact film “This Is How Her Home Was Built” was Jaime’s way of facing this present reality and letting the burden of truth-seeking off of just one man’s shoulders. He transformed fear into motivated action.

One of Jaime’s biggest fears is to lose the Filipino people’s stories to fake news and disinformation. Throughout the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, it’s as if the stories of Jaime’s history teacher were playing out right in front of his eyes. With truths forced to stay hidden, two ruling political families worked together to weave a historical narrative that would put them back into power. And to no surprise, the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. emerged again, with his son Pres. Bongbong Marcos won the presidency in 2022. Jaime’s fear grew even more when he saw that even his family members had fallen victim to narratives spread by the ruling class.

In response, Jaime needed to equip himself with information. One of the first activities the Tech Tales Youth filmmakers participated in was the 2023 Digital Rights Asia-Pacific Assembly (DRAPAC), a first for him. He shared that the experience of sitting through three to four learning sessions per day was a conscious effort for him, yet it naturally drained him. The information presented exposed him to real stories about digital rights all over the Asia Pacific. For a creative who just recently dipped his feet into the bigger world of the advocacy sector, this experience brewed an underlying guilt inside him. He figured that this had to be transformed into something productive: a short film.

Making the impact film This Is How Her Home Was Built was Jaime’s way of facing this present reality and letting the burden of truth-seeking come off of just one man’s shoulders. He transformed fear into motivated action. Jaime’s creative process involved him stepping out of his comfort as a narrative filmmaker into more experimental territory to tackle fake news and disinformation while telling a story of a young girl struggling with identity amidst distorted stories of her origin. Like the Trojan Horse, Jaime used an eye-catching set design, stop-motion animation, and symbolic hand choreography complemented with poetic narration and playful sound design to engage audiences about the dangers of historical revisionism and manipulation, presenting personal fears as a visual roller coaster ride.

On realising the connections

Distribution is important in the whole impact process. As a student at MINT College, Jaime designed a two-day film screening activity entitled ‘Changing Narratives’ last April 2 and 4, 2024. 

For the distribution aspect of his impact production process, he drew from the idea that to reach younger audiences with little interest about that horrific era in Philippine history, filmmakers should showcase films that tackle the topic from a different creative perspective. This prompted Jaime to tap filmmaker Stephen Lopez and his short film Hito to be part of the showcase. With his experimental and comedic approach to historical manipulation, this was a perfect pair to Jaime’s film.

Jaime partnered with the artist-activist organisation DAKILA – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism and its educational arm, Active Vista to set up the film screening and discussion for his film. DAKILA and Active Vista’s campaign on Narrative Change was instrumental in informing the design of the post-screening discussion and setting the context for the necessity of challenging the dominant narratives that fueled historical distortion.

Most of the audience consisted of students pursuing majors in film and music. During the discussion, many of them shared how the films helped them establish a connection between their Filipino identity and the ongoing distortion of their country’s history. Jaime observed that the students were well-informed and not as ignorant as one may assume of individuals belonging to a more privileged class. The films and discussion provided an excellent platform for the students to understand how their individual identities were directly linked to the broader context of Philippine history and society. 

The students were amazed by the creativity showcased in Stephen Lopez’s film, which dealt with a serious issue like the presidential victory of Marcos Jr. while also being playful. The film challenged the boundaries and limitations that the students had grown accustomed to in traditional filmmaking and distribution methods. The event made them aware of their films’ various possibilities and paths. They realised that they didn’t have to wait until they were industry professionals to start taking action, as demonstrated by Jaime, a fellow MINT College student.

 

Changing Narratives Impact Event
Alex Poblete of DAKILA
Students watch “Hito” by Filipino Director Stephen Lopez

MINT professors also showed interest in the idea of impact distribution and expressed their wonder that such a practice existed not just for young filmmakers, but for educational institutions. One professor discussed how they could use the films in their teaching and tap organisations to help initiate similar events. The event successfully created a bridge between professors and creatives like Jaime and Stephen and NGOs like EngageMedia, DAKILA, and Active Vista.

The impact production process, from strategy-building to distribution, was a unique experience for Jaime. Impact producers and advocacy experts collaborated with him throughout the process, helping ground him as a filmmaker on the “why” of his impact journey.

Screening of Jaime’s film “This is How Her Home Was Built” at MINT College.

On what strengthens beliefs to build the actual bridges

A good measure for impact productions is to see how far and how deep films and their impact activities can go. Another measure is the impact of the project on the filmmakers themselves.

Jaime shared about how much the Tech Tales Youth program changed his practice as a filmmaker. As a filmmaker with an advocacy, the whole experience reinforced his resolve to stand firm in his beliefs. It constantly taught him to strengthen his voice for his advocacies while pursuing his love for filmmaking.

Jaime plans to continue organising film screenings with younger audiences. He shares that the Tech Tales Youth program came at the right time for him in his trajectory as a filmmaker and advocate, seeing that he’s set to leave student life soon. Jaime is now working on forming second-liners within his school that would carry on the impact he’s helped spark. Through the experience of impact distribution within his home community, Jaime gained a direct view of how the conversations he wants to start can pan out. With this in mind, Jaime directed his efforts toward senior high and college students with his impact distribution plan.

Beyond his immediate community, Jaime is also targeting film organisations within Manila to screen his film. He knows this audience holds the creative potential to produce impactful work. With screenings and discussions, he sees his role as the small nudge directing them toward their awakening as critical and nationalistic storytellers.

In the long term, Jaime envisions circling back to where it all started for him: in the classroom. Tapping teachers of history, media, and information literacy is a practical next step in making films like this a tool for education.

Sparking conversations was the main goal Jaime set out to achieve with his impact journey, and that’s a necessary first step before diving even deeper to unearth more of the Filipino people’s truths. The Tech Tales Youth program opened up more ways for Jaime to approach advocacy filmmaking, and he’s only just struck the surface. He admits he’s still in the process of finding his way, and in doing so, he sees there is no “one” formula to tie it all together. Yet amidst all this, Jaime holds steadfast to his “why” and is excited to do this professionally outside of school.

Jaime recommends watching the film To Calm The Pig Inside for those starting their impact filmmaking. His love for film and history was also ignited by reading four essential books:

See Jaime’s Video4Change Impact Campaign Builder below: