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Filipino director on his new esports film, why he loves making horror movies, and surviving as a filmmaker in his country

April 9, 20245 Mins Read

The tale is told “from the perspective of a talented new player, Hazel [Loisa Andalio], who works in a struggling internet cafe to support her family. Her streaming goes viral and she is chosen to represent the Philippines in an international esports tournament in Hong Kong.

“It’s a story of self-discovery and pursuing your dreams – and features the Filipino-made, first-person shooter game, Project Xandata. Its makers collaborated with us and we’re honoured to feature Filipino game-development talent.”

Loisa Andalio as Hazel in a still from Friendly Fire.

Such a narrative departure is considerable for Red, 32, famed for his crime thrillers and horror movies.

“I enjoy horror because it’s a director’s medium, it’s very ‘film language’ and visual,” he says. “I’m not big into dialogue and ‘big drama’, I enjoy horror’s structuring and technique.

“And it’s a strong genre locally. In the Philippines, romance and horror do really well.”

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Not doing quite so well, it seems, are the moviemakers themselves.

“The reality in the Philippines, as a filmmaker in a Third World country,” says Red, “is that if you plan to make feature films exclusively it’s difficult, so a lot of filmmakers are forced to do two or three movies a year.

“If you do the slower, grant-festival circuit, with more art house films, that’s a four-year cycle, so you have to do something else on the side: television commercials, or shooting prime-time series for local channels.

“Or you might have a different speciality, like editing other people’s films, or you’re a cinematographer,” he says. “It’s tough; with the economy and the film budgets here, you have to do a lot.”

Harvey Bautista as Ryan in a still from Friendly Fire.

One senses, however, that whatever the difficulties, Red would have proved successful in his field.

The eldest son of celebrated experimental filmmaker (and Cannes Short Film Palme d’Or award winner) Raymond Red, he directed his first short, The Threshold, at 15. That took him to Hanover, Germany, and his inaugural international film festival.

He directed his first feature, Rekorder, at 21; that won him the Best New Director Award at 2014’s Vancouver International Film Festival “and became the first Philippines movie to be distributed internationally by Netflix. So that started our Netflix relationship,” says Red. “I was lucky, everything fell into place and we had a foot in the door. So whenever I make a new film we have that access to them.

“They were also very supportive of my other films they were streaming, but now Amazon Prime is more aggressive in the region. That’s why my movies like Neomanila and Deleter are on Prime, not Netflix.”

Coleen Garcia as Sonya in a still from Friendly Fire.

Psychological thriller Deleter (2022), Red modestly fails to mention, bagged seven awards, including those for best picture and best director at the 2022 Metro Manila Film Festival.

While recognising that his famous father has also been “really supportive”, Red relates some of the things Raymond didn’t do that might have counted against him later.

“I appreciate that while I was growing up, he never went on set. He never helped me out and that was for my own good,” he says. “I liked it that people wouldn’t think, ‘His dad shot that for him’ or ‘His dad produced that.’

“I found my own way and I guess that’s what makes my identity unique.”

Loisa Andalio as Hazel in a still from Friendly Fire.

But with bona fides now established and Red’s own Evolve Studios thriving – pandemic-delayed HBO Asia series Halfworlds is just one of its continuing projects – father and son are free to plan joint assignments.

“Me and my dad joke around and discuss a lot,” says Red. “We’re like buddies, because the age gap isn’t so big [Raymond is 59] and we drink together and we’re very frank with each other.

“He started an underground Super 8 movement in the 80s and made a lot of experimental films in the 90s, but never tried making feature-length films for a wide audience.

“I’ve been telling him maybe we can collaborate one day and he can be the cinematographer,” he says, “because he’s a director and cinematographer; I’m not a professional director of photography. He’s open to it.”

Red won seven awards for his psychological thriller Deleter at the 2022 Metro Manila Film Festival.

Nor is that the extent of keeping it in the family. “My younger brother Nikolas is now my editor and my cousin Rae is a co-writer on a lot of my works. And my uncle Daniel, who passed away recently, sadly, was the production designer on two of my features. So we’re a whole family of filmmakers,” he says.

And what of that name? “Red is a Spanish name, but people always thought it was a screen name,” he says. “Mikhail, well – I was born in 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president. My parents picked that!”

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