Manila Metro, an independent feature length movie co-written by Caymanian filmmaker Frank Flowers, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in late January. The film won the coveted World Cinema Audience Award.
Frankie was not actually present during the awards ceremony as another momentous event was taking place at the same time: his daughter was being born.
He is, nonetheless, delighted that the film, co-written and directed by his long-time friend and colleague Sean Ellis, an Academy Award nominee, received such an accolade.
Metro Manila tells the story of Oscar Ramirez and his family who flee their impoverished life in the rice fields of the northern Philippines, seeking a better life in Manila. The capital’s bustling intensity quickly overwhelms them and they fall prey to the rampant manipulations of hardened locals.
In order to sustain his family, Oscar must make some tough choices.
The film portrays the desperation of life in the city’s slums, but it also a tense thriller and memorable drama.
Frankie took some time out to tell Weekender a little more:
What inspired you to write a screenplay set in the Philippines?
Sean was inspired from his travels to the Philippines. When we originally spoke about the concept, it really sparked my interest because I have heard so many stories about Manilla from people in Cayman.
The script was written in English, and the actors translated it into Tagalog for filming.
What does winning this award mean for you and for the movie? Will we be seeing it at the cinema in Cayman?
The award was amazing for the film. We are planning a screening in Cayman later this year and look forward to everyone enjoying the movie as much as the Sundance audiences did.
When did you decide you wanted to work in the movie industry and why?
It has always been a dream of mine. After high school, I worked at CITN where I got to see a bit behind the scenes of how stories are told with cameras and editing. The University of Southern California helped craft those skills which were vital to being successful in this industry.
You were the screen writer for Metro Manila but in the past you have also produced and directed movies – what aspect of making movies do you most enjoy and what are the greatest challenges?
Working on a film in any facet is always exciting. When you direct, it takes more out of you because of the time commitment. I enjoy all aspects for different reasons.
Writing is rewarding because you can afford to be more indulgent at times, i.e. one can spend a year writing a story as opposed to filming, where money, time and resources are more limited.
Writing with a partner takes the isolation out of the process, you can spitball ideas or flesh things out together as opposed to being locked into a document by yourself.
Any plans to make another movie in Cayman?
Actually, the approach Sean took to directing this film inspired me to maybe do something back home in the coming years.
Technology has changed drastically, which means you can create beautiful, cinematic stories for a fraction of what it cost just a few years ago.
On Metro, he had a very small crew with a lot of local support which made the impossible achievable – that felt like a great model to bring to Cayman.