by Pablo Tariman
Director Mac Alejandre and Alfred Vargas on the set of Tagpuan.
In this Zoom presscon for Mac Alejandre’s Tagpuan, everyone (including actors and producer) tries very hard to capture the essence of the film.
They have had enough of rom-coms, fantasy is out of the question and for once, they decided to film something not always visible to the human eye.
In a way, Tagpuan is about assorted journeys of the characters (Alfred Vargas as businessman, Iza Calzado as ex-wife and Shaina Magdayao as new acquaintance and possibly future love).
The setting is Manila, Hong Kong and New York. The germ of the story was conceptualized in New York by director and scriptwriter (Ricky Lee). They have an idea for the film but for some reasons, it was something they could not easily put down in paper. The brainstorming became tricky. They were treading on possible scenarios (shades of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter for one) but they want something not easily categorized.
And so it became apparent that Tagpuan would dwell on journeys of the heart, loneliness and emptiness in the big city, looking at the past without hurting and looking at the prospects of the future. `
Simply put, it is another story of the human condition as acted out by three protagonists (Vargas, Calzado and Magdayao) with different past to confront.
“I like to think Tagpuan is everyone’s story,” said Alejandre. “It is something we all go through. More than making a feel-good movie, I decided it would be a film that will serve as mirror of heart and mind as seen from the past and present of the characters.”
There is the adventurous Tanya (Magdayao), the recalcitrant businessman whose marriage ended obviously for good and there is the ex-wife (Calzado) who is determined to move on and face what life had to offer after a closed chapter of her life.
Can this kind of film find resonance in the time of the pandemic?
Alejandre said his film answers what many were doing during the pandemic. “Let’s face it, we became more reflective during the lockdown, we were forced to evaluate what counts and what doesn’t and we were constantly trying to find our equilibrium. Then we had to face the fact that we have to confront a new set of values we used to ignore during our ‘normal’ times. I like to think that this film has become even more relevant in these trying times.”
Vargas, who is also a Quezon City congressman, admits he went through several journeys in his own life.
Early youth found him backpacking and heading for unknown destinations to find himself.
“I am like that too,’ added Magdayao who said her life is an open book. “I like to go places when relationships end and like my character Tanya, I tend to be adventurous. I try out new things while coping with an uncertain life.”
Calzado pointed out life need not be about grand moments. “At certain points in your life, you get lost, you are forever trying to find answers in personal questions and you are forever trying to find a new sense of purpose. I like films that explore these aspects of our life.”
Where does the director come in to sort out various personal journeys?
Alejandre said the challenge of the film is pinning down the emotion not easily seen or defined. “When you set out to do a film, you are confronted with many things. It’s like solving a puzzle and evaluating the dimensions and adding extra color if need be. I believe the director’s role is to orchestrate and find that magical moment in filmmaking not always easy to capture.”
(Produced under Alternative Vision Cinemas, Tagpuan is an official entry in the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival directed by Mac Alejandre and starring Alfred Vargas, Iza Calzado and Shaina Magdayao. Watch the film in this link: https://upstream.ph/movies/tagpuan/)