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These Are the Three Best Filipino Movies, According to an Award-Winning Film Editor

Manet Dayrit, the president and CEO of Central Digital Lab talks about film restoration, what could be the next golden age of Philippine cinema, and Brad Pitt.
IMAGE MEDAL ELEPAÑO
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Manet Dayrit, the president and CEO of Central Digital Lab talks about film restoration, what could be the next golden age of Philippine cinema, and Brad Pitt.

Fill in the blank: if you were not a film editor, you would be…
I’ve always wanted to own and run a bed and breakfast. Maybe when I retire, I’ll finally do it.

What do you find particularly meaningful in your line of work?
Filmmaking has always been very fulfilling for me. Being able to entertain an audience, make them think, feel, or even change their point of view on something is very gratifying. But my latest passion and advocacy is film restoration. A hundred years of filmmaking in the Philippines has produced thousands of films. Unfortunately, due to the dismal state of film handling and archiving in the country, many of these films have deteriorated or even disintegrated. There is an imminent need for the surviving titles to be restored before they literally disappear. It is my advocacy right now to save as much of our film heritage as we can. For the past five years, my company, Central Digital Lab, in partnership with ABS-CBN, has been digitally restoring the film collection of the ABS-CBN Film Archives. So far, we have restored more than 120 films. These include Filipino classic films like Himala, Oro, Plata, Mata, Karnal, and other important titles by our great film masters. Being able to bring back these titles for a whole new generation to see and learn from has really brought purpose and meaning in what my team is doing.

Were there experiences, memories from your childhood and formative years that influenced your choice of career? What compelled you to enter the film industry?
When I was 8 years old, I saw Star Wars for the first time. I was in awe! How did they do that? Then I saw the making of the movie on TV. Ever since then, I knew that I wanted to be a filmmaker. That was the first year I stayed up to watch the Academy Awards. I remember going to bed formulating my own acceptance speech in case I ever won an award.

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What has been your proudest moment thus far?
Seeing the guys I’ve mentored through the years winning their own awards.

You’ve been honored with numerous awards for several films. What moment in your career are you most proud of?
I think I had good timing. We were pioneers in digital post-production in the Philippines when I started editing. So I was fortunate that I got to edit for a lot of great directors so early in my career. I edited for the likes of Peque Gallaga, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, and Carlitos Siguion-Reyna. I learned so much from all of them. Learning on the job from the masters of Philippine Cinema has been a privilege.


Greatest challenge of your career?
Breaking into the then very much male-dominated Film Editors Guild of the Philippines. When I started editing in the 1990s, the local film industry was dominated by male editors. I had to acquiesce to the condition of not being properly credited for editing work that I did on 10 films before being accepted into the Guild.

What quality or trait is most essential in your line of work?
Creativity and attention to detail.

What’s your favorite film?
Cinema Paradiso is still my all-time favorite. All the elements of the film are perfect! The script, acting, the romantic location, the beautiful cinematography, the lovely music of Ennio Marricone, and, of course, the editing. All these wonderful elements were masterfully directed by Giuseppe Tornatore into a very poignant film that warms my heart every time I see it.

Name your top three filipino movies.
Himala, directed by Ishmael Bernal, Oro, Plata, Mata, directed by Peque Gallaga, and Kisapmata, directed by Mike de Leon.

Best film you saw in the last year?
There were a lot of good films. But off the top of my head, Hacksaw Ridge was one of the best.

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Any filmmakers and actors that excite you?
The local independent film scene is very exciting right now. The young filmmakers are coming out with unique points of view and the international scene is taking notice. I have always been a staunch supporter of the filmmakers and the different local independent film festivals in various capacities. I sponsor some of the festivals, or I’m part of the selection committees or jury, and sometimes I even co-produce some of these films. It’s exciting to be a part of what could be the next golden age of Philippine Cinema.


What was the prettiest thing you saw today?
The iconic last shot of Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit.

Secret fantasies?
Well, I have been working on my Oscar acceptance speech since I was eight years old!

Best decision of your life?
Going to film school and following my passion.

Biggest mistake of your life?
I have no regrets. I think I’ve learned from all my experiences, both good and bad.

What do you hope to dream about?
Eight years ago, I was fortunate enough to be in the exclusive party after the premiere of Inglorious Bastards in Cannes. I was standing face to face with my ultimate film crush, Brad Pitt! He was right in front of me looking gorgeous as ever while we were having cocktails. He was animatedly telling a story to one of the other actors. I’m not sure exactly what he was saying because I was so awestruck that I was just standing there completely dumbfounded. I just stared at him, probably with my mouth open. How embarrassing. So tonight, I would like to dream that I’m finally receiving my Oscar and Brad Pitt comes up to me and congratulates me. I impress him so much with my fabulous ideas that he decides to produce my next film in the Philippines. Of course, we fall in love and grow old together while we run my quaint bed and breakfast.

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This story was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Town&Country.

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Manica C. Tiglao
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