EVERYBODY is made of stories. Every inch of experience, every moment of truth is ingrained in one’s lifeline in forms of stories that make us who we are. The love for storytelling, however, is a different matter at hand; storytellers prefer to relay stories to inspire and not to simply live in all of it.
One of these storytellers is Cebu’s very own filmmaker Ara Chawdhury, director and writer of Miss Bulalacao, the controversial story with a seemingly mashed-up genre of comedy, drama and science fiction. Miss Bulalacao was part of the recently concluded Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival and won Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress.
Having always been attracted to the stage, Ara confessed that her love for storytelling started at the age of nine when she saw a ballet performance at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. “That was what struck my imagination. I played with dolls at home. My brother and I would play and pretend to be other people. We did play acting with our dolls but then it wasn’t enough for me. I’ve always wanted to tell stories. I was already visually oriented when it came to storytelling; I would end up drawing pictures of the stories I wanted to tell,” said Ara.
“It just changed over the years when I started adapting to different mediums. In high school I started writing my stories down. At that time, I thought I would become a novelist. And then in college, I met a bunch of people who liked to make audio-visual presentations. So I also started thinking about integrating my stories into film, and I also auditioned for short films and then I started to see what it was like on set. We also had TV production classes in college. And because of all of the layers, like the music, cinematography and production design I realized that this was the medium that could merge all of my interests.”
Revolving around the idea of the essence of womanhood portrayed by a homosexual character, her most recent film was not only satirical but at the same time political, hinting at truths while being fictional. When asked if the answer of the lead character regarding the essence of womanhood reflected her own views, Ara answered: “No, I don’t believe that motherhood is truly the essence of being a woman. What about women who will never become mothers because they’re sterile? What about the women who don’t want to be mothers like those who think that if they become mothers they won’t be able to pursue their passions? What if the woman who would discover the cure to cancer had to spend years and years in the laboratory beyond her fertility years? Is she any less of a woman? For me it’s very limited. But I think that it hints at another truth. Motherhood is also a symbol of grace, and the essence of motherhood for me is grace. For me there are two governing forces in the world which is Will and Grace. And if Will is masculine, Grace is feminine. So the entire movie is about grace and Dodong (the lead character) is full of grace,” shares Ara.
As a proud mother herself, Ara admitted that she has never felt more empowered than after the moment she gave birth to her son Malaya.
To end, here is her story.
“I gave birth in the water, and we didn’t cut the umbilical cord until it severed days after. There’s a no home birthing ordinance as per Department of Health. Before I was even romantically involved with anyone, I was already interested in birthing because my grandmother died during labor and then my elder sister also died days after she was born. It was a very scary thing for me. But I really like children so I wanted to know everything I needed to know about giving birth and the pain involved,” she shared.
“While I was pregnant, I exercised and did yoga. It was one of the most empowering moments of my life and it really taught me how to be strong. My whole body was aching, but I sang through it. The water really helped. After that I felt that I could take on the world.”