Ida Anita del Mundo comes from a family of filmmakers and artists: her father, Clodualdo del Mundo Jr., is one of the Philippines’ most revered screenwriters, filmmakers, and authors. Her grandfather, Clodualdo del Mundo Sr., was an author, journalist, and a comic book artist who founded several avant garde literary organizations. Like most children growing up in such illustrious families, Ida Anita did not want to become a filmmaker, but then she met the T’boli people, the indigenous peoples of South Cotabato in Southern Mindanao, and was moved enough to want to make a film that would tell their story. Hence, K’na, the Dreamweaver was born. The film that released in 2014 will now be playing at the 13th Native Spirit Indigenous Film Festival in London. #DirectedbyWomen caught up with Ida Anita before the festival.
DBW: How did you get into filmmaking?
IADM: Very reluctantly. My father is a filmmaker, so I really didn’t see myself going into the same industry. But, when I encountered the T’boli people and was moved to tell their story, I realized the best way to capture their culture—the visual aspect of their art as well as their music, dance, and language—would be through film.
DBW: What is it like growing up with a filmmaker father, in a family of generational artists and academics?
IADM: Growing up in an artistic family, going into the arts was encouraged, which is not the case for many aspiring artists whose parents may not see a career in the arts as a viable option. Early on I was exposed to a wide range of foreign films, we would go to museums regularly, and I loved to read.
The first movie my parents brought me to was Platoon, when I wasn’t even a year old. I didn’t study film in college or take any workshops—K’na was my very first foray into filmmaking. What I learned about filmmaking I learned from watching films.
I was born in Iowa City, Iowa, USA and we stayed there until I was 8 years old, but my parents made sure that I knew how to speak Filipino and that I was proud of our culture.
DBW: Did you feel the pressure to pick up the mantle?
IADM: There wasn’t really much pressure since our style and stories are very different. And my father is very supportive of my film projects.
DBW: Why a film about the T’bolis? How were their stories a part of your childhood?
IADM: The first time I encountered the T’boli people was when I covered the T’nalak Festival in 2012 as a journalist. It’s a long story, but basically we got stranded in the middle of the mountains and had to spend the night in one of the more remote indigenous villages. Most of the T’bolis are already very modern, but this particular community still lived in the middle of the mountain with no electricity or running water. We were all sitting around in the cold and the dark, miserable, and suddenly one of the elders sat down in a corner and started playing the hegalong (two-stringed instrument). The other elders gathered around and they started singing and dancing and we forgot that we were stranded, cold, and hungry. Because of this, I felt a deeper connection with the T’boli people and wanted to tell their story beyond writing an article in the newspaper.
DBW: As a non-Indigenous person telling an Indigenous story, what are the biggest things you had to consider while making the film?
IADM: The major consideration, of course, is representation. I was very self aware of cultural appropriation and worked closely with the community to ensure the authenticity of the film.
Authenticity was the key concern of the whole team working on the film, from the Production Designer who did not use nails in constructing the set to be true to indigenous architectural techniques, to the actors who learned their lines in the T’boli language.
DBW: What were you most scared of, and what was the most exciting part of the process of making the film?
IADM: Since it was my first time, everything about the filmmaking process was scary and exciting at the same time. I was most scared of leading a team of professionals who had more experience than me. But they were all very supportive of my vision as a filmmaker. It was particularly fulfilling to hear the dreamweaver we were working with say at the end of our shoot: “Now we are dreaming together.”
DBW: You are also a journalist. How does that affect/impact your filmmaking practice?
IADM: Both filmmaking and journalism involve storytelling and both involve truth-saying. I get to travel a lot and meet a lot of people because of my work as a journalist, so many of the seeds for my films come from real experiences and interactions on the field.
DBW: Who are your favourite women filmmakers?
IADM: I don’t really have favorite filmmakers, but some particular films stand out to me—Ildikó Enyedi’s On Body and Soul, Niki Caro’s Whale Rider, Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, Hannah Espia’s Transit, among others.
DBW: What’s next for you?
IADM: I continue to write for Philippine Star and now I teach film at De La Salle-College of St Benilde. I’m working on a few scripts that will hopefully see production soon!
Bedatri studied Literature and Cinema in New Delhi and New York, and loves writing on gender, popular culture, films, and most other things. She lives in New York, where she eats cake, binge watches reruns of old TV shows, and makes notes about strangers she meets on the subway. You can give her a holler on Twitter @Bedatri and read her writing at www.bedatri.com.