Living in his arthouse dream

Photo by Jermaine Tulbo
Photo by Jermaine Tulbo

JERMAINE Tulbo, a budding indie Mindanaon filmmaker, has held fast to his passion, igniting a fire. His journey has cast him into a poetic, enchanting spotlight that only a select few could ever hope to reach. 

Drawing inspiration from visionary and legendary directors like Guillermo del Toro, Martin Scorsese, Lino Brocka, and Dwein Baltazar, Jermaine, a proud 24-year-old Dabawenyo, earned his film degree at Meridian International College in Manila, Philippines. 

His cinematic repertoire spans comedic satire, coming-of-age drama, and the delicate art of exploring grief and letting go. His ardor for storytelling through film was kindled during his high school years.

“Nag-start ang akoang love sa film tung high school tungod sa mga projects na ginapabuhat sa atoa. Hantod sa nagpadayon nalang sya (My love for film began back in high school, thanks to the projects we were assigned to do. It just continued from there),” he recounted.

Undeterred by his Davao roots, Jermaine pursued his dream of becoming a renowned filmmaker and set his sights on the City of Dreams after graduating from Senior High School. 

During his four-year tenure in college, he actively engaged in various film productions, deftly balancing his academic pursuits with work.

"Wala man gud film program sa Davao and sa Manila, daghan film courses didtoa. Wala mi balay didtoa since taga Davao gyud ko and wala pud ko nag regret because this is my passion. While ga eskwela ko, ga-apil sab ko sa mga production. So eskwela sya and part-time simultaneously (Since there wasn't a film program in Davao and plenty of film courses in Manila, I had no choice but to go there. I don't regret it because this is my passion. While studying, I also joined film productions. It was both school and part-time work)," he said.

At such a young age, he received numerous awards and selections for his several short films across various regional film festivals. His thesis film, "a crab from a conch shell" (stylized in lowercase), currently boasts multiple honors, including best director. 

He epitomizes the "gifted artist," living out his "cinephile" dream as his films have garnered recognition nationally and globally.

He has received acclaim at the Mindanao Film Festival 2021, secured two film selections at Cinemalaya 2020, won second best short film at Cinekabalen 2021, participated in Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino - Sine Isla 2021, won second best film at Cinema Culinarya 2022, earned the Audience Choice in FDCP's Pelikulaya 2022, and achieved his first international selection at the Wasteland Film Festival in California USA, the Festival Internacional de Cinema Escolar de Alvorada in Brazil and Student World Impact Film Festival in New York, USA.

While currently employed as a graphic designer in a well-established film production company in the country, Jermaine, along with his team, ninetyeightpixels, has crafted the short film "Ang Pamilya Maguol" for the Sine Kabataan Short Film Festival in celebration of the 3rd Philippine Film Industry Month (PPIMM) organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).

The film revolves around the estranged Maguol family: Ana Marie, a perfectionist mother; Randy, a disheartened failed musician and father; Ana Lou, a TikTok sensation daughter; and Jopet, a son with an unusual proclivity. 

Surprisingly, even during the wake of their Lola Gloria, who passed away from laughing too heartily, Jopet continues to indulge his unusual habit. Fed up with her son's behavior during the wake, Ana Marie scolds him, prompting Jopet to seek solace in Lola Gloria's room, where he discovers a secret letter addressed to him. The letter sets in motion a journey uncovering family secrets and deeply ingrained issues, resonating with Filipino families facing grief and loss.

Jermaine also recommended a selection of must-watch Filipino films that have significantly influenced Philippine cinema today: "Himala" (Ishmael Bernal, 1982); "Insiang" (Lino Brocka, 1976); "Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag" (Lino Brocka, 1976); and "Gusto kita with all my hypothalamus" (Dwein Baltazar, 2018).

Regarding his transition to full-length films, he shared his intention to create a film before embarking on that journey, emphasizing that critics often refer back to a filmmaker's debut work. 

He also encouraged aspiring young filmmakers to persevere in their love for cinema and the art of storytelling.

"Just do not give up your passion and continue to practice it. Filmmaking is costly but it will all be worth it," he said.

Davao now boasts a roster of filmmakers, but Jermaine's distinctive approach, style, and masterful direction within the realm of arthouse cinema set him apart. These are his strengths, his innate talents. His past and present works stand as a testament to the immense creativity and artistry required to create a truly unique and unprecedented film.

To explore Jermaine's extensive filmography and output, you can follow him on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook (Jermaine Tulbo). DEF

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