x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

The Dubai-based director behind a brief basketball diaries

Ferdinand Godinez talks to Patrick Fronda, who is representing the UAE in a global film prize.

Patrick Fronda, the director of Pump It. Courtesy Glaiza Seguia
Patrick Fronda, the director of Pump It. Courtesy Glaiza Seguia

For three years, the 32-year-old Patrick Fronda had toyed with the idea of joining the 48 Hour Film Project. But it was only last year that the Filipino multimedia engineer and Murdoch University Dubai instructor found time to participate in the annual event staged in different cities around the world.

The goal, according to Fronda, was simply to have the opportunity to compete with some of the country’s aspiring filmmakers. His expectations were so low that he showed up on the day of the awards in casual clothes.

By the end of the evening, Fronda’s seven-minute film, Pump It, had won five awards: Best Use of Character, Best Writing, Best Directing, Audience Award and Best Film. By topping the Best Film category, Pump It clinched the honour to represent the UAE in Filmapalooza 2014, which takes place from Thursday to Monday in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Shoot and go

Launched in 2001 by the filmmaker Mark Ruppert, the 48 Hour Film Project challenges participants to create and finish a short film in just two days, based on an assigned genre, main character, a prop and a dialogue line. Representatives visit different cities around the globe to bring the unusual concept to interested filmmakers. The winners are then pitted against each other at Filmapalooza, with the champion earning the right to be screened at the Cannes Film ­Festival.

Making the best of it

The competition encourages resourcefulness on the part of the participants. Fronda made the most of what he had: with no crew in tow, he enlisted the help of his good friend and university colleague Wilbert Sayson to assist him in piecing the film together.

“It was already three in the morning when my concept for the film was finished. But I still didn’t have a setting and an actor to portray the lead role of a referee,” he ­recalls.

Fronda was determined to make the story hit closer to home: “I wanted to make it very Filipino.

“We went to Satwa, because it looks like Manila in some way. It is also very timely that the character assigned to me is a referee; that gave me an idea to set my story on a basketball court and as we all know Filipinos are naturally fond of the game.”

Fronda was given permission to shoot a league’s basketball game, with the organisers allowing the film’s referee protagonist to join the players on the court to call the shots.

“We were allotted 10 minutes to film the sequences that I needed,” he says.

Those few minutes would be enough to jump-start the movie’s plot of a referee who encountered an unusual accident while officiating a basketball game. What followed was a series of hilarious scenes that both delighted and puzzled the audience and contest judges.

Filipino humour

Fronda kept it simple, using only one character throughout the film and was cautious not to cram unnecessary elements into the film.

A fan of Philippine cinema, Fronda drew inspiration from the brand of comedy popularised by Filipino comic icons such as Dolphy and Chiquito. Fronda himself admits that the humour that he long admired from the late comedians may be viewed as outdated today.

“But I am really a fan and I would love to show that in my film,” he says. “I know how to make Filipinos laugh because I know our kind of humour. So the challenge was to make people laugh regardless of nationality, and the majority of the viewers were foreigners. So imagine my surprise when I saw and heard them laughing.

“I guess I made the right call.”

• For more information on the 48 Hour Film Project, visit www.48hourfilm.com

artslife@thenational.ae