I first heard about him from my Ateneo students. To be exact, I heard about Los Otros, a place in Katipunan where Ateneans hang out and work on their multimedia AV presentations. They told me that a filmmaker owns the place and asked me if I know the filmmaker, I said no, thinking he must be one of those student filmmakers who would come and go quietly just like the countless others before him.
Again, I heard about him but this time from a U.P. student who wanted to make a finals project about a young filmmaker who has been creating a buzz in the international scene with his films. The student spoke highly of the filmmaker and was obviously passionate to make a project about him. I though I should not get in the way of my student’s passion. At the end of the semester, I was reading a paper about Love/Otros Trilogy, John’s compilation of short films Tawidgutom, Salat, Kung Paano Kita Liligawan ng Hindi Kumakapit sa Iyo, and Gabi Noong Sinabi ni Ama Kong May Anak Siya sa Labas. With titles like these for films, I got intrigue. So I watched the Love/Otros Trilogy, and I was stunned at how personal and honest the films were. I felt I already know a lot of personal things about this guy I have not met and I felt uncomfortable about it.
I heard about him again when I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia doing research on digital cinema in Southeast Asia. My KL friends were gushing over a film, Todo Todo Teros, by a Filipino digital filmmaker. They asked me if I knew him, I felt ashamed that I did not. It was blessing that I was staying with friends, film scholar Benjamin Mckay and Malaysian filmmaker Chris Chan Fui. Benjamin had a copy of this film that everyone was talking about. I watched it on one of my sleepless nights in KL, and it kept me up all night. I have finally met John Torres through Todo Todo Teros.
When you watch a John Torres film, you just don’t watch the film; you get to know the man. He takes you into his world, treats you like a confidant, tells you his deepest secrets, exposes his devastating pain, soothes you with his calming voice, and reels you into his life and pains until you are hooked. You feel like a voyeur. You may feel uncomfortable knowing too much about someone you don’t know. It is like having a close encounter with someone you do not know personally. Whether you like it not, you are affected. Knowing so many personal things about him by watching his films, you might even end up being his friend.
I have finally met the man I’ve known through his films. I have finally heard the soothing voice first hand. He has a humble demeanor and a disarming air around him. He does not have the “I am a filmmaker” swagger. He is just a man who wants to share his life through his films. I have had my first close encounter with John Torres.
Written in March 2007.