On Rob Jara’s Tila (Monsoons)

tilaThe current pandemic, which keeps most of us indoors, gives a new shade of meaning to Rob Jara’s Tila (Monsoons). In real life, we are faced with a virus that’s killed hundreds of thousands all over the world and made us rethink our whole lives over. In the movie, Rob Jara locates his story (maybe) not in a distant future but in an alternate yet familiar present: a Philippines where it’s always raining, where our dry and wet seasons had been reduced to an unending rainy days with varying levels of rainfall throughout the year.

“The rainfall will be kept at Level 3 for the rest of August”, a PAGASA forecast announces on the radio. The sun never comes out, the archipelago always hidden under overcast and nimbus clouds. Like the current pandemic, this fucked-up climate also brought up a new normal: illegal vitamins, expensive bulalo soup, private flood control companies, and maybe, expensive umbrellas. The neverending rain lasted for years and years that there are people who were born without seeing the sun nor experience a sunny day.

Among those are the two main characters in the story: the flood control worker and the call center agent. In one scene, the guy looks up to the sky and asks a co-worker (who’s older than him) what was it like seeing the sun. In another, the call center agent chats with the security guard in the convenience store about how it was before and after the climate changed.

Framed as an unlikely love story, an impending romance after a meet-cute in a convenience store, the movie is also able translate some of our present problems into a (not really) futuristic setting. Like for instance, a college diploma hanging on the guy’s wall tells of underemployment. The company he’s working for is privately owned. Despite the high demand for flood control, there’s a mass layoff near the end of the film. Since it was made in 2014, the movie somehow, predicted a future where “endo” has not ended yet.

Ironically, the flood control worker lives in a house that’s perpetually flooded, sleeps in a bed that more or less doubles as flotation device which may or may not save him from drowning from rainwater while asleep. While call center jobs relatively pays more, there’s a scene where the girl has to work two shifts since her co-worker is going to take a vacation in another country. That her company offers travel packages to other countries “where it’s more fun and sunny” somehow mirrors the gloomy state or lack of job opportunities here as compared overseas.

With limited running time, Tila wasn’t really able to flesh out its will they or won’t they plot—if it’s really that it’s aiming for. But it was able to say a lot. Technically, you’d be impressed on how the filmmakers were able to achieved the movie’s constantly gloomy look. While watching the movie, I thought of how shooting the movie on rainy days must have been a logistics nightmare. It turns out, the rain was actually integrated digitally unto the frames.

4 thoughts on “On Rob Jara’s Tila (Monsoons)”

  1. It’s embarrassing to admit, but the alternate-setting nature of this short film totally went over my head. I was just excited to see the original after enjoying the ‘Purplechickens/Casanova cut’, and, inevitably, I was disappointed. Well, my fault, I expected it to deliver the same mood as the music video, which of course was a foolish expectation. (Hindi na natuto sa ‘Ang Kwento Nating Dalawa, Quest/Walang Hanggan cut’.)

    Regardless, I also just want to share, as someone who’s lived through ten rainy seasons in Quezon City, that this film (or its MV version) totally captures the feel of the city at this time of year. (I mean in past years, because of course this year has been so different in every way.)

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    1. You mean you expected more from the love story? There’s actually more in that music video than what’s in the film. There are scenes which were not in the movie. And based on its Facebook page, it seems like it was promoted as that, with it’s cold, rainy, </3 feels.

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      1. Not really the love story, but the sad-yet-comforting feel of the music video. It’s just the music I think. The film, if I recall correctly, is a lot quieter, with not much music for most of the scenes.

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      2. Yes, music/songs were used only near the end of the film. I also get that sad-comforting feel of the MV. Saw it when it came out years ago (only saw the short film last month). What I couldn’t figure out then was how were song’s title (Cassanova) and lyrics connected to the MV or the short film. Turns out, they’re not connected at all — the song is supposed to be about Gabby Concepcion or someone like him, The Purplechickens’ version of “Pogi” (Da Pulis) or “Mahirap Maging Pogi” (Andrew E).

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