Reviews & Features
"Are we in love?" the voice-over of Polish-American model Sofia (Ilona Struzik) declaims in her native tongue, as she stares out the airplane window. After which, scenes of Sofia with a Filipino man enjoying a secluded beach flutter in and out the screen, edited together like an elaborate and gorgeous wedding video except that Barbara de Biasi's downcast and melancholy musical score is playing instead of the latest Ed Sheeran love anthem.
Waves is a very small story told very seriously. It only offers a trace of a narrative, dealing instead in a suggested past between two people who are always staring longingly at each other. This could have been annoying, or trite the very least. But solid performances and smart direction allows the film to overcome those pitfalls. It is little more than a trifle, but it is a well-assembled one.
In the film Waves (dir. Don Frasco, Waverly Pictures: PHL 2013), a young man Ross (Baron Geisler) attempts to rekindle a romance with Sofia (Ilona Struzik). They travel to a remote island and navigate both their past and present, feeling their way through to determine if they have a future together.
In his debut film, Frasco shows both prowess and refinement in helming the audiovisual elements. It's been noted by critics and reviewers that like Terrence Malick, Frasco's frames of a sea's far horizon, of its rolling depths and of an island's solitidunous stretch of shores are poetic imagery in motion. Within the static, long shots, the moving imagery surrounds and immerses the viewers in emotional atmospheres identical to the internal natures of the two protagonists.
An interview with Cebuano director Don Gerardo Frasco about his fascination with cameras, his first movie, and how it almost did not come into reality. That mocie is called, Waves, a tumultuous love story between Ross (Baron Geisler) and Sofia (Ilona Struzik), and a battle between having to settle for indefinite happiness and the right thing to do. The movie is brilliantly pleasing to the eyes due to the perfect choices of locations made by Don, showcasing Palawan and Cebu.
With his movie finally out on demand in Vimeo and a commercial release by Viva in June this year, things are looking to be busier than usual for Don. I caught up with him recently to know how his passion for making movies began, the pains and wins on working on his first movie, as well as his plans this year.
On Friday, March 27, 2015, Waverly Productions, a Cebu-based, Indie filmhouse, hosted a special screening of their very first feature-length film entitled, “Waves,” in the New York Film Academy (NYFA) Theater in Burbank, California.
“Baron Geisler is a really good Filipino actor. He typically portrays antagonist roles in crime dramas and action movies in the Philippines. With his subtle intensity, I thought he’d do well in a romantic role. Ilona Struzik is a professional model that has worked in several countries. She’s a natural fit for the role..
Filmmaking in the Philippines has long been centred geographically around the island country’s capital Manila and a handful of large production companies. Film watching in the Philippines is an immensely popular activity and at the box office the Hollywood blockbuster is king, perhaps reflecting many Filipinos’ enthusiastic enjoyment of American pop culture. Locally produced films that do well are generally the romance and action pictures from large Manila based film studios. However, independent films without financial backing from large studios are now beginning to gain ground and challenge the capital’s geographic monopoly on film production without the support of the major Philippine film studios.
It’s no secret that networking is one of the most essential parts of becoming a successful filmmaker. At the New York Film Academy, we encourage students to find like-minded individuals who want to collaborate and are truly passionate about their craft. After all, you can’t create a film entirely by yourself. It’s a team effort.
Recently, a team of NYFA students put their efforts together and filmed the feature film Waves. The film was written by Scott Acornley, directed by Don Frasco, edited by Adrian Morales Ramos, and produced by Anna Skrypka and Don Frasco, all of whom graduated from NYFA.
In Don Gerardo Frasco's Waves, the notion of a peaceful island spirals into a cacophony of frustration and despair when two old friends try to rekindle their love for one another. With every scene, new challenges surface for our main characters to confront within the confines of their crumbling haven. The triumph of Waves is Frasco's ability to enrapture the trouble that exists in paradise. Sure, its Philippine environments look beautiful, but when propped up against the anguish of the story's lies and mistrust, they take on the feel of an awkward, unreachable dream for our disillusioned secret lovers.
Editor’s Note: Waves is now open in limited release and on VOD
A friend once asked whether that which wins Best Picture ought not also, by default, take Best Director, and—forgiving the technical ignorance—it’s not a difficult assumption to appreciate. That the idea of the respective Oscar statuettes being awarded to different films remains a relative novelty is indication enough that even at Hollywood’s heart, the strengths of a film and of its maker are thought of as all but inextricable. Thank goodness, then, for movies like Waves, a tedious film of tremendous directorial vision.
The film takes place on an indulgent private island, best suited for a romantic honeymoon. From crystal clear coves to white sandy beaches, the magnificent landscape acts more like a backdrop than a character in of itself. When compared to urban scenic films, like Manhattan or Swim Little Fish Swim, the chaos of New York City almost parallels and compliments the hysteria plaguing Isaac (Woody Allen) or Leeward (Dustin Guy Defa). Yet in Waves, the beauty of the island almost contradicts the ugliness of emotions Ross (Baron Geisler) and Sofia (Ilona Struzik) have to endure. The island hints at a fairly tale ending, only to be swept up by a tidal wave of separation.
"Waves" is a highly enigmatic first feature from Filipino filmmaker Don Frasco about a couple of former lovers who reunite and find themselves contemplating the nature of romance--both what might have been and what could be. While traveling home from a job in South Korea to her home and boyfriend in New York, model Sofia (Ilona Struzik) is in the midst of a layover in the Philippines when she contacts Ross (Baron Geisler), an old boyfriend who has just been laid off from his gig as an architect and who now drinks a little too much for his own good. What starts as simple a brief reunion between two friends quickly develops into a brief fling as they decide to spend the next couple of days fooling around at a nearby island resort--the only caveat being the her boyfriend is not to be mentioned.
This debut film from filmmaker Don Gerardo Frasco is photographed grandly yet constructed intimately that is reminiscent of the work of Terrence Malick, but in a way that thankfully feels inspired rather than imitative. While the pacing and editing of the film flow with the cinematography in a free and poetic nature that has been canonized in the work of Malick, the film stands apart from Malick’s influence. The film follows Ross (Baron Geisler) and Sofia (Ilona Struzik), two friends who reconnect over the course of a few days and take a trip to a secluded island and attempt a failed romance.
Some have likened the movie to Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, a comparison that might hurt it among Malick acolytes and detractors alike; let’s say that Waves has its contemplative side, a healthy appreciation for luscious travelogue shots (most of the story unfolds on an island), and a leisurely pace, but none of Malick’s confounding narration or musings on Nature vs. Grace. It’s simply the story of two friends who become more than that.
Elegantly composed by director/cinematographer Don Gerardo Frasco, Waves sets up a meeting between a man, Ross (Baron Geisler), and a woman, Sofia (Ilona Struzik), who used to know each other back in New York. Sofia is a model now; Ross drinks alone a lot. Sofia needs to get back to New York, and her fiancé, for a modeling gig. Ross suggests she stick around a couple of days. After some thought, Sofia agrees, and before long they are sailing, swimming, and sleeping together on the aforementioned gorgeous island.
Waves are the only physical manifestation of energy on this planet, ask any surfer. You can see the energy, you can feel the energy, you can ride the energy – waves are amazing. Think about it, they are our access to understanding a phenomena that drives our very existence. They let us grasp the intangible.
Waves is the debut feature from Filipino filmmaker Don Frasco but this is not a surfing flick. This is an exploration of the machinations of long distance love and an an intense character study of two who once were and are now again. Two lives that are compelled together despite circumstances that keeps them apart. It is this study and these characters that allow us to understand the primal drive of love and lets us grasp at the possibility of a deeper knowing. Where will they go?
Isolated in the dappled beauty of a Filipino island, surrounded by the calming ceaseless motion of the ocean, Ross (Baron Geisler) and Sofia (Ilona Struzik) let their love affair loose all around them. WAVES, first feature from indie filmhouse Waverly Pictures, is a love letter written in the sand. It’s waiting to be washed away.
The film captures instantly that sense of time running out into nothing. The island is suspended reality, on which these two old friends can rekindle a moment they shared in the past that they both know has a very uncertain future. It is fitting that WAVES is constructed like a dream itself, focusing mostly on that postcard-like surreal beauty of an unspoilt island with wide sky and ocean shots, which lul not only us but the couple into a trance. There is little conversation; the surroundings speak for themselves.
WAVES is a first-timer's success in cinematography and editing. A sporadic style of intruding memories is explored, as certain movements, actions and expressions trigger involuntary sound or images. This non-linear style keeps the story, which is simple in structure, interesting until the end. Although the mood is bittersweet, as the moments they share are stolen, the beauty of every shot - all the natural colours of the island, the white sharks in the sea which Ross swims with, the nymph-like way Sofia glides - is enough to banish any feeling of sadness.
In Don Gerardo Frasco's Waves, a seemingly idyllic island paradise in the Philippines unexpectedly turns into a battleground of mixed emotions for two friends-turned-secret-lovers desperately trying to revive a brief yet intense love affair that, at first sight, clearly falls into the 'doomed from the start' category. With almost every line of dialogue comes a new and meaningful revelation, systematically magnifying all the challenges that the characters had and have to face on a daily basis.
We’ve all been there, and done that. The moment you wake, you drown your heart with your vices, and even though the sun is shining bright, the day is cloudy but you do whatever it takes to keep the storm at bay. You know exactly what I’m talking about; heartbreak. Love can do the most horrific things to the soul. Time does heal all, but old habits don’t die so easily, especially when that special someone who made the days so dark, just pops back into your life. Old feelings begin to brew and you know what to expect, but you hope for the best anyways.
Insecurities… everyone’s worst enemy. This is what I’ve seen from watching the romantic drama, Waves, during its private screening at Ayala Center Cebu last September 5, 2014. Starring Baron Geisler, Ilona Struzik and with the special participation of award-winning veteran actress, Ms. Pilar Pilapil, I was captivated by how the actors immortalized the characters they play in the story and how it was being told on film.