A Week in Metro Manila: Up Dharma Down

A Week in Metro Manila: Up Dharma Down

RESTLESS CITIES: Hi, Tony! It’s been three months since this premiered in Chicago Filipino American Film Festival and then in Manila. How has the feedback been?
TONY RAGO: It was one of the largely attended films that weekend, and people really seemed to have enjoyed it. Lots of people came up to me and said how it made them miss the Philippines, and I thought it was awesome that Quark Henares [director of Rakenrol] stayed and watched the film and gave me a thumbs up. Even the non-Pinoy contingent of friends, family, and randoms really seemed to enjoy what the film was about, shedding the light on a unique music scene and one special band. It was…incredibly awesome to watch the film on the big screen.

The Manila premiere at Capones was packed, and most of the feedback I received are good. I wished I was there to see that firsthand and then see a live Up Dharma Down performance, but my teleporter was out of commission.

Recently though, releasing it online lead to a lot of praise as people would message me,┬áliterally thanking me for it, periodically on Facebook. Just lots of really nice things I’ve seen from the fans of the band. Things like that really make all of the effort worthwhile. Currently, it’s had close to 2000 views, and I’m hoping it will catch another viral wave at some point.

RC: You originally wanted to distribute this in DVD, right? What made you decide to just upload the entire documentary online?
TR: The film was originally designed to be a promotional tool for the band and something that fans of the band like me would also appreciate. I think, during a lot of the stress while finalizing the film, things got a bit lost in translation, and I wanted to make it clear what the film was for. The film was never about the money. It was about the music, and it just seemed like the right time to give it to the public.

RC: Now that the post-production and premiere are over, where are you taking the film next? And what’s the new project for your production outfit, LIFE2short?
TR: LIFE2short has kind of become like my alter ego, and I’ve been trying to really find the one project or thing that sticks. Right now, it’s still kind of a music-related blog, but I have a couple of things in the works.

In March, I will be attending South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas and will be documenting Manila’s Taken By Cars as they take the US by storm, which I’m really excited about. I’ve also recently started doing writing for the US’s Bakitwhy.Com, and similar to you, I’ve been writing to promote the awesome music scene coming out of the Philippines. The other thing I’ve been doing is heavily working with tide/edit, a post-rock band from the Manila area, helping them manage their online presence and figuring out a record release. They are really talented and actually sought me out after seeing what I was doing with Dharma, and things just sort of clicked. Definitely watch out for these guys.

Also, I really really want to get back to the Philippines when time and money permit. To all who are wondering, I promise, I’ll be back!

Tony Rago, the filmmaker behind A Week in Metro Manila: Up Dharma Down, is based in Chicago. Interview by Nante Santamaria

Some of my favorite things are beef jerky, bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch, pistachios (aka the nut of the gods), my husband's face, and coffee.