• Flash Competition


Rafael Manuel, Tatjana Fanny

After a tour of the neighborhood with a few frontal shots of the houses, each more luxurious than the last, the day begins 102 Narra, an address in one of Manila’s gated communities. Tatjana Fanny and Rafael Manuel craft a subtle domestic choreography that sweeps up the everyday life of the co-director’s own family in a series of still frames composed like paintings. Get dressed, take some exercise, have a wash, water the plants, walk the dog… Skilfully orchestrated, the prosaic daily rituals of family members and domestic staff follow one after another. Despite being together under one roof, apart from the orders issued by the mistress of the house, the lack of conversation among them gives the impression of parallel lives. The mechanical ballet seems to rehearse inexorable routines in the peace and quiet of birdsong. If you listen carefully, the birds are a little too present. The clapping hands give a sports session a gently ridiculous twist. The splintering of ice cubes at the bottom of a glass electrifies the nonchalance of a shot composed as a still life. A servant’s melancholy singing fleshes out the silence of a moment’s respite. A la Jacques Tati, the sounds of everyday life are exaggerated. When the staging somewhat disrupts the family order, with the same precision as their shots, Fanny and Manuel use sound to disturb the dull tranquillity of 102 Narra to the point of implosion. From the drops of sadness that fall from the effigy of the Holy Family to the clip from the American series 7th Heaven broadcast on a broken television set, the two filmmakers chip away at the promises of the American way of life with its perfect family gathered round the table.

Claire Lasolle

Tatjana Fanny, you were already interested in domestic space in your previous film, in which you also filmed your own home. How do you see it as an ideal setting for cinematic experimentation?

I’m interested in exploring how the spaces we inhabit shape us and how we in turn shape these spaces. Of all domestic spaces, the childhood home stands out for me. It is one of our most influential spaces, sheltering our first memories and dreams while shaping our connection to the outside world. While people and circumstances may change, the physical and emotional imprint of the childhood home remains relatively stable. This consistency creates a solid framework to explore how even our earliest surroundings shape us later on, while also evoking a sense of timelessness. It is this quality of the childhood home, which challenges our understanding of time, that makes it particularly interesting for me within the realm of cinema.

Rafael Manuel, you chose your own home and your own family to set up your camera. Was this a long-term project? How did your family members and household staff react to the idea? How did you work with them?

Yes, 102 Narra was born from a long-term project wherein I wanted to explore the role of the family as the basic building block of society and explore the question – why is it that the family unit is capable of producing the corrupt individuals that comprise the Philippines’ broken society? Can we find some of the roots of societal macro-corruption in the micro-repressions instilled in all of us by the hierarchal relationships inherent to familial structure. In many ways, the film can also be viewed as a prelude for a feature project that I have in development now called Patrimonio.
My family members and household staff are quite used to me filming them (as they also featured in my previous film, Filipiñana), but with 102 Narra their boundaries were pushed a little bit more as we brought the camera into an even more intimate space, and to be honest, I was not quite sure how they would react to this or even how being in such close proximity to my family with a film camera for an extended period of time would affect me as well – as you can see in the film, my family are quite private and don’t communicate very much with each other.
I suppose, having the whole artifice of a film in between us (of filming them and then of screening the film for them) acted as a lubricant for a deeper exchange between myself and my family in many ways, of how much I am mirror of them and them of me.

102 Narra is not a documentary in the true sense of the word. Your formal choices (fixed frames, duration of wide shots, situations, minimalism of the set-up) initiate a form of sociological distance with regard to the organisation of daily life in this gated community What were the working stages? Was observation time necessary?

The gated community in which 102 Narra is set, its controlled environment where the predictability of daily routines gives it a static and also satirical quality, allowed us to observe and reflect on the intimate milieu of his childhood home in a way that could be described as ‘distanced’. At all stages, we focused on observing and recording routines, slowly working our way from outside, where the maids water the front garden every morning, to inside the house, where the family gathers every evening.

The conversations that usually take place in the home are absent. Very little dialogue. No voice-over. The few snatches of speech join in with the general soundscape, the sound treatment, which is also very precise, contributes to a kind of tenderly ironic distancing. Certain elements seem to be amplified or to pierce the ambient calm that is filled with exaggerated birdsong. How did you go about constructing this soundtrack?

If you notice, the only real conversations that are portrayed in the film happen outside the household, with Girlie calling her child at home while taking the family’s dog for a walk, and with my mother selling a house to a young couple. Our restrained use of conversation/dialogue in the household is our attempt of striping the familial paradigm bare of this artifice in order to explore what remains in this space.
Like you mention, the sound treatment of the film is very precise and intentioned. With constructing the soundscape we were very much informed by Deleuze’s notion of naturalism and finding forms of sonic expression that extend and accentuate the reality of 102 Narra through idiosyncratic surrealism.

A certain Western iconography of the family is exhibited in 102 Narra: Effigies of the Holy Family, extracts from the successful American series 7 at home. Can you tell us about these different representations in relation to the family structure as presented in 102 Narra?

There’s a saying in my country, 300 years in the convent and then 30 years in Hollywood – which alludes to Philippine colonial history, of first being colonized by Spain in the 16th Century and then by the US at the turn of the 20th century. And I think that this saying also has great relevance when one looks at the importance that the family structure is given in my country – such is the esteem in which the familial paradigm is held in my country that effigies of the Holy Family adorn the entrances of every Filipino family, rich or poor and no doubt we owe this to our Spanish colonial roots. But then when you take a look at our next period of colonization, 300 years later by the USA and how after World War 2 there was this huge emphasis in their media to rebuild society by promoting and propagating the nuclear family, and how the Philippines as a former US colony, was one of the biggest export destinations for US products and propaganda, then maybe this sheds some light on why the Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is still illegal (outside of the Vatican).

Interview by Claire Lasolle

  • Flash Competition
14:1526 June 2024Cinéma Artplexe 3
16:3027 June 2024Artplexe 2
09:3030 June 2024Artplexe 1

Technical sheet

Netherlands / 2024 / Colour / 22'

Original version: Tagalog, English
Subtitles: English, French
Script: Tatjana Fanny, Rafael Manuel
Photography: Rafael Manuel
Editing: Rafael Manuel
Sound: Rafael Manuel

Production: Rafael Manuel (Idle Eye Productions)
Production & costume designer: Tatjana Fanny
Associate production: Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola
Contact: Tatjana Fanny


Rafael Manuel
Filipiñana (short) | 1.33, Colour, Digital | 5.1 | Philippines – United Kingdom | 2020
Dogeater (short) | 1.85, B&W, 35mm | Stereo | United Kingdom -Philippines | 2019

Tatjana Fanny
Sonnenhof (short) I CH/NL I 22min I 16mm I 1.33, colour | dolby 5.1 surround I Swiss-German/Serbo-Croatian Language I English Subtitles