Khavn de la Cruz is an artist, one that isn’t strictly bound to one creative medium. Having strived to continually create across multiple disciplines, the multi-talented Filipino considers himself a filmmaker, a musician and a poet. He’s got more than 40 feature films to his name, a countless number of short films and is currently working on a handful of new music and book projects. To say that he has a strong work ethic is putting it lightly.
“If I hold back, the tendency is to stop… It’s all about momentum and once you stop, you might not be able to go again,” he says.
Khavn is in Melbourne for the Melbourne International Film Festival where he has been invited as a guest to promote and discuss his new film, Ruined Heart: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore.
Fancying itself as something of a dialogueless hard boiled punk rock opera, Ruined Heart is as unique as the filmmaker behind it. As a pioneer in lo-fi digital filmmaking in the Philippines, the director finds a certain creative freedom when it comes to shooting in digital.
“For example, with a GoPro camera you [can move freely] but can’t with [film cameras] because it’s too heavy,” he says. “I think in Ruined Heart, around 10 per cent of it was shot with a GoPro.”
Asked whether or not he is always looking for new forms of digital filmmaking techniques and equipment to incorporate into his films, Khavn feels it’s less to do with what he wants to do and more with what he feels is appropriate for project on hand.
“The concept attracts whatever we use or whatever cameras we get – it all goes back to the concept.”
So what was the concept for this particular feature?
What originally started out as a short film eventually evolved into the feature that had its World Premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival late last year. Khavn reveals it “looked like a poem or short story” at first which he then wanted to turn into a short film. From there, ideas started flourishing – ideas big enough for a feature-length film.
“At one point, there were lots of word and dialogue – very voice over driven. At another point, we were supposed to go to this faraway mountain up north. There was [also] a 90 year old tattoo lady and there was supposed to be a ‘firecracker inserted into the mouth’ scene and other ideas but that didn’t happen.”
Having scrapped these ideas, Khavn distilled his film down to what he refers to as “a film about the margins”.
“I think one of the keywords in the film is the word ‘between’ (referring to the film’s full title). It’s a story between the stories.”
And to help fill out this story, Khavn enlisted some international assistance in the form of prolific Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano, Mexican actress Nathalia Acevedo (perhaps best remembered in Carlos Reygadas’ Post Tenebras Lux) and Australian cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
With regards to his leading stars, Khavn recognises that they brought something to Ruined Heart that other actors might not have been able to provide.
“Filmmaking is alchemy and each entity contributes and definitely with the actors they were contributing their selves, their bodies, their physicality and energy,” Khavn says.
“For example, with walking or running or dancing you can think of someone doing this or act it yourself. [And while] these actors were giving that, at the same time they were giving something else… unpredictable.”
As for renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Khavn speaks fondly of his working relationship with Doyle.
“He’s full of energy and is like a roller coaster ride. During the actual shoot, he’s ultra-focused on what he’s doing. At the same time, off camera he can be really funny.”
On whether Doyle had to adapt to his style of filmmaking for Ruined Heart, Khavn insists it’s a matter of communication.
“Whether you like it or not, one has to adapt. I adapt to them and they adapt to me.”
His fearlessness when it comes to adapting not just to his colleagues but also to his surroundings, the environment and the weather is perhaps what has also helped make him remain a determined filmmaker.
“The fear is always there, it’s just beside you. The thing is to not think about it and maybe overcome it by doing. The mere act [of doing] dissolves the fear,” he feels.
Certainly not one to let doubt, criticism and laziness get in the way of his artistic pursuits, Khavn’s attitude towards filmmaking – and certainly creating and expressing art in all forms – should be an inspiration to those lacking the drive to continuously create and move forward.
“Ruined Heart was shot in four days,” he reveals. “What else [was I] gonna do for the rest of the year?”
Khavn will appear in person at the Melbourne International Film Festival’s screenings of Ruined Heart: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore on Thursday, August 13 at 9.00pm and Friday, August 14 at 9.15pm. Tickets are currently on sale for both sessions now.