By Victoria Kuglin
After a trip overseas with $10,000 worth of equipment and 12 days of filming in the Philippines, a group of Ryerson alums are screening The Sugar Bowl, their documentary about the Filipino sugar industry, at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival.
The idea was conceived by Shasha Nakhai, a journalism grad, who originally pitched it at the Reel Asian pitch competition. She said it had always been at the back of her mind.
“I didn’t think we’d win,” says Nakhai. “But if we did, it would jumpstart production. It forced us to focus the idea into a film concept.”
Nakhai, who was born in the Philippines, wanted to evoke the sense of loss she associates with the place she loves.
“I poured my life into this for the past year,” she says. “It’s like a child and we’ve just given birth.”
However, the project was not without its challenges. Before they started filming, they had trouble finding someone to record their sound. There was also the matter of getting $10,000 worth of equipment through customs in the Philippines.
“Normally you have to pay a $2,000 bond on it,” said Nakhai. However, when they arrived in the Philippines, the crew was escorted by a fixer arranged through connections in Canada.
But the film wouldn’t have come together without the help of her fellow Ryerson grads, Rich Williamson, a former film student, and Nicole Rogers, a journalism grad.
Williamson says their different skill sets helped production flow more smoothly than expected.
“Shasha got me into journalism, and I got her into film,” he explains. “There were days when I was thankful that I had someone so on-point to keep the production going, but there were times when I had to say, ‘No, I need to get this shot.’”
Though the film focuses on the impact of globalization, colonization and demand for commodity, this is never explicitly stated. However, having shown the film to friends, the team is confidant that they’ll get their message across regardless.
“We just want people to become interested in this place. For those who’ve never heard of it, they can say, ‘Hey, I want to learn more’,” she says. “It’s comparable to any economic downturn. There’s definitely a bigger picture here.”