NEW YORK—In the opening sequence of “Woodside,” the award-winning film of cinematographer Vicente Roxas, the main character is submerged in a bathtub filled with water, eyes shut tight while holding his breath. It is unclear to the audience whether they are witnessing an act of self-destruction or not.
What is clear in that shot alone, however, is how Roxas has captured the isolation and loss, along with the physical and emotional sensations of drowning, not uncommon to anyone who has ever been an outsider.
“Woodside” was awarded Best Fiction Film and Best Screenplay at the Cityvisions Film Festival in 2018, New York’s prestigious annual event that attracts innovative filmmakers from different parts of the world. It also won for the author the Best Young Filmmaker award at the Festigious Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Roxas has been based in New York since 2014. Before leaving his native Philippines, he was video editor for a production company that produced “Storyline” for ABS-CBN. He was also commissioned to direct a series of videos highlighting the nominees for Rappler-Rexona’s “Do More Awards Series.”
Since graduating with a master’s degree in cinematography from the City College of New York, Roxas has worked as a cinematographer on a number of short films that have been selected in various film festivals, including the New York Independent Film Festival, Barcelona Planet Film Festival, and Wathann Film Festival, to name just a few. His work has not gone unnoticed.
Best Short Film
He was director of photography for “My Lover Never Came,” which won as Best Short Film at the 2017 NYC Indie Film Awards. “Treasures Under The Rocks,” a film directed by Anna Antonova, received an Excellence Award at The Seoul Guro International Kids Film Festival. “Ear of the Beholder” got an honorable mention at the Cinalfama Lisbon International Film awards in 2016. His latest short film, “Family Tree,” was recently selected and screened at the New Hampshire Film Festival and Somewhere North of Boston Film Festival.
“I love well-composed and balanced frames,” explains Roxas, who considers working behind the camera his ideal work situation. “I find value in making the environment and location work for the picture rather than the other way around.”
“Woodside” was Roxas’ most personal work to date. It is a tribute to his grandparents—one of whom passed away five years ago—to whom he was very close. The short also addresses what he describes as “the feeling of moving away from home and living in a foreign country.”
Throughout the film, the presence of water, whether collected in a bucket, a swimming pool or a heavy downpour, is as much a character in the film as it is a narrative device. In Roxas’ eyes, this is no accident. Water, in its extremes, can free as much as it can suffocate, create buoyancy even as it can destroy and drag one down.
“There is something existential in nature that I value. The world does not move for us. You and only you must find your place in it.”
Roxas is pursuing that truth. He is developing two projects: one, a film about an interracial relationship, and two, a documentary for Oblivion Films, an independent film production company based in New York.
The documentary will be about cyborgs, humans who install technological modifications in their bodies to enhance their physical abilities. It is loosely based on the story of Neil Harbisson, who installed an antenna in his head so he could see color through sound waves that only he could hear. Harbisson was color blind. —CONTRIBUTED