PHL | 3 minutes | 2020
Narrative short film by Jela Dela Peña
Starring Joliz Dela Peña
Chained To A Railway
Yasmin is counting down her last minutes on the work clock when she receives a distressing demand from her boss. Just as she thought the day couldn’t get dragged any longer, she decides to take matters on her hand in her unpaid time.
When she snaps, she goes on a cold, bloody imagery about a revenge. She gets snapped back to reality sets on the fantasy that she has made up.
CineAsian Films (CAF): This is such a timely film. What inspired you to make Chained To A Railway?
Jela Dela Peña: This film conveys the message of the draining 9-5 job for 5 days a week that dehumanizes an individual in the smallest ways which builds to the bigger scheme of this toxic work culture. Working conditions have always been strenuous especially in low-paying jobs. The theme of this project surrounds the conditions of minimum wage workers which on the surface seem to be not so vile however the casual acts of inconveniences make it a living hell for them, especially in a pandemic like we are situated in today. The capitalistic systems would rather let workers die instead of letting the economy tank for a bit to get rid of the virus. With the circumstances given right now, I chose to portray a worker in an open space as though the transmission of COVID-19 would be seen as minimal, the main character literally gets spat at on the face, nonetheless. In North American countries, this problem is seen anywhere in the media and even in local communities. People with higher privileges still feel entitled to the service despite the whole world collapsing.
CAF: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during production?
Peña: Funny story was when we went to the first location in the opening scene, a staff member of the train station kicked us out, saying that we could not film in the area unless we had a permit. Immediately after that, we called their office and requested for a permit. In the meanwhile, we drove around and found another train station in a richer and more predominantly white neighborhood. There was no security, no gatekeeping and we were able to film all of the shots I needed there. Fascinating enough, the original location was a train terminal where I used to go when I lived there. I know the commuters were usually people of color. When we arrived at the other barren train station situated on a wealthier side of the island, it clicked why there were no staff. We did not even wait anymore for the callback from the train station authorities. I have always wanted to make a coming-of-age college student centering a filipino main character this year, but the pandemic gave me no choice but to shape my project around it instead. So I could say that is one of my biggest challenges in this.
CAF: What do you hope people can take away from watching this film?
Peña: Well, as the story reaches the final act, the protagonist is shown to only imagine these scenarios of getting back at her oppressor. The film ends with Yasmin following the antagonist but is never shown if she succeeds with her motive. This illustrates that this everyday routine with a dash of cruelty creates bloody fantasies into the minds of the lower class. Fantasies of fighting back. Fantasies that will remain only as that, as the need to feed and shelter oneself is more important than dreams of rebellion. I am hoping that what the viewers take away from this is that the ongoing class war will never end until we fight hand in hand against systemic racism. Although these words are too big for such a short film, this is the universal essence I want to convey.
CAF: Are you working on anything new?
Peña: I am working on another short film that will be in black and white. I have always wanted to experiment with this style for so long as I get to let the different shades of lighting depict the implicit meaning of this project. I want to center the subject on the immigrant young adult children in Montreal, on how no one talks about its lack of vibrancy, lack of happy bells.
Chained To A Railway is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer: Jela Dela Peña
Producer: Evgeny Patvakanov
Also featuring: Loic Minty, Evgeny Patvakanov