Neil Daza, an alumnus of the defunct College of Architecture and Fine Arts. (Photo by Deejae S. Dumlao/ The Varsitarian)

VETERAN cinematographer Neil Daza won the Best Cinematography award for his camerawork in the film “Blue Room” at the 2023 Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (Famas) Awards on Aug. 13. 

The coming-of-age and political crime film was a full-length entry to the 2022 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, where it also bagged the best cinematography and best direction awards. 

Daza, an alumnus of the old College of Architecture and Fine Arts, said the film’s narrative and themes made it relevant at the time of its release. 

“The first time I read the script, [I said], ah okay, this film needs to be done because it calls for the times–what’s happening in our country, especially at that time,” Daza told the Varsitarian.

A still from the Cinemalaya film “Blue Room,” starring Keoni Jin (left), Elijah Canlas (center), and Juan Karlos Labajo (right). (Photo from the Cinemalaya website)

“I like political films. And I think Blue Room is a great film, and it’s an important film because it [talks] about what’s happening within our justice system and it’s a critique of the justice system in this country,” he added. 

The 107-minute film, directed by Ma-An Asuncion-Dagñalan, follows the story of the members of indie rock band “Rebel Rebel” who are arrested for drug possession and put in a “blue room,” a VIP detention area.  

There, the teenagers are faced with a moral dilemma–either bribe the rogue cops to get their freedom or stay true to their values.  

To balance the film’s coming-of-age feel and political themes, Daza said he had to improvise with lighting and coloring techniques for mood shifts. 

“I tried to find the sweet spot between the youthful energy at the start and then the point where it shifts. So, it’s like I was just looking for a sweet spot between the two. And then that’s where I worked around in terms of trying to create the visual look of the film,” he said. 

Daza said working on “Blue Room” allowed him to experiment with different techniques and equipment to elevate tension in certain scenes. 

“Every film is a lesson in filmmaking. I have always approached every film as something like a classroom because I feel like as a filmmaker, you’re always a student,” Daza said. 

“There’s always something new to learn in terms of not only in terms of technology but also how you tell your story,” he added. 

During his time at UST, Daza was under the tutelage of professors Mario Parial, Rhoda Recto, and Mario Santiago.

Daza was also known for his camerawork in films “Dekada ’70,” “Oda sa Wala,” and “Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon.” With reports from Sofiah Shelimae J. Aldovino


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