“Karsel” (“Prison”)

a 35mm film production thesis at the University of the Philippines
a film by Rianne Hill Soriano



“Karsel” ("Prison") is a 20-minute film that delves into a young adult female’s submission to the conventions of a traditional home and her struggle for her liberation.

The overprotected Angela has been kept inside a grand and yet constricting mansion since childhood. Her “obsessive-compulsive mother” takes care of her long hair yielding to the family tradition that a woman should always grow her hair long. But the irony lies on the fact that she pulls her daughter’s hair real hard everytime she gets mad at her.

With Angela's mother being extremely, unreasonably strict to her only daughter, Angela has been kept inside their “grand and yet small house” for all the years of her life. The only way for her to socialize is through school. In one instance that she comes home by sunset after going out with her classmates for a rushed school work, her mother punishes her. She goes to her room, cries, and rationalizes her situation. And as Angela’s 18th birthday draws nearer, her hair becoming bars of cage on her face exemplifies her imprisonment.

Additional details about the film can also be viewed at IMDB.com.

The Cast
   Angela Salientes - Summer Sumera
Sonia Salientes - Gigi Pirote
Aling Belay - Ermie Concepcion
Child Angela - Chum-Chum Aquino
Ildefonso - Dingdong Rosales
Elira - Pam Sto. Domingo
Betsy - Roma Regala
Maida  -  Suzette Navarette
Ancestral mother - Ellen Estrada
Ancestral daughter-   Bekah Mata
Ferdi - Rico del Rosario
Michael - Pao Pangan
Mang Caloy - Mang Fred

The Production Team
Screenplay and Direction - Rianne Hill Soriano
Directors of Photography - Eli Balce and Riane Hill Soriano
Production Designer - Chrisel Galeno
1st Asst. Director - Joy Puntawe
2nd Asst. Director - Herbert Navasca
Film Editor - Rianne Hill Soriano
Musical Scorer - Kiko Ortega
Audio Engineers - Jason Galindez and Noel Bruan
Production Managers - Rianne Hill Soriano, Kiel Sandico, Madz Mandia, Joselle Acuña,
and Janice Atencio

More about the film


karsel photo  
The house sequences promoted the feeling of constriction — as the mansion-type house became Angela's cage — grand and yet constricting. As the film progressed, the visuals gradually became more and more dynamic as Angela’s liberation drew nearer. The enriching of the film’s mood and temperament was utilized with magic realism. And in compliance with their family’s legacy, Angela’s hair symbolized her mother’s complete authority over her — the strands of her hair becoming bars of cage on her face exemplified her imprisonment.

karsel photo


karsel photo  
Camera and lighting requirements were provided by Seiko Films (through Seiko Films producer Mr. Robbie Tan). Rianne mainly took charge of the camera work. With this being her first 35mm film, she realized back then that when you’re holding the camera, your primary concerns were the framing, the composition of the shot, and the wariness for unwanted shadows, cables, and equipment — especially she was shooting without a video assist (Arri 2-C for Day 1 and Arri BL-4 for Day 2 and Day 3) — which she was not very much used to. And with all these responsibilities, it was a real challenge for her to try her best to perfect the acting during crucial scenes demanding intense and uncompromising performances.
Working hand in hand with co-director of photography Eli Balce, Rianne used the following 35mm Kodak Film negatives: 80% was shot with Vision 500T and 2% was shot with Vision 320T. With most of the magic realism scenes and the debut sequence, there is the need to really saturate the colors. The production also shot some scenes that were intended to be pushed during the processing at LVN.  
karsel photo


karsel photo


The filmmaker was also the editor of the film and she edited it with the Moviola. It was her first time to use this conventional editing machine. Prior to this film, she edited some 16mm film projects at PIA (Philippine Information Agency) with the Steenbeck Flatbed Editing Machine; but this is her first time to edit a 35mm film. With waived fees, the telecine transfer and color grading of the video finish work was courtesy of Optima Digital (through General Manager Mr. Pete Jimenez).

“It was tough and yet rewarding – to be the director and at the same time the film editor of your own film. Just be weary of the possibilities of getting too attached with your work that at certain periods of time of becoming too exposed to your footages, you tend to lose the best judgments in fine editing your film. In such cases, take a good break, go back revived with the needed zeal and energy, and things will turn out well.

How the filmmaker was able to shoot using 35mm film

As a struggling student filmmaker, Rianne really aimed to shoot her production thesis in 16mm film. Since her freshman year in film school with the course Bachelor of Arts in Film and Audio-Visual Communication (her first choice course at the University of the Philippines), she knew it would really be a tough financial struggle for her. During her 4th year as a film student, she had six units left together with her thesis. However, she wasn’t able to graduate because she didn’t have enough money to shoot her thesis film. She strived and walked various city halls, government offices, and production outfits, at most times literally under the heat of the sun and the heavy rains just to personally give out solicitation and sponsorship letters and set meetings for her presentations. For one year, she kept doing all these, including regularly making follow-ups calls, continuously developing her vision and script, preparing everything for the principal photography and post-production, and working freelance for different productions/projects on the side in order to acquire enough money for the production. With all gratefulness, she was fortunate to have some institutions and people who understood independent and student productions as this. Seiko Films offered the outfit's film camera and lighting equipment for the shoot. And after aiming to shoot her film in 16mm for five years, she was given the opportunity to shoot in 35mm film instead. Kodak Philippines gave student discount for the film stocks. Filmex (through General Manager Von Villareal) and Production Village (through General Manager Mari Buencamino) gave their 35mm short ends and she used these additional film stocks for the film. LVN Pictures Inc. (through General Manager/film director Mike de leon and Technical Operations Manager Carlos de leon) granted her free processing, printing and editing the film. The positive film stocks also came from the generous LVN. Indeed, these experiences have been very tough and yet very rewarding.
  karsel photo
karsel photo

karsel photo


This film was influenced by the filmmaker's personal experiences and convictions. Though not exactly in literal terms, the film is figuratively a part of the filmmaker's life. It all starts with a spark. And then it came... and it developed.

Another major thing that the filmmaker wouldn't forget during the making of this film was doing her script and written thesis for the film (one semester prior to the actual shoot) all over again after her computer crashed and she was not able to recover a single data of her written thesis work (which was, back then, in its fine editing stage already). From then on, she learned a life lesson: She has been more careful in backing up and printing hard copies of her documents, and as much as she could, she never forgets to do safety shots and back up plans for her films.

karsel photo

Related articles about the film:

Karsel (Prison)
a film by Rianne Hill Soriano
All Rights Reserved. 2003.
All photos/artworks used in this page are owned by Rianne Hill Soriano.

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