Beauty in Darkness is a film by Aileen Collo Amparo. It was filmed in the Philippines and documents the daily struggle of many of the people who live there. Yet ultimately it’s a message of hope, as it highlights the happiness in the hearts of those people, despite their struggle. With Beauty in Darkess, Aileen aims to create an awareness of the situation, so that it can be brought to the attention of people or organizations who might be able to help. We live in an abundant world with more than enough resources to go around, and it’s sad to see how many people are still going without. But where there is joy, there is hope.
Here’s an interview with Aileen, discussing her motivation and vision for this project.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I was raised in Philippines and have been working as an architect abroad. It seemed that I have a very ordinary life by most standards: typical education, 9-5 job, going out on weekends with family or friends, etc. But since I was a child, I’ve always felt different. Let’s say that I fall into the category of “weird” people which can be a pain in the ass sometimes. I used to be a huge pessimist, because I didn’t understand what is happening to me internally, but just in the recent years, I searched for answers and I met wonderful people along that showed me the beauty of life and I asserted my childhood notion that there is much more going on out there than what we are consciously aware of. And this journey is just beginning.
What inspired you to create Beauty in Darkness?
My parents have a small coconut business that deals with people who are living in the mountains. They would come down to our office warehouse with their horses and carabaos carrying their sacks of coconut harvest. They are very happy people despite the stories of hunger, calamity, illness, poverty and such. Heartbreaking stories are the ones that I cannot bear. While I was busy at school, they have always been at the back of my mind. My family is not rich so I cannot do anything. Now grown up and earning, I have a some budget for a film. I thought that these people would be the best subjects of my documentary to give the socially invisible a voice. I was also given links by a friend about documentary movies, which encouraged me to make one.
How did the people you filmed respond to you making the documentary?
There are different reactions from people whom I filmed. Mainly, they are eager to be part of the movie because they want to be heard. They want the world to know about their situation which has become invisible to the society. Many are thrilled to be in front of the camera. They assume right away that I am a part of a mainstream media in Philippines and the thought of them being in the national television gives them excitement. I told them I am not in the media, but we can write to the local TV stations to put the movie on air, if they accept it. The children especially are amazed by the small camera that I use because they can see themselves in the small preview panel. It is very rare, or maybe it is the first time for many of them to see a camcorder. So they like to play with it. You can see them smiling in front of the camera in the behind the scenes section of the website. Other kids that I did interview are shy and couldn’t respond to the questions. Generally, they have been very cooperative during filming. How I met them, where and when I need to capture the important scenes seemed magical to me as if it was orchestrated beforehand by what I consider to be a greater force.
What did you learn while filming and editing the movie?
When I was young my mother used to tell me when I used to worry about the future “Look at them, they are happy even if they are not sure if they will have food for the next meal”. It was only during the filming when it completely sunk in to me. Until now I couldn’t copy the level of happiness that they naturally exhibit in dealing with their everyday struggle. This is when I realized that the beauty of the human spirit will always be there no matter what situation people are in. I do understand that many of them are acting irresponsibly and ignorantly but I personally cannot blame them because since the time we took our first breath here on earth, we have been programmed constantly by the society that limits our infinite potential as co-creators. Despite this, the beautiful human qualities stayed strong, and this blows my mind. The people in the movie demonstrated compassion, innocence, laughter, happiness, strength, hope and i could go on an on about the intangible qualities that are very hard to spot, especially in the most horrible conditions.
All of this became embedded in me deeply as I edited the film over and over until I came up with the final cuts, soundtrack and narration. I realized too that movie making is also like life. One could have the best soundtrack, scene, and theme, all by itself but if you blend them together without harmony or chemistry, one will end up with a bad movie. What I’m saying is that, everyone is wonderful on their own, whether they are artists, intellectual, simple, extravagant and so on. It is not necessary at all to fit into every single category that many of us are expected or pressured to be in. It’s just a matter of blending with the right people, places and elements. Perhaps if we determine the right combination and let go of the ones that does not serve our best interest, we will end up having our own lives as the best movie ever.
Your website for Beauty in Darkness works nicely as an extension of the documentary, with the interactive community-based elements. How would you like to see the project evolve from here?
The website is in its very early stage of development. It is envisioned to be beneficial for everybody. People all over the world may submit their stories of inspiration and motivation, to inspire others. They can also participate in the forum to seek advice, give advice and just be there for anyone who needs encouragement.The people in the movie are what I consider the bravest of the souls for having the balls to come down here and volunteer to take the difficult role which is the life that they live now. They set as an example for the rest of us that, yes, the beautiful qualities are present even in darkness. The inner light does not fade for those with eyes that can see it. These precious ones deserve a good life too just like everyone else. The movie is also a way to call the attention of the proper charitable organizations or institution in the Philippines that can help those in need.
The movie also encourages people to consider living a life of compassion and look around their own neighborhood. There are many people around the corner that we never knew to be living in the dark for so long.
As for me, it creates avenues to connect with like-minded people who want to recreate a beautiful world by action and by thoughts simply because we are all tired of the BS going on and it’s time to let go of the negativity that already served us its purpose.
We are constantly evolving beings, full of infinite potential.
What would you most like your viewers to take to heart from watching Beauty in Darkness?
People are unique and I am sure that they will have different takes on the message. There may be scenes that could trigger the memories from the past, it may back up the answers to their questions about life, it may be a new opening to some who are not exposed to this kind of environment, it may also irritate them, devastate them, it may lead them to blame the people, institution and so on. It can serve so many purposes for different people. And in that moment there will be an intimate conversation between their self and the subconscious. I hope they receive the message that they need in their journey. We are walking different paths, and come from different backgrounds. But wherever we are, I hope we don’t forget to ask the question, the same question that I ask myself whenever there is what we categorize as “bad” events that happen such as broken relationships, deprivation, loss, denial, and so on: “What beauty do I see in this horrible situation that I am in?” It is extremely difficult to battle this right now, but there must be a purpose for this. Perhaps a beautiful purpose. A purpose that we are yet to discover as we start to connect with the beautiful spirit that resides within us all.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I guess it is not me who needs more to add. Feel free to connect with me in any way so that people can add more beauty to the website. It is a place for everyone who’d like to feel beautiful, or who’d like to try to see the goodness even in “bad” situations. The whole planet is in such a mess right now, and we want to re-create a life that we all deserve. We will not blame anybody or any institution because if we do that, we go back being negative. We start from scratch, like a new born baby full of love, compassion, peace, happiness and so on. And what if we really come from this loving space, a loving space that can be found just within, wouldn’t it be likely that we also can create a loving world? Then there would be less, if no more at all, poverty, famine, war, discrimination, and so on. Problems solved! And the solution is just inside of us. Imagine a world of ecstasy (not the one that people take in a form of a tablet, LOL).
It is extremely challenging and may be unimaginable for a lot of people. But why not make the first step, and like a baby, we will fall down on our first attempts to walk, but for sure one day we will walk our beautiful selves on a beautiful earth in a beautiful life.
Check out the trailer for Beauty in Darkness below, and head over to the official site to watch the full movie: http://www.beautyindarkness.org