The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) has submitted the rotoscoped/2d hybrid film The Missing (Iti Mapukpukaw) as the country’s choice for this year’s international feature race.
The film tells the story of a gay animator with no mouth. After being asked to check up on a missing uncle, he discovers that the man is already dead and meets an alien who helps him untangle confused memories. It enjoyed a strong regional festival run, and was the first ever animated film to play in the main competition at the prestigious Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, where it won best film and best actress.
The Missing is directed by Carl Joseph Papa, a full-time software engineer who spends his free time making films. It’s produced by Project 8 Projects. Papa’s previous films, such as The Unforgetting and Paglisan, have screened at festivals around the world and won numerous awards.
As seen in the trailer (above), The Missing is animated using a mix of rotoscoping and hand-drawn 2d techniques. In a recent interview with Inquirer Super, the online portion of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s pop culture section, Papa explained why he chose the film’s mixed-technique style:
With rotoscope, you will stop and think, “Is this real?” because it looks realistic. I want to complement the mental state of the character. I want to follow his journey of confusion, of figuring out what happened to him. We also used traditional 2d hand-drawn animation for flashbacks. We want to capture childhood folly or happiness even if there’s a darkness underneath the story. It’s a form of dissociation—it’s childish, kinda cute, and it’s hiding the deeper, darker story underneath.
Explaining his passion for animation, Papa said:
I’m hoping [my work] can be a stepping stone for Filipino animators and original content creators to make animations reflecting Filipino culture, what it looks like to be Filipino, what it looks like in the Philippines. That’s my aim. I’m not a trained animator. Growing up, I just loved drawing, and I watched a lot of animation. With my previous films, I would push for animation because I refuse to think of it as a genre. It’s a way or a tool for you to tell your story. I don’t want animation to be relegated [to] just fantasy or just for kids. Animation can do drama, romance… animation can tell adult stories, even queer stories. There’s no limit to what animation can do.