Pascalina

In August 2022, we screened Pascalina (2012, Philippines) which was shot entirely using a Digital Harinezumi toy camera. Pascalina is an untypical story about a simple girl whose life is about to take a strange turn. After visiting her dying aunt, Pascalina experiences inexplicable changes that pushes her close to the edge into madness and monstrosity. The film won the Best Picture Award at the 8th Cinema One Originals Film Festival in 2012.

We also hosted writer-director Pam Miras to the 10th anniversary of Pascalina, Pam's debut feature-length film. In this excerpt of our conversation, we asked Pam about how the film's Catholic elements mixes with the Philippine's most famous folkloric female monster, the Aswang.

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Session Notes

πŸ“Œ Audio and transcribed excerpts have been edited for clarity.

❀️ Elsewhere Cinema Club thanks Pam Miras for speaking with us and allowing her film to be viewed worldwide for free.

πŸ”— Watch Pascalina trailer.

Elsewhere Cinema Club's KEI

I was telling them earlier that in usual Aswang horror film, the Aswang would kill people to eat their flesh. But that in reality β€” like in the film β€” in some provinces [of the Philippines], they would 'know' who among their neighbors are Aswangs. It is just an everyday thing, really, just like how it was presented in the film [Pascalina].


PAM

Being set in the city, nobody believes in that anymore and nobody knows [about the Aswang]. When you watch the film, you don't really know if that actually happened. If she's the Aswang or she just became angry and lost it. You don't know. At the end of it, we just see someone who transformed and that sort of transformation can be a monstrous thing and people don't have to understand it.


KEI

In a way, it is like in Aswang horror films. The Aswang (a woman) would shapeshift into an animal, usually a dog, or some other wild animal. In the film, it is a transformation not into an animal form but an animalistic kind of behavior.


PAM

And also you don't really know [what happens in the film] because there was an entire myth talked about with her sisters and her aunt. You don't really know if there's actual truth in that, but I guess it doesn't matter what is true or not, but how it makes you feel. I guess the audience is as confused as she is going through through those things.


Elsewhere Cinema Club's PHOEBE

But the Aswang also gives her strength, right? After she [Pascalina] has that experience with her dying aunt, she became more assertive. She was able to articulate when she was unhappy about something and confront people. It became a bit like a hero film but, at the same time, I felt a bit sad at the end of the film because she looked like she was so confused about what what was happening and almost had no control over what she was doing even though it gave her the kind of like strength and power and aggression that she never really had at the beginning.


PAM

Yes. There is a motif in the film that relates β€” if you're a Catholic, which the country [the Philippines] is predominantly a Catholic or Christian country β€” Easter. There is death, rebirth, and transformation. That's why she's named Pascalina ['Child of Easter']. There is a rabbit and the eggs; these are things that I chose to use to convey the motif of Easter which is really about a person rising from the dead. And that was kind of what it was with Pascalina who had been walking around 'dead' and is resurrected into a different form.


KEI

That answers your question, PHOEBE, about the rabbit!


PHOEBE

Yes! I was wondering!