Islands: A Filipino Feature Film from Martin Edralin

Having the opportunity to tell a story relating to your heritage is a fulfillment. Rising Filipino Canadian filmmaker Martin Edralin released his first feature film Islands which tells the story of a shy middle-aged Filipino immigrant named Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas) as he deals with longing for a partner and his parents’ health. It premiered at South by Southwest and won the Special Jury Recognition. Martin shared his experience with OBRAA about the release of his feature film and himself as a filmmaker.

Martin Edralin
Director and Writer

Islands (2021) was a unique experience for Martin since the premiere was done virtually in March of last year. He found it interesting to get feedback from his film without having to sit with people watching it. It wasn’t until in October that same year where he got to watch it in a theater at the Vancouver Film Festival. He shared about receiving great reviews across the board giving him confidence.

Joshua praying with his parents

“You have no idea how people are responding and I think another great thing with a movie like Islands because there are comedic moments. When you hear people laugh, you have immediate feedback, whereas my short films were dramas and in a quiet theater. You really don’t know how people are feeling unless they’re crying but if they’re not crying you don’t know until you hear from them whether they had a good experience or not.”

With regards to the Islands being recognized and given the Special Jury Recognition:

“It was great. Just the selection by South by Southwest was a real surprise because I know they do take quite a few Canadian films every year but this being a Tagalog language film, we were quite shocked. A lot of the European festivals are very open to it and even TIFF in Toronto. But I did not expect an American festival to (1) select the movie and (2) award it. So, it was a real surprise and an honor and we’re very grateful to have premiered there.”

Joshua at the airport

On being a Filipino Canadian filmmaker in Canada, he shared that he never thought about it in those terms until around the time he was making Islands. He developed the film around 2015 where there were a lot of conversations about diversity and representation being mainstream in the media. This led him to reflect on the fact that he had never made or written a film that puts Filipinos in the spotlight even when he was casting for his short films.

As usual with numerous films, there are both good and bad criticisms. Martin seeks a lot of feedback from the people he trusts. He shared the importance of being honest in giving comments.

“You know it’s not helpful when people just tell you something is great, that’s not constructive at all. I mean, it helps at a certain point, but you wanna know the hard truth. I think especially with this movie, I got better at it. The most challenging was from my partner and I think it’s always hard from the people you’re closest with. Giving feedback, I’ve learned to realize most of the time if you’re asking the right people, they’re giving you hard feedback because they care and they want it to be better and they want you to be better. I think we should be grateful to those people and listen.”

Joshua calls for help

Sharing his thoughts on having a career as a filmmaker here’s what he has to say:

“It’s good and it’s scary at times. I kind of gave myself the time to make that feature film. It wasn’t really working on a lot of other things throughout and I was pretty much unemployed for a long time while I was writing the film. But you know I’m at a point where I think I need to figure out how I’m gonna make a sustainable career. There aren’t a lot of options on the table. Either I’ll be a starving artist or I have to find another means of income outside of film or if I wanted to stay in film/TV then maybe it’s working on some projects that I’m not so passionate about. That’s sort of the path I think I’m gonna continue to take, just making the things that I love and hopefully I can keep doing that. At least for now I’m gonna keep doing that until for whatever reason, I have to compromise and do things that I don’t want to.”

Joshua dancing

Having reached this point of his career and going furthermore, looking back sure does feel nostalgic. Here is what Martin would say to his younger self:

“I think that the advice I would give my younger self is kind of no matter what, whether film or not, I think it would just be to relax a little bit and I’ve actually read a lot of stories from very old people about what they would tell their younger self and almost across the board it’s it is that. Just don’t take life so seriously. Things will usually work out and if they don’t, something else will work out for you. I think that’s really all I would say. You have to do what makes you happy but at the same time take care of yourself and there are some compromises you have to make but I feel like I’m personally guided by a gut instinct that I have learned to trust and it tells me it’s actually very responsive when I should not do something and I listen to that.”

Islands will have its virtual cinema release with Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles. Its digital release on Apple, Google and Amazon will be on June 7.

Written by Jan Marbella

Jan Marbella is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of De La Salle University DasmariƱas.


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item Islands: A Filipino Feature Film from Martin Edralin
Islands: A Filipino Feature Film from Martin Edralin
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