MIKHAIL RED was only 23 when he and his film crew shot his second full-length feature Birdshot (his first was Rekorder) over 23 days on location in Davao (“for the eagles”), Isabela, Fairview in Quezon City, and Tanay, Rizal.

Birdshot tells the story of a farm girl who wanders into a forest reserve where she shoots and kills a critically endangered and protected Philippine Eagle. When local authorities track down the poacher of the national bird, they find more than they expected.

Birdshot was the opening film of the recently concluded Cinemalaya Film Festival.

“It is based on a true event,” Mr. Red told BusinessWorld. “I read a news article about a farmer who shot, killed, and ate a Philippine Eagle. I was intrigued by the scenario — a man unaware of the crime he commits — his motivation is purely survival.

Birdshot is about coexistence, and the food chain or pecking order of Philippine society.”

There seems to be another layer beneath this theme: agrarian unrest. While reticent about discussing it, Mr. Red said: “We reference a lot of injustices that have occurred in the past, and even the present. The film shows how we destroy our national symbol through the extinction of the Philippine Eagle and through the extinction of societal truth and justice itself.”

Producer Pamela Reyes lead the search for the film’s protagonist, Maya. The girl had to be a fresh face, someone who had never been seen on the big screen. “We needed a girl who transforms within the film. She has to come of age. We needed her to look 14-15. Mary Joy [Apostol] was 17 at the time of production [she is now 19, and a college student]. But her versatility and her balance of grace and ferocity made her perfect for the role of Maya,” Mr. Red said.

The film features Ku Aquino as Maya’s father, Arnold Reyes and John Arcilla as the town policemen, and Dido de la Paz as the town’s police chief. Mr. Red co-wrote the screenplay with Rae Red.

Birdshot, which had participated in 16 festivals, competing in four of them, was adjudged Best Film at the Asian Future Competition of the Tokyo Film Festival 2016, and was accorded special mention in the Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival. Birdshot has more festivals lined up until mid-2018.

Mr. Red is shooting his third feature, Neomanila, this month, planning to premiere it in October during the QCinema film festival. He is also preparing a horror film (Eerie) for 2018.

Birdshot is one of 12 featured films in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) which runs from Aug. 16 to 22. — Susan Claire Agbayani

MTRCB Rating: R-13