Who would have imagined how far a China-made digital 4MB SD card palm camera could take a young dreamer’s film making dreams?
In the case of Filipino-American actor-director- producer Anthony Diaz V, it is quite far indeed. “When I was a kid, my family had movie night every Friday,” Anthony recalls. “After every film, I would ask my parents, ‘What motivated the characters’ actions?”
That sort of set Anthony off on an early film education with his father encouraging his then ten-year- old son to lap up with glee movies like “The Godfather,” “Taxi Driver,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction,” “El Mariachi,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” the list goes on. These are films that Anthony admits “many kids my age at the time wouldn’t be interested in.”
He was, in a manner of speaking, a normal kid whose growing love for films made him a misfit.
Before he was 20, the brawny Anthony Diaz has completed dozens of short films. The independent film making spirit has been evident early on with Anthony multitasking, taking on screen writing, directing, producing, acting, and editing duties. By the time he reached 20, he has already graduated with high honors at the University of Las Vegas Film School (UNLV), making him the youngest graduate in the history of the program.
Anthony has received acclaim for the early short films he made like “Delusion” and “Forgotten Heroes.” In 2012, he put up a film production company called Kaizen Studios in Las Vegas, USA. The following year, he established a satellite of Kaizen Studios in Shibuya, Japan.
Japan is close to Anthony’s heart, having been a frequent visitor to the land of sashimis, cherry blossoms, and top-tier car brands since he was 8. Little wonder then that when he embarked on his first full length feature, Anthony chose to make “Break.”
“Break” can be described in many ways depending on how the viewer sees it but at its core, it is a story about alienation and angst as a young Japanese-American lad is thrown into the underworld while he deals with personal issues as an outsider trying to fit into Japanese society.
It is, in a way, a throwback to Anthony’s childhood when he was watching movies that wouldn’t strike a chord with children his age. He was like a misfit then, as his character in “Break” is. There is a need to find his place in an environment that isn’t very welcoming. Then he loses the girl he loves and the downward spiral begins.
On screen and in photos, Anthony Diaz strikes you as a kind of millennial James Dean, but this time a rebel with a cause, and with a more relatable Liam Neeson-ish vibe. In the movie “Break,” he even does breakdancing in one scene. Clearly, Anthony is the new kind of screen hero who has a good head to match the well-toned physique. And somehow you sense that there is a tenderness that lies beneath the swagger and the action star gait.
But Anthony assures that the similarities between him and his movie character end there. “The movie is not autobiographical at all,” he points out. “Break,” according to him, “was actually inspired from a short film I made when I was 17 years old called ‘Lunch Break’ which I shot with my high school friends in Vegas. The premise of the story is similar, but I expanded the universe and characters against the backdrop of Japan.”
Why should Pinoy audiences not miss “Break?” “This film is really unique as it blends American storytelling with Japanese cinema infused with hip-hop. It’s the first time to my knowledge that a film has simultaneous English and Japanese language throughout the movie with supporting subtitles. But most importantly, the overall theme is of a foreigner trying desperately to fit in. It is what most of us have experienced in some form or another.”
“Break” has had a private screening in Japan last April and its second stop is the Philippines before it heads off to Sundance.
To find out more about “Break,” go to thebreakmovie.com or visit the Kaizen Studios FB page @Facebook.com/KaizenStudios