Film festivals thrive in the Philippines. They might not be figuratively dime a dozen but it could approximate or even outnumber the literal figure given the sub-culture film fest mentality of organizers of such events from across the land.
We have at least eight major local film festivals on the national level—by popularity—and still counting.
They are the Metro Manila Film Festival, Cinema One Originals, Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, CineFilipino, Quezon City International Film Festival, Cinemarehiyon, ToFarm Film Festival and Sinag Maynila.
There are still other film fests, minor as they are but can measure up to the essentials of the big league. Campus film parades are boom in colleges and universities like UP, UST, Ateneo, La Salle (both in their main and satellite schools) etc, in key cities and small communities as well.
Pambujan Film Festival in Northern Samar organized by filmmaker Noriel Jarito is one perfect example of a pastoral town film event and Lagro Film Festival in this Quezon City district initiated by educator and film director Gerry Jumawan is a community movie affair.
If the numbers are gauges alone or indications, are film festivals signs of progress in the economic and cultural development of the nation?
With the proliferation of mass com courses in the academe with film cognates, students get to learn and lean to filmmaking as a career option. Other professionals and out-of-school members who have inkling on the art also try their hands on it.
Usually, the first vehicle of up and coming, student or experienced filmmakers to show their wares if not the big studios are film festivals. Short or documentary film category is the most favored jumping board but the full-length feature is also a stepping stone to realize one’s dream of getting professionally started in the bigger biz.
New blood filmmakers are very talented and fascinating they are worthy of keeping track.
This makes the local film industry a more competitive arena as Mao reminded us to “let a thousand flowers bloom, a hundred thoughts contend.” This maxim is for the betterment of the community and not only of an artist’s personal selfish agenda advancement.
Despite the tension between the marketing terms indie and mainstream filmmaking, players already blur the line that separates the two distinct economic facilities for there is only the big and the small budget productions to speak of. Logic and principles of human development should embody the form and the content which are always the measures of what a good film is all about whether commercial or not, film festivals or regular screenings.
Yet there are intramurals in each film festival not easily visible. Socio-cultural realities get in the way. Clique syndrome cannot be outdone instantly in this still feudal age. Influence-peddling is another thing to hurdle. Subjectivity is another setback. Economic power elite control in any segment of the modern film society is a problem as well.
The current Sinag Maynila Film Festival is enjoying its run in several select cinemas among SM circuit and one hopes that an entry which doesn’t meet the daily box-office sales quota in each theater can still go on notwithstanding the electric and maintenance requirements the cinema management imposes on the suppliers and producers.
When Sinag Maynila—an event component of Solar Entertainment jointly administered by Wilson Tieng and internationally renowned filmmaker Brillante Ma. Mendoza—opened mid last week, it was as if the whole world was singing hosanna to the annual fest.
Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson Liza Diño was also singing praises to the forerunners of the event. Diño promises support to the enhancement of the Filipino films especially in a film festival like this. Truly, hope springs eternal in the midst of adversities.
A Cannes Film Festival officer his name skipped my mind was a guest and was all praises to the local films he even mentioned a recent movie which featured, according to him, a crimebuster-superhuman transgender which members of the movie press Mario Dumaual, myself and Lhar Santiago surmised it must be Vice Ganda in “Gandarrapiddo: The Revenger Squad.
”Vice it really was. Dumaual asked the Cannes rep what he thought of the film. The beleaguered man without batting an eyelash haphazardly said “entertaining” and he chuckled afterwards. He was just, of course, objectively describing the film as a critic.
An assortment of showbiz residents were represented in the event from the government film council to the loosely organized film groups to the movie press.
It was a gathering of diverse tactics and interests not purely cynical but practical means mostly on the pursuit of prominence, local film practitioners’ acceptance and world cinema inclusion. Seen at the opening night were actresses Aiza Seguerra, Mara Lopez, directors Ato Bautista and Ralston Jover, line producer Dennis Evengelista and many showbiz stakeholders who are very pivotal in driving the industry in the right direction if only unity of purpose is drawn, acted on and eventually achieved.
Unfortunately, the old system of disunity is still the prevailing attitude. It is alas a reflection of the national malaise.
A revolution of the self is in order, according to controversial Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel (“Moma,” “EC2Luv,” “Mga Paru-Parong Rosas,” “Mona Singapore Escort,” “Latak,” “HiStory,” “Strictly Confidential” and “Leona Calderon”). “Each one of us should unlearn bad things in us and learn to do just,” Jowee quipped. He might not be around during the event but his thoughts reverberated.
Sinag Maynila is an addition to show windows of film productions of whatever quality and import from the excellent and the mediocre. It is hard to separate the grain from the chaff but at least, there is one more shopping venue to determine the values of each film in relation to the progress of an individual and society.
A film is like a product—a soap, a softdrink, a social media gadget, a food, a furniture. Does it serve a purpose to the health, well-being and growth of a person in each of his or her human needs from his physical to the spiritual self? A film doesn’t have to entertain alone.
It should also inspire, educate, inform and push a person to action to change for the better. A film appreciation is also a gear to orient and reorient the demographics about the utilitarian values of the cultural product.
A film should also reflect the real human condition in the most artistic plane.
When the opening film “Paris Prestige”—a French production directed by Mohamed “Hame” Bourockba and Ekoue Labitey—was screened at the adjacent Cinema 11 early evening one could literally skate around the orchestra. Where must the film audience be at this hour of the day? What could be the source of walkout of some viewers? Was it the strangeness of the presentation when universality of themes and concepts are already within the grasp of the modern world? Was it the dragging pacing? Was it the foreign dialogue however subtitled? Was it the unfamiliarity of the ensemble?
Hoping that all the best entries namely Yam Laranas’ “Abomination,” Jover’s “Bomba,” Richard Somes’ “El Peste,” Matthew Victor Pastor’s “Melodrama/Random/Melbourne” and Joselito Altarejos’ “The Tale of the Lost Boys” would enjoy the moviegoers’ patronage.
Even if they aren’t produced by moneyed studios, we encourage the public to support the independent productions like in the past. How come NV Productions, Lea Productions, 4-N Films, Sining Silangan, Cine Suerte, FPJ Productions etc made money however filmed independently? How come most Filipinos swarm to see movies of Star Cinema, Viva Entertainment, Regal Films and other big film factories? They contribute much to the public coffers.
Indie companies can also be the lifelines of the national treasure. Sinag Maynila couldn’t spend much for ads and promotions but there are ways the audience can get acquainted with them. Social media are one. Clever and intelligent marketing is another. Get up and push one Filipino every moment to watch film festivals.
After all, the audience, in general, is the be all and end all of a film. The market is the soul of the film economy.