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The prevalence of short films in Pinoy showbiz

It’s inevitable that the short film format will be one of the most anticipated entertainment fares not only among cineastes but ordinary filmgoers as well. After almost a century of full-length film’s dominance in the commercial market, shorts have found its niche, finally, though, relatively slowly.

Yet historically speaking, shorts had been in the country since the invention of the cinematographe or chronographe by Europeans like the brothers Lumiere and motion picture camera by the American Thomas Alva Edison. As a matter of fact, in capturing historical events at the turn of the 20th century, short films or also simply known (as one of its forms)—newsreels were shown to the public as films.

As filmmaking as an art and as commerce progressed in the Philippines during the American period, full length features—normally more than twenty or more minutes. It was as if a short film couldn’t tell a full story so extended time was given to feature filmmaking. Especially when the studio and star system were introduced in the film business, the shorts were relegated to the background or simply taken as passé if not useless—not a profit-making activity.

There were exceptions to the rules, indeed, when a maverick independent filmmaking named Kidlat Tahimik, Eric de Guia in real life, ventured into short and experimental filmmaking in show business in the 70s not necessarily for moneymaking pursuit but for artistic concern.

Surely, there were short filmmakers not documented or recognized even during the advent and prevalence of feature filmmaking because as long as one had a 35mm camera or Super 8 or 8mm camera, one could film a subject. But using them especially 35mm for short moviemaking seemed a futile act or just an elite or snobbish move, waste of time and money unless there was a practical or compelling reason to do so like personal consumption or exclusive coverage and screening even if a Super 8 camera was seen as a compatible gadget for shorts. Political events like presidential inaugurations, government projects or state funerals were mostly the subjects of exclusive 35mm or Super 8mm use.

In the 80s when Mowelfund was established and its film school was in place, experimental and short filmmaking was encouraged. Nick Deocampo is the first filmmaker to come to mind when it comes to local short moviemaking. But then again, it was the least of the moviegoer’s priority to watch shorts as against commercial cinema.

It’s only in the emergence of independent filmmaking in the 90s and especially in the millennium that shorts were given recognition in show business when the Gawad Urian of the prestigious Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) started to nominate and award short films in a separate category. The burgeoning of many film festivals (Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals, Cinefilipino, Sinag Maynila, Quezon City International Film Festival, Cinemarehiyon, Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, ToFarm Film Festival etc) paved the way as well to the acknowledgement of short film as a form. Even the annual Metro Manila Film Festival has later given way to a short film section.

Sadly, short films have not yet seen a larger chunk of the commercial clients but it is already a leap of achievement in the genre department. They are already here and stirring public consciousness no matter the building of a considerable audience taking a long time.

The local showbiz is patient about the maturity of the crowd in patronizing shorts.

Director Glenn Barit of the 2018 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival Short Film Category entry, “Nangungupahan (Who Rents There Now?)” believes that short films are everywhere (on TV, social media, public screenings outside the traditional movie houses etc) and they are being patronized as shorts consciously or unconsciously. “Sa mga cellphone natin, ang dami nang short films at pinapanood na ang mga ito (In our cellphones, there are many short films and they are being watched). “They also tell stories,” added Glenn.

But short film as a commercial venture has a long way to go yet.

Never say die.

Aside from “Nangungupahan,” the other competing shorts in the 14th Cinemalaya are Carlo Francisco Manatad’s “Jodilerks de la Cruz, Employee of the Month” which stars Angeli Bayani; Kani Villaflor’s “Logro”; Jojo Driz’s “Kiko”; Keith Deligero’s “Babylon”; Christian Candelaria’s “Sa Saiyang Isla (In His Island)”; Xeph Suarez’s “Si Astri Maka Si Tambulah (Astri and Tambulah)”: Jarell Serencio’s “Siyudad sa Bulawan (City of Gold)”: Mika Pabella and Rafael Froilan’s “Yakap (Embrace)” and Jav Velasco’s “You, Me and Mr. Wiggles” which top bills Kiko Matos and Elora Españo.

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