Cinemanila: Haven for young filmmakers

By Nickie Wang

Independently-produced films do not earn much, most of the time they are not even close to breaking even. But why is that” indies” still proliferate in the country? Are we really trying to prove or profile the Philippine cinema as the new mecca of independent films?

Anita Linda in Brillante Mendoza's Lola

Anita Linda in Brillante Mendoza's Lola

Producing “indies” is not about business. To most independent filmmakers, “It’s more of a passion.” Yet, their passion only pays off when their films are recognized abroad, but it is not always the case. Not all “indies” are acknowledged overseas.

“It’s been years of struggle. We are called independent because we are critics, and we remain on the side because it’s the only place where we can freely do our job. We can’t do that if we’re part of the mainstream,” film director Jon Red (no relation to this section’s editor) told the press at the launch of 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Red is among the new breed of filmmakers whose main objective is not to earn a fortune but to stand by their objective, which is to support local cinema and the people working behind it. His black comedy film Ang Beerhouse, produced by seasoned actors Joel Torre and Ronnie Lazaro, is one of the finalists in this year’s festival under Digital Lokal category.

Independent films are fearless, they are brave in telling stories that mainstream movies cannot liberally discuss or feature. But more often than not, indies revolve and talk about only the same themes. If they don’t tackle about [homo] sexuality, they talk about the ills of the society.

For Armando “Bing” Lao, whose film Biyaheng Lupa is also one of the finalists under the category Digital Lokal, intentions of filmmakers reflect on the types of film they make.

“We have different intentions as filmmakers, for me we are critics of our time, that’s why we talk about poverty. Our films are like history books, they mirror the environment.”

Cinemanila festival director Tikoy Aguiluz supported the statements of the two film directors by saying that the festival has featured movies that are not escapists. He brought up that since the festival started in 1999, it has featured movies that essay realities.

Competing films

A total of 37 films are competing in this year’s festival under the Main Competition, Digital Lokal (Philippine digital feature films in competition), Young Cinema Section (Philippine shorts in competition), and SEA Shorts (Southeast Asian shorts in competition). A total of 100 international and local films will be screened in the festival for a span of 10 days in different venues in Taguig City (Market! Market!, Fully Booked’s U View, and Bonifacio High Street).

Cinemanila's closing film Himpapawid

Cinemanila's closing film Himpapawid

Cannes Best Director Brillante Mendoza opened the festival on Oct. 15 with the screening of his latest film, Lola. While, Palme d’Or winner Raymond Red’s first major film in nine years, Himpapawid, will close the festival on Oct. 25.

With Anita Linda in the leading role, Lola is about two old women who try to cope and survive life’s harsher realities for the elderly. On the other hand, Himpapawid follows the tale of a desperate man who hijacks a plane.

The competing films for the main competition are: Independencia (Philippines); Mammoth (Sweden); Ricky (France); Tulpan (Kazakhstan); Chend Du, I Love You (China); Samson and Delilah (Australia); Hunger (UK); Tony Manero (Chile/Brazil); Pandora’s Box (Turkey/France/Germany/Belgium); Milk of Sorrows (Peru); and Machan (Italy/Sri Lanka).

Homegrown international festival

Since its inception before the turn of the new millennium, the Cinemanila International Film Festival has endeavored to revive the Philippines as the center of Southeast Asian cinema. It serves as a platform for young filmmakers to showcase their works.

“What makes us different compared to other local festivals is that we have an international component. We’ve been consistent in bringing the Philippine cinema to the world, and the world cinema to our country,” said Tikoy Aguiluz.

Aguiluz furthered that Cinemanila is a homegrown festival that focuses on young cinema and one of its main goals is to discover new talents.

“Despite the fact that we don’t offer grants, we still attract good filmmakers. When you have a good festival, you attract good filmmakers. The only offer that we can give them [filmmakers], however, is the exposures because our jurors are from Busan, Berlin, and Cannes,” Aguiluz concluded.

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