The Philippines of Southeast Asia are an archipelago of 7107 islands with around 91 million inhabitants. Its capital, Manila, is located on the island of Luzon and with 15 million citizens is one of the worlds’ largest and most densely populated cities.
Between October 16 and 29, CINEMANILA International Film Festival, celebrated its 10th anniversary in this exciting city.
Named after legendary Filipino filmmaker Lino Brocka’s production company, CINEMANILA’s mission is to bring the best of world cinema to the Filipino audiences and the best of Filipino filmmaking into the world.
The festival does well in fulfilling its mission – with the majority of this year’s festival awards going to Filipino productions and talent.
Like in previous years, the award ceremony was hosted by President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo in the elegant Malacañang Palace, her official home. Opening the award ceremony, Festival Director and Filmmaker Amable “Tikoy” Aguiluz VI, gave a warm and inspiring opening speech.
He pointed out that during CINEMANILA’s first years it was very impossible to unearth more thanone Filipino entry. However, over the past decade, Filipino filmmakers have developed their talent and are now a much stronger voice not only within their own country, but also on the world-wide festival circuit.
Brillante Mendoza’s Cannes competition feature, SERBIS, as well as Lav Diaz Venice entry MELANCHOIA (which received the Best Film Award in the Orrizonte section earlier this year), are first hand examples of this positive development.
This year’s CINEMANILA festival presented over 100 Filipino as well as international shorts, features and documentaries. Besides offering different sidebars with highlights of domestic as well as international productions, there was an International, a South East Asian, and Young Cinema competitions, plus a Digital Lokal competition. International jurors judged each section. In addition, there was a tribute to Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza with a work show of his films. The festival also celebrated the 40th birthday of Cannes’ QUINZAINE DES REALISATEURS, showcasing highlights from the past years plus a documentary about the history of this unique festival, presented by selection committee member Rebecca Zlotowski. Furthermore, Filipino screen writer Pete Lacaba was presented with a lifetime achievement award, closing this year’s edition with a screening of Lino Brocka’s 1984 Cannes entry BAYAN KO: KAPIT SA PATALIM – MY OWN COUNTRY, scripted by Lacaba.
In addition to the film screenings, the festival organized a number of master classes in screen writing, directing, editing and independent filmmaking for the local film community. To round out the festival and to further support independent filmmaking, CINEMANILA organized the annual BORACAY CO-PRODUCTION MEETINGS, a two-day conference for emerging filmmakers, presenting and pitching their projects to producers and potential patrons. This year’s edition was hosted in Manila and primarily focused on Filipino filmmakers presenting to local producers.
All screenings and workshops took place in the modern GATEWAY CINEPLEX in the busy ARANETA CENTER – a huge shopping complex that also includes the ARANETA COLOSEUM (where Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier during the famous 1975 THRILLA IN MANILLA fight).
I was fortunate to travel to this exciting festival as a member of the international jury and together with Jury Chair and Filipino National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera as well as Italian film scholar and festival director Paolo Minuto, we gave awards to the following films and artists:
Lino Brocka Award Grand Prize: THE BAND’S VISIT (Israel) by Eran Kolirin
THE BANDS VISIT is a charming yet sincere film about an Egyptian band traveling to Israel to give a concert. Getting lost along the way, they are forced to stay overnight with the locals of a tiny, remote village. This detour allows for the villagers and the band members to learn about the each others’ cultures.
Grand Jury Prize: THE AMAZING TRUTH ABOUT QUEEN RAQUELA (Iceland, Philippines, France, Thailand) by Olaf De Fleur Johannesson
Successfully mixing fact and fiction, THE AMAZING TRUTH ABOUT QUEEN RAQUELA introduces the audience to the Filipino lady boy Raquela, whose dream it is to visit Paris and meet the man of her dreams. Rather than exploiting Raquela’s aspirations, the film sensitively offers insight into the heart and mind of its main character.
Vic Silayan Award For Best Actor: KENNETH MORALEDA in LUCKY MILES (Australia) by Michael James Rowland
Kenneth Moraleda plays a young Cambodian refugee who is swept up on the Australian coast, on his way to Perth to find his Australian father. Along the way, he meets up with an Iraqi refugee as well as an Indonesian fisherman. At first each is determined to fight for survival on his own, but eventually the three learn to work together.. Moraleda is compelling as a young man equal parts naïve, determined, smart, and resourceful in his pursuit of Perth.
Vic Silayan Award For Best Actress: ANGELI BAYANI in MELANCHOLIA (Philippines) by Lav Diaz
Lav Diaz’s eight hour epic meditation on sadness and melancholia, shot in beautiful black and white tableaus offers a most unique approach to filmmaking. The film’s three main protagonists are grieving due to the loss of loved ones and set off on a journey through the Philippines. In the film Anegli Bayani plays a prostitute, an educator, and a surrogate mother to her deceased friend’s daughter. Each of her characters fill the frame and time with its very own energy and emotion.
Watch out for the above films – all have a humane message and each filmmaker uses a uniquely creative approach telling his story. Plus, take note of this edition’s young Filipino and South East Asian filmmakers – there is a lot of new talent to discover.
For a full list of all the awards and more information on the festival and films, please visit www.CINEMANILA.org.ph