Controversy has shrouded the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, which is celebrating its first decade as the country’s premier promoter of ‘indies.”
Filmmakers whose works were shown in Cinemalaya are crying “violation of rights” after the foundation behind the filmfest posted 2012 and 2013 competition films online over the weekend.
Among the protesting filmmakers are the 2013 best director, Hannah Espia (Transit), and the first year’s Best Film director, Auraeus Solito (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros).
The two voiced their indignation during the festival’s awards night on Sunday at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
“I want to express my heartbreak over the upload of our films on YouTube . . . To see our films on YouTube is a violation of our rights as artists and filmmakers,” Espia, who accepted the New Breed Category’s Best Screenplay award for director Giancarlo Abrahan V’s Dagitab, said.
Espia, who co-produced Dagitab, said she and fellow filmmakers are demanding a dialogue with Cinemalaya officials. “We cannot stay silent,” she added.
Solito, who now goes by the name of Kanakan Balintagos, read an official statement from the first batch of Cinemalaya participants.
“We are in solidarity with our fellow filmmakers whose artistic rights were violated when their films were uploaded on YouTube and on the Cinemalaya website without their final consent,” he said.
The full-length films were uploaded to the Cinemalaya website and the personal YouTube account of a certain Janssen Agbada.
In a statement posted in its Facebook account, the Cinemalaya Foundation said, “Only half an hour ago, we got wind of the fact that Cinemalaya films were uploaded by Janssen Agbada, technical personnel of the Cinemalaya website, yesterday. We apologize for this situation which we had no idea of nor we are aware of what or who caused or gave instruction for her to upload the films.”
The films were eventually removed from the website and the YouTube account was taken down.
During the awards night, Tonyboy Cojuangco, board chairman of the Cinemalaya Foundation, claimed responsibility for the posting of the films.
Cojuangco explained that for the past 10 years, he had struggled to subsidize Cinemalaya. He said he predicts that interest in the festival will “plateau” over the next few years.
Searching for ways to make the festival sustainable, Cojuangco said he turned to a group of experts for suggestions. Putting the films online where they can be downloaded for free was what “they thought was the answer,” he added.
“The only way to get that is by giving them the chance to watch,” Cojuangco said. “It’s either we upload everything, or we upload nothing at all.”
Cojuangco said the foundation decided to upload all films it still had rights to. Cinemalaya holds the rights to the films it exhibits for three years.
That explains why the uploaded films were from the festival’s 2012 and 2013 editions.
Awards night hosts Ina Feleo, daughter of the late Johnny Delgado and Cinemalaya’s festival director Laurice Guillen, and Epi Quizon, son of the late King of Comedy Dolphy, noted that this year’s festival showcases some of the most trusted families in Philippine cinema like the O’Haras and the Siguion-Reynas.
Carlitos Siguion-Reyna made his return to filmmaking after 14 years on a high note. Hari ng Tondo, which he directed, won three awards in the Directors Showcase category: Special Jury Prize, Best Actor for Robert Arevalo and Best Supporting Actress for Cris Villonco.
Carlitos is the son of Armida Siguion-Reyna, and Villonco is his niece.
In accepting the awards for Siguion-Reyna, film producer and writer Bibeth Orteza said she was delighted to see the return of the “Reyna” name to the big screen.
Sisters Janice O’Hara and Denise O’Hara of the O’Hara clan accepted the Audience Choice award for Sundalong Kanin in the New Breed Category.
Nora’s 1st Cinemalaya award
Nora Aunor bagged the best actress plum in the Directors Showcase for her performance in “Hustisya,” a film by Joel Lamangan.
It was Aunor’s first time to join the indie film festival. “Sa wakas, nagkaroon din ako ng pelikula sa Cinemalaya [Finally, I had a film at Cinemalaya],” she said.
“I will continue to make meaningful films. I hope that it will serve as an inspiration to the youth,” Aunor added.
Eula Valdez won Best Actress in the New Breed category for “Dagitab” and Dante Rivero won Best Actor for “1st for ko si 3rd” in the Directors Showcase.
Villonco was Best Supporting Actress in the Directors Showcase for her role in Mariquina.
Best Supporting Actors were Miggs Cuaderno, a Kapuso child actor, for his role in “Children’s Show” (New Breed), and Nicco Manalo in “The Janitor” (Directors Showcase).
A special award for Best Ensemble Acting went to the cast of “#Y” by Gino Santos.
For Short Films, Kevin Ang won Best Director and Screenplay for his film “Lola” while Sari Estrada got the Best Film for “Asan si Lolo Me?”
Michael Tuviera received two awards, Best Director and Best Screenplay, for “The Janitor,” while Joselito Altarejos got the Best Film honor for “Kasal” in the Directors Showcase.