There is more to Philippine independent film than Cinemalaya. For indeed, with 17 regions and thousands of islands in the country, a single metro-centric film festival is not enough to show a full spectrum of the diverse stories of Filipinos.
This is the expansive gap that the National Committee on Cinema (NCC), under the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), hopes to bridge through Cinema Rehiyon. Launched in 2009, the annual film festival brings together the best of regional films and provides local filmmakers much needed support.
“Napansin namin, sa Cinemalaya at CinemaOne Originals, bakit lahat ng produksyon galing Maynila? At karamihan ng kwento ay tungkol sa mga nangyayari dito sa National Capital Region at Luzon. Paano na yung mga kwentong Visayas, kwentong Mindanao?” NCC Vice Head Teddy Co recalled in a film screening and press conference held at the NCCA building in Intramuros, Manila.
NCC did not have to search far and wide as they learned that several film festivals were being staged in different regions away from mainstream consciousness. These include the Mindanao Film Festival, CineKabalen in Pampanga, and student film productions in regional universities.
“We thought, how can we see all of these films? We just connected the dots and put all these films together, and the result was Cinema Rehiyon in 2009,” Co furthered.
This year’s Cinema Rehiyon 7 (CR7) will be launched in Cebu from August 6 to 9 and is poised to be the biggest outing of the steadily growing film fest.
“The first Cinema Rehiyon was held at CCP Dream Theater with 100 seats only. We had only seven cities with only less than 30 titles. Last year in the 6th Cinema Rehiyon in Cagayan de Oro City, the total number of films was up to 98 coming from 37 cities,” the vice head enthused.
CR7 will be divided into two categories as per usual, with over 50 short films and 17 full-length films.
“At the moment we have 54 short films, but it looks like every day it’s still increasing,” CR7 Festival Director Bambi Beltran shared.
Forums will also be held on four discourses touching on regional films, the representation of indigenous people in cinema, film heritage, and film programming.
Localization over exoticization
One of the main goals of presenting regional films is to show ways of life in the regions from the perspective of the locals.
While several internationally acclaimed Filipino filmmakers have explored stories in the regions, Co said there is a tendency to “exoticize” the subjects as the experiences were not felt firsthand.
A good example would be stories of tragedies such as the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda in Samar, Leyte, and Tacloban. Local filmmakers that have witnessed the disaster unfold before their eyes will be joining CR7 to offer fresh perspectives that are not as highly dramatized.
These include T.M. Malones’ Dapya Sang Paglaum, Charena Escala and Rowena Sanches’ documentary Nick and Chai, and Thomas Fitzgerald’s Tigdao.
Cinema Rehiyon also provides an inclusive space for national consciousness to grow through films, as the regions are essential to the country’s identity.
As NCCA Chairman Felipe de Leon put it, “Nasa mga rehiyon ang buhay ng Pilipinas.”
According to de Leon, agriculture and other industries in the regions are essential to the sustainability of the nation’s resources and therefore it is important that their stories be heard.
Giving examples of the beautiful life and struggles in the regions to be seen in CR7 films, NCCA screened three short films namely Rommel Ruiz’ Nangisit nga Darag (Black Sand) from Cagayan Valley, Christian Paulo Lat’s Red Lights from Cebu, and Ozamis-based Jo Bacus’ The End of War.
To further push the limits of spreading awareness on regional films, CR7 made sure that one need not be in Cebu to catch the films. The movies will be available online through Cinema Rehiyon’s recently launched Viddsee channel (viddsee.com/channel/cinemarehiyon). Currently, 13 short films are up on the channel, and more movies will be added as the festival nears.
For more information, visit www.cinemarehiyon.com.