There is a new independent film festival debuting in Metro Manila come March. Dubbed “Sinag Maynila,” it promises to foster collaboration among filmmakers and festival organizers making it a truly special endeavor among established local counterparts.
At the helm of the project are Solar Entertainment’s Wilson Tieng who serves as festival founder, and internationally acclaimed director Brillante Men-doza as festival director. On February 21, Tieng and Mendoza, along with this year’s film entry directors and actors, launched Sinag Maynila at the Skypark at SM Aura Premiere in Taguig City.
“The major difference [of this film festival among others]is the collaboration [between the organizers and directors]from the script writing stage to the production stage, up to the post-production stage. The festival does not only provide the cash grant,” enthused Mendoza in an interview with members of the press.
For the first Sinag Maynila, the director, with the approval of Tieng, specifically handpicked five directors—namely Paul Sta. Ana, Zig Dulay, Lawrence Fajardo, Jim Libiran, and Remton Zuosola—who all have thought-provoking stories that depict the Filipino society.
Balut Country, Sta. Ana’s entry, follows the journey of Jun, the heir of a duck farm left by his late father. He must decide whether to sell the property to secure his future, or spare the land’s loyal caretakers of inevitable displacement. Sta. Ana has won Best Film at Cinemalaya 2010 for Mayohan, and Best Director at Gawad Urian 2013 for Oros.
A film by Dulay (Huling Halik, M.), Bambanti questions the prejudice of the rich towards the poor when a son of a household help is suspected to have stolen the employer’s missing golden watch. His latest full-length film M. (Mother’s Maiden Name) won Special Jury Prize at the 2014 Metro Manila Film Festival-New Wave Section.
Meanwhile, Fajardo is best known for his award-winning films Amok and Posas for Cinemalaya. For Sinag Maynila, he directs Imbisibol, a film that tells the tale of illegal Filipino immigrants in Japan and their plight to evade authorities.
Ninja Party, a film by Libiran (Suntok sa Buwan, Happyland, Tribu), is a coming of age story of two teen coeds who find themselves in a comprising situation when they get involved in a secret debauchery.
Finally, Zuasola (To Siomai love, Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria) offers Swap which is set to take viewers to the internal conflict of a young father, torn between solving a crime and committing another crime when one day his only son is kidnapped and the criminals demand him to steal another kid in exchange of his son’s life. Zuasola is an Ani ng Dangal and Gawad Urian awardee.
Mendoza is very excited by the fact that he will be able to help fellow directors who have also been making rounds in various independent film festivals locally and abroad to make award-winning movies. “It’s like my way of giving back [to them],” the festival director told The Manila Times.
Meanwhile, Tieng, in a separate interview with The Manila Times, recalled that Sinag Maynila was the result of a “meeting of minds” between him and Brillante who had long been exposed to different film festivals from around the globe.
“We felt that it [an independent film festival]is very timely now. Just look at how indie films are becoming more and more mainstream,” Tieng further noted.
Moreover, he added that it was only fitting for them to finally come together and start their own independent film festival since they had been good friends for a long time.
On what Filipino audiences should expect from Sinag Maynila, Tieng replied, “For the five entries, we are pretty liberal and we just trusted our gut feel.”
The films are scheduled for rotational screening on a daily basis from March 18 to 24 at designated SM Cinemas in Megamall, North Edsa, Manila, Fairview, Southmall, Mall of Asia and in Aura Premier.
The red-carpet opening ceremonies will be held on March 18 with the Sinag Maynila Awards Night on March 21 both at SM Aura. In what they described to be “an intimate evening,” the festival will be recognize excellence in Film, Direction, Performance, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Production Design. Moreover, SM will award special citation to the People’s Choice movie.
After the festival period, Sinag Maynila plans to screen the films in other SM Cinemas in other regions, as well as in universities and colleges.
“Ang isa pa nating objective dito is to reach out to as much Filipinos as far as audience is concerned,” Brillante explained. “SM Cinema is the right venue, malaki ang tulong kapag nandoon sila.”
He also assured that despite SM Cinema’s censorship practices, they will not compromise the festival entries.
For his part, Tieng ended, “Our goal is to organize this festival annually to develop film appreciation not only for entertainment but also to be inspired and moved.”