There is truth in imagination.
This was the clear message of the 4th Active Vista Human Rights Film Festival on its opening night, which coincided on the eve of the 30th anniversary of Edsa People Power on February 23.
Held at the Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex in Mandaluyong City, Active Vista is staged by Dakila—an organization of artists and advocates continuously calling for social transformation. The gala night screened a fitting film by internationally acclaimed Filipino director Khavn.
Titled Edsa XXX, the low budgeted yet highly imaginative “science-fiction musical” successfully portrayed the Philippines’ historical and peaceful uprising. Most importantly, it asks the question of what has happened since that that pivotal moment when the country gained anew its democracy.
First screened with just a rough cut during the 2012 run of Cinema One Originals, Edsa XXX caught then attention of international film festivals, where it has since traveled until its homecoming on Wednesday night. Active Vista had the honor of premiering the movie’s final edit.
“When I set out to make this film, I thought I was doing so to fulfill the wish of my friend, film critique Alexis Tioseco. When I finished it, I realized who I really was making the film for Filipinos who know how to live for love of freedom and liberty,” said the maverick director of political satire.
And as he took center stage at the festival opening, he renewed the call for change: “Buong puso kong pinaniniwalaang mahusay ang Pinoy—mahusay ang Pilipino, mahusay ang Pilipina. Magaling, maparaan, kagila-gilalas ang kanyang nagagawa at mararating, ang narating. Dahil mahusay ang Pilipino, naniniwala ako na kaya nating isulong ang pagbabago. Na kaya nating simulan ang pagkitil ng katiwalian, pagtama sa mali, pagtuwid sa buktot, at higit sa lahat, pagtugon sa hamon ng pagbabago.”
His audience—comprised of fellow filmmakers, cultural workers, members of the academe, representatives of the diplomatic community, human rights advocates, students, members of the media, and NGO volunteers—agreed with the man wholeheartedly.
Also impressed and touched both by Khavn’s speech and work were the evening guests of honor, namely Dakila Founding member Ronnie Lazaro, Malaysia’s Freedom Film Festival Director Anna Har, the Philippines’ Human Rights Commissioner Chito Gascon, New York-based writer and feminist Ninotcka Rosca, United Nations Resident Coordinator Ola Almgren, and Deputy Head of Mission Jaco Beerends of the Embassy of The Netherlands.
In response, festival director Leni Velasco said, “There is nothing more timely than opening this festival on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the People Power Revolution in this month of love. Edsa, after all, was born out of love—love for freedom, love for liberty, love for country, for every fellow countrymen. We hope to spark and rekindle that same love again among the Filipino public especially among the youth by presenting these films that will disturb of inspire them to explore the truths.”
Besides the by-invitation only screening of Edsa XXX, Active Vista also showcased Jun Lana’s Barber’s Tales on February 24, and Pepe Diokno’s Kapatiran the day after, also at the Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex.
On its last day on February 26, the film fest held a grand culmination by running simultaneous screenings of foreign human rights films in different parts of the country.
At the University of the Philippines Film Center, aspiring filmmakers chose three internationally acclaimed foreign films namely The Missing Picture by Rithy Panh (France, Cambodia), Citizenfour by Laura Poitras (USA), and Margarita with a Straw by Shonali Bose (India, USA).
Ara Chawdhurry’s Miss Bulalacao was meanwhile taken to Cebu; Chuck Gutierrez’s Iisa to Davao; and finally, another film by Diokno, Engkwentro, to Iloilo.
Added Velasco, the opening of Active Vista signals the beginning of a yearlong program, which will bring human rights-themed films to schools and communities nationwide. Moreover, the program will incorporate a Dutch-Filipino film festival to celebrate 65 years of diplomatic relations and 150 years of consular ties between the Philippines and The Netherlands.
As such, The Embassy of Netherlands served as presenter of Active Vista Film Festival, hand in hand with the Commission on Human Rights. Other partners comprised of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the UP Film Institute, and Movie that Matters, among other organizations.
The group Dakila was founded by writer and journalist Lourd de Veyra, singer-songwriter Noel Cabangon, veteran actor Ronnie Lazaro, Parokya ni Edgar bassist Buwi Meneses, and the late comedian Tado.