Indie film favorite Neil Ryan Sese calls it a “breather” from the gay- and crime-themed trends in independent movies of Philippine Cinema today. That is, the 1st ToFarm Film Festival Philippines, which will spotlight the agricultural way of life in the country from June 13 to 19 in selected Metro Manila cinemas.
Not that there is anything wrong with showing these two realities in society, the actor maintained in a sit down with The Manila Times, but for a timely change, this highly overlooked yet major sector deserves a closer look by the nation.
This brief interview with Sese, who was proudly part of the triumphant Ma’ Rosa team to May’s Cannes Film Festival in France, served as a valuable insight to the program at hand where festival director Maryo delos Reyes heralded the country’s latest independent film competition.
In his speech at the ballroom of Edsa Shangri-La Manila at ToFarm’s launch on Monday, the award-winning filmmaker and TV director declared, “The farmers and their plight have recently moved center stage in local news. It’s time that this industry does its share to help them.”
Citing the timeliness of tackling issues hounding the agriculture sector through the power of film, Delos Reyes cited the controversial Kidapawan protest in March that resulted to the injury of over a hundred farmers and three tragic deaths.
He also touched on Senate Bill 3002, which on a more positive note has passed the final reading at the Senate and the House of Representatives in January, and is geared at the development and promotion of farm tourism in the country.
“We, as cineastes, contribute to spreading awareness on what is happening to our farmers through six carefully chosen films that will surely provide a good picture of how much help and attention the farmers need,” the director continued.
Enjoining the public to watch the competing works he added, “Supporting these movies is one way of helping them.”
One of the six competing films is Kakampi by written and directed by Victor Acedillo Jr., and stars Sese as a city boy who inherits lands to farm in Camiguin and forms a relationship with nature.
“Besides shedding light on agricultural issues—how important farming is to our country since they say that in years to come we will suffer food shortage—I realized another important thing while filming Kakampi,” the actor relate. “Na simple lang ang buhay ng tao. Kasi sa Camiguin, may mga taong nakatira sa simpleng bahay, walang pintuan kasi wala namang magnanakaw doon, at kinukuha lang nila ang pagkain nila sa likod sa mga tanim nila. We’re the only ones who make life complicated.
The rest of the movies to be featured in the festival are Pilapil, Pitong Kabang Palay, Free Range, and Pauwi Na.
Meanwhile, Delos Reyes also mentioned the plan to bring the films to the provinces by means of regional screenings in key cities such as Angeles, Cebu and Davao, and the province of Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija.
“Eventually, we will organize caravans that will bring these movies to the barrios. We could set up screens in gymnasiums in certain barangays. If the farmers can’t go to the movie houses, we will bring the movies to them,” he said.
The indie fete, co-presented by The Search and Award for The Outstanding Farmers of the Philippines (ToFarm) and Universal Harvester, Inc., revolves around the theme “The Plight of the Farmer: His Trials and Triumphs.”
The six competing films each received a grant of P1.5 million, as seed money to produce the final movies, which will be shown at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City and SM North Edsa in Quezon City.
Ending his speech, Delos Reyes thanked Universal Harvester, Inc. executive vice president Dr. Milagros How for being key in making the vision of ToFarm a reality.
“We need more people like her. Dr. How has made it her advocacy to help farmers and the agriculture industry. Now, she is helping show business by enabling these young directors to realize their passion for filmmaking and by providing employment to people.”
The six finalists will compete for the top prize of P500,000. The Second Best film will bring home P400,000, and the Third Best film, P300,000. A Special Jury Prize will also be given during the awards ceremony that will be held on July 19.
For more information, visit www.tofarm. org or the festival’s Facebook site, ToFarm Film Festival Philippines.