As Cinemalaya 2022 comes to a close, I can definitely say it feels so good to fully enjoy the festival once again. This is mainly because, for the first time in a long time, I was actually able to watch films. Since August 5, rain or shine, the festival was alive with people bustling in and out of the cinema.

With filmmaker Zig Dulay and the cast of ‘Black Rainbow.’
With filmmaker Zig Dulay and the cast of ‘Black Rainbow.’

There's still nothing better than sitting in a dark theater, enjoying the experience of a larger-than-life screen and laughing and crying with 2000 audiences. This is the joy Cinemalaya has brought to the Filipino audience in the last 18 years.

As someone who recently found some me time, I took this opportunity to make up for lost time and watched the films. As I attended as many premieres as possible, I also reconnected with peers and colleagues, talking about anything and everything cinema.

While I enjoyed supporting the eleven feature films that held their world premiere in Cinemalaya, the most memorable experience for me was watching the festival's lineup of well-crafted short films.

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This year's crop of short films was really strong, representing diverse and unique voices from different regions in the Philippines. They usedtheir native language to share indigenous stories from their respective localities.

Elevating storytelling

This batch of twelve short filmmakers has taken storytelling to a whole new level. Some of these films were products of various short film lab programs and competitions that filmmakers participated in amid the pandemic.

In recent years, there has been an increase in opportunities for emerging filmmakers. For the first time, I finally saw the fruition of the support mechanisms that the FDCP provided for our aspiring filmmakers, the development support and platforms that allowed them to share their voices through their stories.

The columnist with the cast and crew of ‘Si Oddie,’ and their mentor Arden Rod Condez.
The columnist with the cast and crew of ‘Si Oddie,’ and their mentor Arden Rod Condez.

"Dikit" by Gabriela Serrano, a silent film co-funded by the agency last year as part of the Mit Out Sound Silent Film Lab, was a competition short that represents emerging filmmakers' voices today. In this short silent LGBT-themed film, she embraced the principles of silent cinema with her experimental and playful exploration of the spectrum of gender identities through indigenous mythical elements and creatures as characters in her story.

There was also a variety of narratives that presented perspectives on global social issues and gave minorities their voices. While the production quality of these shorts varies from low-cost to high-quality, well-funded short films, the crafting poured into these films reflects how far we have gone in championing the short form as a vehicle to tell stories.

Empowering regional cinema

It was heartwarming to discover that most of the short films at the festival came from young emerging filmmakers from the regions.

One of the most memorable titles is a short film that tackles the struggles of marginalized communities in the country, our indigenous peoples who are sometimes not given the support and platform to tell their stories.

"Black Rainbow" by award-winning filmmaker Zig Dulay is a well-crafted short film that will touch hearts with its simplicity and sincerity and will remind us all to still believe in the good of humanity.

Played by amazing Aeta kids, I hope the film's impact goes beyond just giving appreciation to its message. I wish for this story to inspire action to help address the needs of our indigenous communities.

Another memorable regional film I saw was "Si Oddie," a short film written and directed by UP Visayas' BA Communication and Media Studies student, Ma. Kydylee Torato.

The film follows a delivery rider who struggles to search for his oddly located customer while racing against time in a life and death situation. These films, together with ten other titles, make up an impressive lineup that genuinely represents the talent and creativity of this new generation of filmmakers.

Short films as alternative cinema

Last Tuesday, Nick Deocampo's Alternative Cinema was also launched at the festival. This book, co-published during my time in FDCP with UP Press, chronicles the journey of the independent filmmakers who have actively pushed for alternative cinema to find its space despite the dominance of the commercial movie industry in the last one hundred years. Short films played a prominent role in Nick Deocampo's book.

Alternative cinema in the Philippines has existed alongside the mainstream industry for over a hundred years. And with short films being utilized as a vehicle by our filmmakers to break into the filmmaking community, Philippine cinema has become more robust, diverse, inclusive, and local while also becoming global. The lines have been blurred. New and exciting possibilities are presented because alternative cinema has become more agile, ready to respond, and quickly adapt to the disruptions brought about by technological innovation.

The future is alternative

As we experience this changing industry landscape, post-pandemic, alternative content, especially short films, have found their place in the digital space.

Shorts are no longer made just as a stepping stone; they are an art form in their own right. Short films provide the diversity and creativity that we are looking for in a story as they are free from the traditional restrictions of commercial filmmaking. Shorts are open to experimenting; they push boundaries, tell a story you haven't heard before and do so in a way that captivates the audience.

Short films are the future, and the future is alternative. Thank you to Cinemalaya for enriching Philippine Cinema through these amazing films, and here's to more years of providing a film experience like no other to filmmakers and audiences alike.