By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
November 22, 2020
Transitioning from a traditional film festival to a full online execution is definitely a test of adaptability, but Filipino film festival organizers and filmmakers are always up for a challenge. This year has put the industry to the test, and I am proud of the successful online staging of some of the country’s top film fests.
Philippine Cinema suffered a devastating blow this year when mass gatherings were prohibited because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This affected not just the production but also the distribution and exhibition of films, including the celebrated film festival experience that Filipino audiences look forward to throughout the year.
Over 760,000 workers from the film and audiovisual industry have been displaced due to the pandemic while the projected loss for the cinema sector is at least P13.4 billion, with a loss of around P2.4 billion for film and audiovisual production and a gross box office loss of at least P11 billion.
The special edition of the QCinema International Film Festival will have online and theatrical components. It will take place from November 27 to December 6.
These seemingly insurmountable problems did not deter film festival organizers from holding their events. Rather, they declared that the show must go on — virtually and safely — as there are a lot of films to showcase, audiences to cater to, and new possibilities to explore amid the pandemic.
The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival was held online from August 7 to 16.
The film fest scene in the new normal
Since film festivals are about creating and nurturing film communities and helping provide buzz for new films, it is possible to do these online. However, face-to-face interactions and exchanges of opinions are now done via video conferences and chats.
The 4th Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino on the FDCP Channel (fdcpchannel.ph) is ongoing until December 13.
There is also a reverse between theatrical and online screenings. Virtual screenings, whether via video-on-demand (VOD) or scheduled live streaming, are the norm these days while theatrical screenings are controlled to a bare minimum in places where cinema operations are allowed.
The Maginhawa Film Festival, held online from November 11 to 22, is the closing program of Cinema Centenario as well as the microcinema’s launching pad for its MOOV digital platform.
The cinema experience is replicated virtually by limiting the number of viewers per screening, making one feel that he or she is watching a film in the company of fellow subscribers.
Daang Dokyu – held from September 19 to November 5 – screened documentaries for free and had panel sessions and masterclasses.
Our film festivals this year have become extra interactive as additional online talkbacks with actors and filmmakers can be done and more participants can be accommodated in the cyber setting.
Filipino film festivals have also become more accessible. Whereas previous film fests have catered to cinephiles in the festival’s respective areas, viewers from all over the Philippines, and sometimes even throughout the world, can now participate in local film fests for as long as they have a stable internet connection.
Online breakthroughs for Philippine short films
The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival was the first to go digital this year. From being held annually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) since 2005, Cinemalaya films were screened on Vimeo from August 7 to 16 and after the festival’s run, select titles were shown in iWant and iWant TFC. Cinemalaya also held events such as the Ricky Lee screenwriting masterclass and the awards ceremony.
The 16th Cinemalaya, however, did not have the main competition of full-length films because of pandemic restrictions.
“This gave the opportunity for our short films to shine. And that is quite a very interesting story because that is one of the breakthroughs of this year’s Cinemalaya Festival,” said CCP Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado at Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP)’s Film Industry Conference Session.
He stated that the short film finally received the much-deserved attention as a genre in itself and Filipino short filmmakers got the much-needed attention and focus.
“It translated into a lot of viewership and a lot of support from our subscribers and happily, it also got very good reviews,” added Millado, also the Cinemalaya Festival Director.
Meanwhile, the Short Film Showcase of the FDCP’s 4th Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP), which runs from October 31 to December 13, features 80 shorts from the CineMarya Women’s Short Film Festival, Sine Kabataan Short Film Competition, and 21 regional film festivals. These can be viewed for free on VOD at the FDCP Channel (fdcpchannel.ph).
Philippine shorts are also featured in the Maginhawa Film Festival (MFF), held from November 11 to 22, with 26 short films in competition in the Student and Open Categories. With this year’s “Transition” theme, the MFF served as the closing program of Cinema Centenario as well as the microcinema’s launching pad for its MOOV digital platform.
PH documentary films get the spotlight
Daang Dokyu – A Festival of Philippine Documentaries was held from September 19 to November 5 on DaangDokyu.com. Organized by FilDocs (Filipino Documentary Society), Daang Dokyu screened documentaries for free and had panel sessions and masterclasses.
“This pandemic has really pushed us to create the much-needed experience to trace the Filipino story,” wrote filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama, one of the Daang Dokyu Festival Directors. She added, “We’re still super far from getting it right but what an ecosystem the documentary community has created! We can only hope to screen more masterpieces and create a definitive sustainable daan for our history tellers.”
Philippine documentaries are among the PPP4’s 90 full-length feature films and they have their own section in the PPP4 Main Feature Film Showcase, which has paid scheduled live stream screenings on the FDCP Channel. The PPP4 Main Feature Film Showcase began on November 20 and will end on December 13.
The FDCP, in its quest to promote documentary filmmaking, came up with the PPP4 Documentaries Section featuring “Dahling Nick” by Sari Dalena, “Forbidden Memory” by Teng Mangansakan, “God Bliss our Home” by Nawruz Paguidopon, “Lugta Ke Tamama (Land from God)” by Kevin Piamonte, “Nick and Chai” by Cha Escala and Wena Sanchez, “Pag-ukit sa Paniniwala (Carving Thy Faith)” by Hiyas Bagabaldo, and “The Search for Weng Weng” by Andrew Leavold.
More online film fests coming your way
Opening in a few days is the special edition of the QCinema International Film Festival, which will take place from November 27 to December 6. Festival Director Ed Lejano described “QCinema: A New Filmscape” during the FDCP’s Film Industry Conference Session as a “different, reimagined, scaled down QCinema with an online and theatrical component.”
It will have online screenings via streaming platform Upstream (with tickets to be sold by GMovies) and a few by-invitation socially-distanced screenings at an outdoor location in Quezon City. Among the QCinema titles are “Lahi, Hayop” by Lav Diaz, “Death of Nintendo” by Raya Martin, “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” by Khavn, “Babae at Baril” by Rae Red, and the monochromatic version of “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho, the QCinema Opening Film.
Finally, the December moviegoing tradition of Filipinos will continue through the online Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). It will be held on Upstream with ticket selling care of GMovies. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has so far announced four official entries to the 46th MMFF: “Magikland” by Christian Acuña, “The Exorcism of My Siszums” by Fifth Solomon, “The Super Praybeyt Benjamin” by Jun Lana, and “Ang Mga Kaibigan ni Mama Susan” by Chito S. Roño.
Indeed, it is no easy feat to stage virtual film festivals because there are various challenges in going online and replicating the communal and vibrant film festival experience. As the Filipino film industry carries on in doing its best to cope with the Covid-19 crisis, let us continue to support our film festivals in order to help boost the industry amid the present public health adversity.
Notes from the Chair is part of the Arts Awake section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.