This year, Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival celebrates its 15th anniversary.
How do you discover brave new filmmakers? How do you inspire independent filmmaking? Through Cinemalaya.
A portmanteau of “cinema” and “malaya” (Filipino word for free), the Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc. was created in partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2005, with the aim of discovering, encouraging and honoring Filipino independent filmmakers. Its key project, the Festival, is an all-digital competition and showcase for works by Filipinos, which are then exhibited locally and in international film festivals and competitions.
Over the past 15 years, Cinemalaya has supported and promoted over a thousand works by Filipino independent filmmakers. These films have garnered many nominations and awards at diverse world festivals and competitions.
This year, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival celebrates its 15th year with an uncommon opening event: the screening of the four-and-a-half-hour internationally-acclaimed indie film “Ang Hupa” (The Halt) by Filipino director Lav Diaz, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Diaz is known for his social realist/political works, slow cinema, and a penchant for the longest narratives ever seen in Philippine films. Billed as “a homecoming of sorts” by Cinemalaya, “Ang Hupa” made its world premiere at the Director’s Fortnight, the non-competition section of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival this year. Cinemalaya describes the film, set in 2034 AD, as Southeast Asia literally in the dark “because the sun hasn’t shone as a result of massive volcanic eruptions in the Celebes Sea in 2031. Madmen control countries, communities, enclaves and bubble cities. Cataclysmic epidemics razed over the continent. Millions have died and millions have left.” The sci-fi/horror film is about “the death of a dictator, the death of morality, the death of truth”.
Cinemalaya will be open to the public from August 3 to 11, 2019, at different venues of the CCP, and simultaneously from August 7 to 13, 2019, at selected commercial cinemas in Manila, Pampanga, Naga and Legaspi in Bicol, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao.
The ten full-length features finalists to be shown at the CCP are: Iska (Scholar) by Theodore Boborol; John Denver Trending by Arden Rod Condez; Ani (Harvest) by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro del Rosario; Belle Douleur (A Beautiful Pain) by Joji V. Alonso; Malamaya (The Color of Ash) by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez; Annak Ti Karayan (Children of the River) by Maricel Cariaga; Ward by Thop Nazareno; Pandanggo Sa Hukay (Dance to the Grave) by Sheryl Rose M. Andes; Tabon (Tabon Cave) by Xian Lim; and Fuccbois by Eduardo Roy, Jr.
The Festival will also showcase ten short feature finalists: Wag Mo ‘kong Kausapin (Please Stop Talking) by Josef Dielle Gacutan; Disconnection Notice by Glenn Lowell Averia; Gatilyo (Trigger) by Harold Lance Pialda; Heist School by Julius Renomeron, Jr.; Hele Ng Maharlika (Lullaby of the Free) by Norvin de los Santos; Kontrolado Ni Girly Ang Buhay N’ya (Girly is in Control of His Life) by Gilb Baldoza; Sa Among Agwat (In Between Spaces) by Don Senoc; Sa Gabing Tanging Liwanag Ay Paniniwala (Belief as the Light in Darkness) by Francis Amir Guillermo; Tembong (Connecting) by Shaira Advincula; The Shoemaker by Sheron Dayoc.
Winners will be named at the Awards Night on August 11, 2019.
Alternative film and student filmmaking
An important part of Cinemalaya is the 31st edition of the Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, considered the longest-running independent film competition of its kind in the ASEAN region. Categories for the competition include Short Feature/Narrative, Experimental, Documentary and Animation. Finalists from the different categories, as well as a specially-curated section exhibiting selected participating entries, will be screened from August 3 to 5 at the CCP Tanghalang Manuel Conde (Dream Theater). Awards will be announced on August 5.
The Cinemalaya Campus is another major component of Cinemalaya. This year’s Cinemalaya Campus includes an outreach program called the Regional Cinemalaya Campus, kicking off with a one-minute filmmaking competition for students. Dubbed Short Shorts Competition, this aims to discover, encourage and honor young Filipino cinema talents, this time from Bicol, Western Visayas and Davao City. The top 10 Short Shorts finalists will be screened in Legazpi, Naga, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao City.
For young people not quite ready to join a competition, there’s the Mini-Versity. Scheduled from August 2 to 11 at the CCP Silangan Hall, it is aimed at young people who have an interest in filmmaking. Attendees will be given a rare chance to interact with industry practitioners who will be available for conversations.
Asian cinema and the cultural economy of Philippine cinema
And then there’s Visions of Asia, which affords local audiences the opportunity to watch four award-winning NETPAC films and three Asian indie films. To be screened from August 3 to 10 at various CCP venues, these are: from Korea, A Tiger In Winter, written and directed by Lee Kwang-kuk; from Thailand, Brother Of The Year, directed by Bon–Vithaya Thongyuyong; from Japan, Lying To Mom, directed by Nojiri Katsumi; from Iran, Kejal, directed by Nima Yar (Salehiyar); from Hong Kong, Still Human, directed by Oliver Siu Kuen Chen; from Tibet, The Sweet Requiem directed by Tenzing Sonam and Ritu Sarin; and from Vietnam, The Third Wife, directed by Ash Mayfair.
The festival will also highlight Philippine Cinema and the Cultural Economy of Distribution by Michael Kho Lim . An independent film producer, contributing writer, and early-career researcher, Lim’s book “explores the complex interplay of culture and economics in the context of Philippine cinema. It delves into the tension, interaction, and shifting movements between mainstream and independent filmmaking.”From August 7 to 13, 2019, Cinemalaya films will be screening at selected commercial cinemas in Metro Manila, Legazpi, Davao City, Bacolod City, San Fernando, Naga City, and Iloilo. For more information, please visit the CCP website.
Ina Avellana Cosio works as a researcher for the UP Film Institute and as a freelance writer. She has also worked for the Film Development Council of the Philippines and as coordinator for 11th International Silent Film Festival. She is a member of the Society of Filipino Archivists of Film (SOFIA).