Cinema Rehiyon X and the future of PHL cinema

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WHAT STARTED as a small film festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) with 28 delegates, 46 short features, and six full-length films, has grown considerably through the years to today’s 10th edition with 160 delegates, 66 short features, and 12 full-length films.

Cinema Rehiyon X Festival was held from Feb. 25 to 28 with the theme “One Country. One Cinema. One Future.” The festival showcased films by amateur and student filmmakers from various regions around the country. Aside from film screenings in universities and the FDCP Cinematheque Manila Center, workshops and forums were also held in different venues around Metro Manila.

Cinema Rehiyon is a non-competition film festival and the flagship project NCCA’s National Committee on Cinema which showcases short feature and full-length films from regions outside Metro Manila.

“[This year’s theme is] One Cinema because Cinema Rehiyon has been going on for 10 years. We’re a special festival because we show films depicting stories that we normally do not get to see for us who are based in Manila. The kind of film and media that we have is usually very Manila-centric and focus on the Tagalog speaking region… What we’ve been missing for 100 years of filmmaking are stories coming from the regions and Cinema Rehiyon is a platform for getting all these stories in one venue,” NCCA Cinema Committee Chairperson Teddy Co told BusinessWorld at the festival’s opening.

“We at the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) help organize and fund some of these regional film festivals. They’re now numbering over 20. The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) under Ms. Liza Diño also has been very active in helping these efforts,” he said.

Film selection for the festival is done per region. “These regional film festivals organize their own little film competitions in the provinces. From there, they already help us to select which to include in the festival. We usually have a selection of 70 to 100 titles,” Mr. Co said. The full-length films, on the other hand, are selected from major festivals such as Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals, and Sinag Maynila. The festival remains a non-competition as Mr. Co noted that turning the festival into a competition would “instead of promoting Philippine cinema, [we] might start promoting regionalism.”

“All these efforts (film festivals) are designed to develop an alternative cinema — not to replace the mainstream [films] because it will always be there — but to provide a venue for other voices to be heard and other kinds of filmmaking,” Mr. Co said of the Filipinos film viewing preference. “When you put all of these (films) together, it creates such a rich tapestry that shows the diversity of what the Philippines is all about.”

During the festival launch on Feb. 25 at the Evia Lifestyle Center in Las Piñas City, an industry forum titled Cinema X: The Future of Philippine Cinema was held with the participants. Director Jerrold Tarog discussed the duty of filmmakers as storytellers.

“As storytellers, we have a big responsibility to make sure that the way we make money from our films is a byproduct of telling new and exciting stories. That we’re not just making money because we are feeding our audiences the same thing over and over, Mr. Tarog said.

“If you’re the audience, [you] don’t pay us (filmmakers) to show you something that you’ve seen before… [Of course], it can always be argued that at least people forgot their problems for two hours, but that’s doing a disservice to the power of storytelling.

“A good transaction would be you — the audience — paying storytellers to take you to places you don’t normally go to in your everyday life… places inside your head or heart contained in stories that make you think differently, and ask questions about the important things in life that let you feel other feelings in a new way or make you feel entirely new emotions.”

Mr. Tarog encouraged producers and directors to take risks in creating films that connect audiences regardless of their regional hometown. “If we are to grow as a nation, we are to have more stories that paint a complete picture of the Filipino, not just the Manileño. If stories are part of identity formation, then our identity is incomplete without the stories from the regions.”

FDCP Chair Liza Diño noted in her speech that the first element considered in filmmaking is knowing the different needs of every region. “The needs and the understanding in terms of our own respective cinemas is very different from each other,” she said, adding that the FDCP is continuing to develop film training programs free of charge or for a minimal fee for filmmakers in various regions.

Ms. Diño said that the industry and audiences should be able to embrace regional cinema alongside films with stories set in context in Manila. “Philippine cinema has been very Manila-centric… [I think] there has to be a focus and special attention given to regional filmmakers… These are the things we should show outside that is a representation of who we are.”

In the effort to make film education available, the FDCP film development division in charge of education will offer programs to the public focusing not only on filmmaking but also its marketing and distribution. “This year, we (FDCP) have basic workshops which will not only include the elements of filmmaking, script writing, and production design. We will also introduce distribution and marketing workshops,” Ms. Diño said, adding that knowledge in film distribution would help target film festivals around the country and abroad.

The FDCP is also currently negotiating the showing of regional films and documentaries in cinematheques once a week to increase awareness and viewership, as well as establishing more cinematheques around the country. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman