Presently, Victoria “Bambi” Beltran must be the busiest film concourse organizer this side of the moon. As one of the regional representatives in the National Committee for Cinema of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, now leading the preparations for the Cinema Rehiyon in Cebu starting on the 6th of August till the 10th, Bambi should be basking in the selection of films to be exhibited. While the films in the first six regional film festivals and conferences were lumped under the regions they represented by default, Bambi worked with Teddy Co, whose sense of film curating is respected in film exhibitions and conferences, to crystallize some categories that would house feature and short films of varied dimensions and persuasions.
Some 17 full-length feature films and 50 short films will grace the Cinema Rehiyon in Cebu.
Documentaries are well represented, with Baby Ruth Villarama’s Little Azkals, a deceptively feel-good documentation of young boys all out to learn the discipline and art of soccer. Lester del Valle’s Walang Raoe sa Bontoc is out to create a debate on concepts of violence and gender bias in our culture. The latter won the Best Documentary during the 38th Gawad Urian this year.
In the full-length film category, people will discover the acting sensibility of actors hitherto not known for acting supremacy. I am talking of Allen Dizon and Gladys Reyes in Jason Paul Laxamana’s Magkakabaung (The Coffin Maker). Dizon lets life and its pains and problems roll over his back. We gaze at him and wonder where he will gather his strength and where his weakness will bring him as he faces the prospect of losing his daughter because of ignorance and poverty. Reyes directs our attention to her portrayal of a woman who cannot deny her past not because of nobility in her heart but because she is a frail character trying to survive in another marriage.
Lem Lorca’s Mauban explores subsistence in a Quezon town. A rarity in Filipino cinema that usually pushes the plot on the strength of leads or main characters, Mauban is driven by an ensemble acting that paints the lowly characters in a small village. The ordinariness of the characters are, in no small measure, attributed to actors who disappear in their respective role: Alessandra de Rossi, Sid Lucero and Jess Mendoza, to name just a few.
The seventh national gathering of regional filmmakers has tiny gems in its collection, and these are in the form of three short films: One is from Pampanga, Lisyun qng Geografia (Lessons in Geography). It is an endearing tale of two young men who cannot express their love or attraction to each other. They would not even call it attraction or desire. They seem to be at ease walking together home until one day, at dusk, the other young man cries out loud because he could not bear (or understand) what is in that frail heart of his.
The notion of “bromance” never had it noble and sweet and pure until this short film that says love is a map and we can be the mapmaker. If bromance is a major category in any film conference, then the two leads of Lisyun qng Geografia—Earl Policarpio as Tib and Ross Pesigan as Tric—are two of its most promising love teams. The film is directed by Petersen Vargas.
Another short film is calles Lafis ni Efung, a tender thesis on one of the most brutal phenomena in a child’s life, and that is bullying. Efung wakes up each morning to get one coconut that he could barter for a pencil. He ambles through the greenest of woods. After a long walk, he reaches the school where a bully breaks his pen. Efung goes back to his home and then wakes up the next day, secures a coconut and exchanges it for a pencil again. It is not good to say this but I wish a huge coconut falls on the head of the bully and render him speechless for the next schoolyear.
The third short film is a kind MTV that subverts that musical form. Randy Dagooc, a Media Studies graduate of Ateneo de Naga, photographs a rape scene involving a transgender. Light and shadow and lots of psycho action play before us while the luscious and loving voice of Ruben Tagalog sings the jnidima. Violence is supported by the sweetest of melody: Madilim ang gabi/ noong tayo’y namamasyal/Ni isang bituin/Sa atin ay walang tanglaw/Ngunit dahil sa ang kapiling ko/Ay palaging ikaw/Dilim man ng gabi/Singliwanag na rin ng araw. (The night was dark/When we were out walking/But because the one I was with/Is you always/The darkness of the night/Is as bright as daylight.
Irony is alive in the works of these young filmmakers. Irony, of course, is the mark of a good cinema and, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, is never lost on the audience who can never be stupid before films that are truthful, sincere and do not sell their soul to evil commerce.
The last note from Bambi is an instruction for delegates to bring something warm because the site for the welcome party can get foggy and cold. No problem there, Bambi, as I know Cebu will always have a warm embrace for all of us. Which is one lesson in geography.