CINEMA Rehiyon is 10 years old. It’s back in Manila where it all began. Not that it should be held again in the place it was born. But there was a decision to honor its origin. It’s a very Filipino act. As a member of the executive committee on cinema of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), I saw no need for that return. Ten long years is enough proof that something has grown. Bravo to that growth, and, well, bravo also to the planners. Be that as it may, and for all the debates, Cinema Rehiyon, now labeled CRX—coming across as a new technological model—is truly an achievement.
As I write this, I’m looking at the rectangular pool of the Selah Garden Hotel at breakfast. The surrounding is a hub of mostly young faces, all getting ready to run to some three venues. These are the venues for screening short films, as well as full-length live action movies. All from the regions and practically all from outside Metro Manila. At night, at about to 7 to 9 pm, the surrounding comes a live again. It is dinner time, but it is also catching-up time. The 10 years have created communities situated across the entire archipelago linked by the passion for creating films that depict the margins that convey themes which are otherwise not explored by mainstream cinema. These communities are almost kingship units, the conflicts are there, the divisions are ever present. It is not crucial for harmony to be organic; after all, art, of which cinema is a manifestation, thrives on variations and varieties. Believe me, boundaries are terribly, freely included in the four-day convergence of warm bodies, but not the fusion of a single artistic vision. Darling, unity is overrated. Good film artists are infinitely loving of differences here and there and of distinctions born out of ethnicities and multiple languages. Think of film language and think of the numerous languages of this island and imagine the possibilities of regional cinemas. The plural is never a problem for regional filmmakers. The plural is, perhaps, the bouquet that can give out awesome scents and senses of identities. And again, these identities are never fully completed. The ardent filmmaker is always on the lookout for the shifts that happen in the many searches for who we are.
On the first day of Cinema Rehiyon on February 25, participants all gathered in the venue south of Manila to listen to resource speakers. It was an attempt to connect the regions to the central. No one can say yet whether this act is necessary.
On the second day, I had the privilege of moderating a panel of young filmmakers whose short films were screened at the Far Eastern University mini theater. The works with dialogues in non-Tagalog languages were warmly received. Subtitles must be one of the new important devices of modern cinema. How interesting it was to observe people navigating in seconds the action as quickly translated.
The laughter at each turn assured us that a nation can, indeed, be born out of many singularities.
The panel was asked to explore the theme of “Film Literacy and Education.” There were sub-questions, like, can the film be for entertainment or education? Can it be both? The panel was also encouraged to look into the capacity of cinema to explore and express our identities as people. There was also another concern about cinema as a tool for education.
The talk proved to be a demonstration of a new breed of filmmakers. They can make films and talk about their films. It’s a heartwarming combination. It also must be assigned that regional cinema is an enterprise that enables the young artists to look into their aspirations, transform them to images and flash them onto screens. In that panel, the male filmmakers were all daring and candid. Among them was a filmmaker who, sincerely and without flamboyance, admitted to being gay. That gender preference, according to him, colors his cinema. Again, among the panelist was a 17-year-old girl, whose short film was about the wonder, humor and lesson of sex. Not in my generation would have I ever encountered this bunch of courageous artists. It’s humbling to moderate them. In fact, there was no need to moderate them, in the literal and figurative sense of that word.
Day 2 was Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) night. Just for fun, there was a red carpet, a tad too short, but who really cares? There was also a photo wall.
There was no need for celebrities because all the filmmakers were the celebrities. It was almost surreal to witness a night were the directors were the stars.
Liza Diño, FDCP chairman, was there together with her partner Aiza Seguerra, National Youth Commision head.
“Why do I feel like crying?” said the multiawarded documentarian behind Sunday Beauty Queen, Baby Ruth Villarama. She was visibly moved by the sight of young filmmakers from the region being called one by one to the center of the hall. It was like graduation day and everyone had honors. It was a reunion. It was a homecoming. As the cameras snapped endlessly, Hobart of Cine Magis of Cagayan de Oro and member of the Cinema Execom of NCCA, described the peg for the night as a wedding ceremony.
When it was the turn of Liza Diño to speak, she talked of programs and plans for Philippine cinema. She also talked about how many regional filmmakers are winning honors for the country. “FDCP will always be your partner and collaborator,” the FDCP chairman assured the audience. The surprise of the evening was Teddy Co, chairpman of the Cinema Execom who did a “striptease.” Before you get the vapors, let me describe the act. Teddy was in a barong Tagalog, which to the tune of various upbeat music he took off to reveal the t-shirt of the first Cinema Rehiyon. Teddy peeled layer after layer of shirt, until he reached the black shirt with the huge yellow “X” on it. The shirt for the 10th edition of the festival. For each shirt, Teddy provided the history of the particular Cinema Rehiyon. He was being true to his passion—an archivist and film historian. Who was also a stripteaser.
Standing as host and organizer for Cinema Rehiyon X was Dakila (a developmental organization that strives to “foster social involvement by building one’s capacity to make change”). The said group also aims to cultivate one’s innate heroism.
Some filmmakers like to tell stories about heroes and heroism. I would like to believe that good and truthful filmmaking is in itself a kind of heroic deed.
Bravo, Cinema Rehiyon.