WHEN the 12th Cinema Rehiyon ended last February 2020 in Naga City, the news of the Covid-19 virus in Europe was already trickling in. No one, however, could make sense of it yet. The words “pandemic” and “lockdown” were not in currency yet. The question then was: Which region would host the next gathering?
The pandemic answered that question: no region would be able to host a Cinema Rehiyon in the pandemic. No face-to-face engagement was ever possible—and permissible.
Something happened, too: There should be a Cinema Rehiyon, but in a new form.
Under the current conditions, Cinema Rehiyon redefines itself. It will be an online edition. More than the technologies that negate geographies and physical boundaries, the online edition is expected to give the festival a new character. There are limitations, of course, but there are also infinite possibilities.
For 12 years, Cinema Rehiyon was defined by Manila and curated by a centric way of assessing cinema. The cinemas from the regions were, in a sense, imprisoned by the lands that should have been a starting point for freeing all kinds of arts from that place. This was the irony: where the origin of cinemas should have been defined by their sources, the same origin delimited the spaces that could have formed the communities of filmmakers.
One of the nagging problems with Cinema Rehiyon was how the cinema committees and regional festival committees could not come up with a definition of regional cinema.
Interestingly, the same cinema committee with different members responded appropriately to the limitations of health protocols by expanding the meaning of the region and articulating other spaces that correspond to the exquisite spacing of the peripheries.
Cinema Rehiyon 13 will still be about films from the region. But it is a region now redefined according to the spaces created by online engagement. The film and the filmmakers have become mobile. There will be filmmakers who have made their names in their respective regional committees, and they may still be participants even as they are locked down somewhere, outside their regions.
Physical spaces have become negligible.
What then will be a crucial element that will define regional cinema? It is the regional languages that will separate filmmakers from other filmmakers. Not the land, not the actors, not the production unit, not the regional organizations or the so-called local film festivals but the languages.
The regional cinema is now not only redefined but undergoes a radical operational definition. Cinema Rehiyon goes global. This means the festival director can now accept entries from other countries so long as the entrants are coming from the regional spaces of those international sites.
Cinema Rehiyon will now connect to regional film festivals, which are smaller and less commercial, in other countries. This underscores one fact—that regional cinemas from here or abroad is not about a limited space but an assertion of identities.
A new addition to the program of Cinema Rehiyon is the inclusion of films that deal with women and LGBTQIA+. Focusing on what have been marginalized or served as token categories in previous regional festivals, this new section is included to celebrate the margin and call our attention to the unconscious inattention to what really are major socio-cultural and politico-ecological concerns.
Let it be noted, too, that Cinema Rehiyon as a festival has its wellspring in the peripheries, which are the same characteristics shared by films that speak for women and LGBTQUIA+. If there are overlaps in these two categories, film scholars, curators and cineastes should see them as supporting the ideology that outside the so-called center are more communities. From these numerous communities of filmmakers and artists grow themes that are tackled differently because they simply come from sites that are different and differing.
There will be more than a hundred short and feature films during the run of the festival, which began with the kick-off last February 28. Outside of the screenings of more than a hundred short and feature films, the film festival will have Masterclasses and webinars focusing on the issues and concerns with regard to women, LGBTQIA+, and cinema in the pandemic.
Something one for the books is the technological aspect of how the 13th edition of Cinema Rehiyon has been organized: the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, whose office is in Intramuros, Manila, funds the whole event through the National Committee on Cinema, whose members are scattered all throughout the country.
Its present chairman, Dr. Rolando Tolentino, is in Quezon City. It was the decision of this committee to identify a management group in place of the traditional host. This group facilitating, coordinating and organizing the numerous events has been given to the Project Support Team, which is based in the Negros Museum in Bacolod and headed by Tanya Lopez. The two programmers, Jaja Arumpac and Elvert Bañares, are from Mindanao and Visayas, respectively, with Jaja residing now in Quezon City and Elvert moving from Manila to Panay and back again. This writer is the festival director, based in Bicol, struggling every now and then with the brownouts.
And we are not even talking about our resource speakers and moderators who are in other countries.