By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
May 10, 2020
Regional Cinema is Philippine Cinema. I have maintained this mantra since the moment I stepped in as Chairman of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). And among the first of my efforts was to go around the country to connect with regional film communities and discover more about it.
Over the last three years, as we created and supported regional programs, I bore witness to how our dauntless and multi-talented filmmakers and artists had vibrant and unique stories to tell. I got up close and personal with regional films through regional film festivals.
Thriving alongside local independent festivals like Cinemalaya and QCinema, various localized film festivals were held to showcase indigenous stories and talents from unique localities.
Coming from the perspective of an independent film actress, I found regional cinema as that powerful bridge between communities and cultures within the country that considered differences as something to celebrate rather than discourage, as something to strengthen rather than shun.
Through the different dialects and people, this kind of cinema served not only to the whole fabric of Philippine Cinema but, more so, has become integral to its entirety.
In 2016, FDCP created an assistance program specifically to provide support to regional film festivals all over the country. Since then, we have partnered with more than 20 film festivals all over the Philippines and provided support through financial assistance and event and program collaboration.
Furthermore, in recognizing the vital role of these festivals to discover more voices from the communities, we ensured constant engagement with the film festival directors who serve as catalysts to sustain annual efforts for their communities.
The last time I saw the regional film festival directors was in October when FDCP and QCinema International Film Festival held a lecture series on having sustainable film festivals and events. Little did we know that our next gathering would happen six months later, via video conference, to discuss how to make things work during the national state of calamity due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Author and FDCP Chairman and CEO Liza Diño-Seguerra with regional film festival directors in 2019.
All regions from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were well-represented in this video conference. From Luzon, Jerome Dulin of North Luzon Cinema Guild, Noel Volante of Pasale Film Festival in Bicol, Daryl Pasion of Pelikultura: The Calabarzon Film Festival; from Visayas, Keith Deligero and Atty. Grace Lopez of Binisaya Film Festival, Noel de Leon and Reymundo Salao of CineKasimanwa: The Western Visayas Film Festival based in Iloilo, Juliet Cuizon of Lutas Negros Oriental Film Festival, Dr. Adrian Torres of Sine Negrense: Negros Island Film Festival; and from Mindanao, Ryanne Murcia of Festival de Cine Paz in Zamboanga, SineBugsay: Caraga Region’s Film Festival, Alan Filoteo of Sundayag Film Festival in General Santos City, Felimon Blanco of cineANIMO Ozamiz Short Film Festival, Julienne Ilagan of Cine de Oro Film Festival in Cagayan de Oro, Dax Cañedo, Rudolph Alama and Ivan Tadena of Mindanao Film Festival, and Hobart Savior of Northern Mindanao Film Festival (formerly CineMagis) attended the virtual meeting.
Almost all of them were festival directors that we’ve worked with since 2016, and I knew that in the face of Covid-19, our regional film fest directors would be resourceful in dealing with the crisis. True enough, they exhibited hope and strength during the meeting, even if their events were canceled or postponed. They were willing to adjust their schedules, adopt new platforms, collaborate and share best practices.
North Luzon Cinema Guild hosted a Facebook page titled “Quarantimes: Short Films from the Regions,” which featured shorts and advocacy campaigns by students and filmmakers. They also organized the Online Film Lab for Regional Stories with sessions on story pitching, creative producing, cinematography, directing, documentary filmmaking, mobile cinema, and more.
Binisaya Film Festival, on the other hand, held a fundraiser for frontliners through The Distance Between Us Film Festival, where they featured the Best of Binisaya and other films by posting videos on demand.
Everyone was game to do their part.
Their coming together has even created an opportunity because the online hosting of regional film festivals will undoubtedly expand their audience reach. It’s high time that the distribution of a regional film is not limited to its filmmaker’s city, province or region, and we see the inevitable shift to a digital screening platform as the opportune breakthrough that would allow for regional film content to be accessible to our audiences wherever they are.
This direction will be fully supported by the FDCP as it prepares to launch CineLokal Online, a streaming platform managed by FDCP, which will allow online access to films and audio-visual content, including and most especially regional films. The platform will have free and paid streaming to generate revenue that can help regional film workers who are affected by the current public health emergency.
To hear that the regional film festival representatives were interested in this platform and feeling their strong intent to keep their individual festivals alive and thriving, whether in one platform or another, was truly humbling and inspiring. It reaffirmed their steadfast commitment to elevating Philippine Cinema, and I truly felt that we were one in our goal to weather this pandemic together.
Even with the uncertainty looming above us like a dark cloud, we see a silver lining in our resourcefulness and willingness to band together and create new ways for Philippine Cinema to not just survive, but thrive. With the resilience of our regional film festivals, we are confident in taking the next steps.
If this pandemic has done anything, it’s that it made us one. No turfs, no walls, and no exclusions; instead, just one Philippine Cinema moving forward together.
Notes from the Chair is part of the Filipino Champions section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.