By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
March 29, 2020
The Filipino film industry is supposed to have its banner year this 2020 with the ongoing Sine Sandaan or Philippine Cinema Centennial celebration. Sine Sandaan affairs that aim to honor luminaries and unsung heroes are slated to continue this year, leading up to the closing of the yearlong commemoration of One Hundred Years of Philippine Cinema in September. In addition, screenings, talks, conferences, film development lab programs, film markets and film festivals here and overseas have been finalized. Yet, everything was suddenly put on hold. Philippine Cinema is now at a standstill because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
As Chairperson and CEO of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), it pains me to hear that the film industry is gravely affected by the pandemic. The temporary closures of movie theaters in Luzon, cancellations of events, postponements of production shoots and film labs, and the foregoing of film markets and festivals are disheartening. While the economic and cultural effects of an impaired film industry are drastic, the well-being of all stakeholders must be prioritized in this public health emergency situation that is grappling the world today.
In line with the announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte on March 12, 2020 and the recommendations of the Office of the Executive Secretary and Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases related to Covid-19, FDCP has issued three Memorandum Orders. These reiterate that all audio-visual productions, screenings, and events in Luzon must be suspended during the Enhanced Community Quarantine because cinema as an art form brings about mass gatherings. Audio-visual companies should also implement work-from-home arrangements, save for the skeletal workforce of news media outlets.
Despite the gloom and inconveniences caused by Covid-19, Philippine Cinema was actually off to a great start this first quarter of the year because of our strong participation in the 70th Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) in Germany and our recent wins abroad. Rafael Manuel bagged the Berlinale Shorts Silver Bear Jury Prize for “Filipiñana,” Derick Cabrido won Best Director for “Clarita” at the 40th Fantasporto-Oporto International Film Festival in Portugal, and Cristine Reyes was hailed as the Fantasporto-Oporto Best Actress for “Untrue.”
Write About Love,’ directed by Crisanto Aquino (center) won the ABC TV Award at the 15th Osaka Asian Film Festival in Japan. FACEBOOK PHOTO
“Write About Love” by Crisanto B. Aquino won the ABC TV Award at the 15th Osaka Asian Film Festival in Japan, “Cangrejos” by Zurich Chan was selected for the 4th Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab, and “John Denver Trending” by Arden Rod Condez received the Special Jury Prize, Audience Award for a Fiction Film, and Critics’ Award at the 26th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema in France. Moreover, Geoderic Lomuntad and Robert Rodriguez were chosen as FDCP-Busan Asian Film School Fellows.
I am hopeful that we can overcome this adversity as long as we do not lose faith. We should nurture our passion and make use of this time to persevere in bettering our industry. Despite the country being under a state of calamity due to Covid-19, I take pride that FDCP has not wavered in its commitment to be of service to the film industry. As soon as the suspension of work was announced, the agency has immediately adopted an alternative work arrangement setup comprising a work-from-home scheme, skeletal force, and alternative shifts.
You can be rest assured that we are continuing to find opportunities to address the concerns of our stakeholders. Just recently, FDCP launched the Disaster/Emergency Assistance and Relief (DEAR) Program to support freelance audio-visual (AV) workers who suddenly lost employment because of a major natural disaster or public health emergency. The DEAR Program, which will be implemented through the FDCP National Registry, has the DEAR for Displaced Freelance AV Workers that will provide a one-time tax-free financial assistance worth P8,000 to freelance AV workers directly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As for our stakeholders, it is uplifting to have their cooperation in suspending film activities as they value public health over financial gains. It is great to know that the public turns to films, whether on television, DVDs, or online distribution platforms, to seek comfort during this trying time. It is encouraging that filmmakers have made their works available on social media. Among the recently uploaded films are “Bar Boys” by Kip Oebanda, Regal Films production “Pamahiin” by Rahyan Carlos, and TBA Studios works like “Bliss” by Jerrold Tarog and “K’na, the Dreamweaver” by Ida Anita del Mundo.
These glimmers of hope will sustain the industry in this bleak period of history. For the meantime, I encourage everyone to stay at home, boost your health, and cooperate with the government. To our doctors and health workers on the frontline who are working tirelessly to ensure the health of not just our industry, but all industries, you are our heroes and I enjoin everyone in saying thank you for your heart, hard work, and sacrifice. I look forward to the day when the film industry gets to hear “Lights, Camera, Action!” again and I cannot wait for Philippine Cinema to bounce back from this hitch and continue its impressive run this year.
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.