By Demi Babao and Yvette Morales
(Updated July 27, 10:10 p.m.)
For eight years, UP’s Cine Adarna has been the hideout of those who wanted to watch Filipino independent films showcased in the Cinemalaya festival, usually every July or August.
For as low as P80, one can get to enjoy some of the finest Filipino films just within the UP Diliman campus.
Cinemalaya goes UP was then a partnership between Cinemalaya, UP Cineastes’ Studio, and the UP Film Institute (UPFI). It has catered to the taste of those who wanted an alternative from the mainstream—students, professionals and movie enthusiasts alike.
Last year, a proposition to cancel the screening in UP did not push through due to the clamor of the festival’s patrons. This year, however, UP will no longer be included in its list of festival venues.
A trailblazer in Philippine cinema
The first Cinemalaya was launched in 2005. Ten filmmakers were given the opportunity to formally present their own independent or “indie” films on the big screen.
Cinemalaya is a hybrid, funded by business tycoon Antonio “Tony Boy” Cojuangco and supported by the government through the resources of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). This inspired a significant number of filmmakers, unconventional and mainstream alike, to submit independent film entries to the prestigious festival.
Cinemalaya also enthused members of the private sector to create other venues for filmmakers to exhibit their talents. Various film festivals—Cinemabuhay of PLDT, Cinema One Originals by ABS-CBN, Cinemanila, CineFilipino and Cineng Pambansa—were all inspired by Cinemalaya.
But the 8-year-old film festival remains the biggest and most awaited film fest every year, said Joni Gutierrez, film instructor at the UPFI.
“Trailblazer ang Cinemalaya,” Gutierrez said. Filmmakers were not limited to just one franchise, he added.
Aside from the film fest, Cinemalaya also holds a congress. The Cinemalaya Congress processes the contemporary cinema while looking at the different images that the independent scene has created for the past 10 years.
Cinemalaya nurtures filmmakers and gives hope above funds for those aspiring to be part of the filmmaking industry and to build audiences from different walks of life.
Among the internationally-acclaimed Cinemalaya films are Mikhail Red’s Harang, which bagged the Grand Prize at the 12th Seoul International Youth Film Festival in 2010; Vincent Sandoval’s Aparisyon, which won the Audience Award at the Deauville Asian Film Festival; Marlon Rivera’s Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, which bagged awards from various international film competitions. It was also the official entry of the Philippines for the Best Foreign Film category in the 84th Academy Awards.
UP graduates also participate in the independent film festival. Among the filmmakers are UPFI alumnus Rommel Andreo Sales who directed The Leaving, which won the Best Cinematography in 2010. Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, a graduate of Theatre Arts, also won Best Screenplay for Ang Paghihintay sa Bulong in 2012.
A move to ‘major’ venues
Aside from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Greenbelt 3 in Makati also serves as a major venue of the festival. Through the organizers’ vision was to make the festival “more accessible to the growing number of audiences,” another Ayala Mall was added as a third major venue.
But why would it not have a screening in UP this year?
In a statement, the UP Cineastes’ Studio cited the “accessibility of other venues for screening” as the reason for the end of Cinemalaya Goes UP.
For the past eight years, the student organization hosted screenings of Cinemalaya films at the campus’ Cine Adarna in Diliman, Quezon City.
“Despite this, we still encourage the patronage of our local cinema,” said the UP Cineastes’ Studio.
Film critic and former Cinemalaya selection committee member Francis Joseph “Oggs” Cruz thinks Cinemalaya left the decisions to the filmmakers on what they wanted to do with their films.
“If they want to go mainstream by reserving their films for a commercial screening, that is their right. If they want to serve the purpose of educating future movie-goers in the universities, that is also their right,” Cruz said in an online interview.
The hybrid nature of Cinemalaya places its leaning at a crossroads.
“In a way, you’ll be able to see who among the Cinemalaya filmmakers are truly for the malaya part of the name, and who are for commerce,” Cruz added.
Plagued by controversies
Last year, a controversy stirred when Emerson Reyes’ MNL 143 was pulled out from the initial list of Cinemalaya movies after a disagreement between the director and the board members on casting preference. MNL 143 was screened separately.
Cruz said although Cinemalaya has accomplished its goal of introducing a market for alternative films, it has “revealed itself as a mutant studio.”
“[Cinemalaya] does produce quality films but to think that it has some higher aspiration than producing films is no longer a reality,” he added.
Local film buffs would have to troop to CCP from July 26 to August 4, and in selected Ayala malls around Metro Manila (Trinoma, Alabang Town Center and Greenbelt) until August 9. Cinemalaya 9 will feature 15 full-length and 10 short films.
(An earlier version of the article was published in Tinig ng Plaridel’s print issue released July 24.)