New UPFI Director bares ‘consultative, active’ approach

The University of the Philippines Film Institute (UPFI) Directorship Search Committee selected associate professor Yason Banal as the Institute’s new director on Saturday, May 11.

Banal bested another nominee, assistant professor Shirley Palileo, for a three-year term succeeding incumbent Director Robert Rownd.

Prior to his selection, Banal served as the faculty coordinator for Theater and Extension Services of the Institute from 2019 to 2021. 

He said he accepted the nomination to be UPFI’s director as he was inspired by the “crucial time” of another Marcos presidency and its possible effects on culture, education and democracy.

“I believe this is the fourth time I’ve been asked for [the] UPFI directorship, something that I’ve always respectfully hesitated taking on until now,” Banal said during the selection forum on May 10 at the UPFI Film Studio.

Although he admitted that his plans for the Institute is yet to be finalized, Banal said he hopes his visions will translate to a “consultative, decisive and active” approach.

In his presentation, Banal said he plans to preserve the dynamic set of courses offered by the Institute and propose new courses on curatorship and programming, archives, film activism and film collectives, among others.

Moreover, Banal said he would focus on the prompt release of lecturers’ salaries, strengthening external collaborations and improving UPFI’s technological resources.

“In the next years … we hope to raise funds with due diligence and not to be beholden to patronage and unhealthy commercialization,” Banal said.

The director-select also recognized the administration of outgoing Director Rownd for spearheading repairs in the Institute’s facilities including the UPFI Film Center and Media Center. 

On Vice Chancellor Roehl Jamon

Among the issues asked of both nominees during the forum was the involvement of UPFI professor and UP Diliman (UPD) Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Roehl Jamon in the sudden clearing operations in Area 2, which drew immediate criticisms from the UP community.

Read: Biglaang clear ops kinasa sa A2 at Dagohoy; mga manininda nabahala

On the day of the selection forum, posters demanding Jamon’s resignation were seen in some parts of the Institute, alongside calls for a new director who will “heed their concerns and [has] the courage to denounce problematic professors.” 

Students posted their demands for the next UPFI Director on the day of the selection forum last May 10. Photo by Lau Bacia

When asked about his personal take on Jamon’s involvement in the clearing operations and how the Institute should handle similar cases in the future, Banal said it is important to exercise due diligence in getting the facts of the case.

He added that the Institute’s April 27 statement regarding the clearing operations shows that the Institute is “for the community.”

“I think that the statement is clear that it was a problem. It was a failure of the policy or the system,” Banal said. “To address what the people want to do is something the Institute can listen to.”

However, members of the UP community, including the Maskom-based org UP Cinema Arts Society, voiced their criticisms against UPFI’s statement for not explicitly naming Jamon.

Student concerns

Ahead of the selection, the UP College of Mass Communication Student Council (CMCSC) and film students released the UPFI Student Agenda 2024, which consolidates the community’s concerns.

The agenda called for enhanced student support through funding, publicity and provision of equipment for students’ productions.

It also called for timely and sufficient compensation for the Institute’s faculty and staff, as well as accessible support programs for graduate students for their research, publications and training.

“We enjoin the next UPFI Director to strengthen their commitment to stand with the university of the people and uphold the principles of honor and excellence,” the student agenda reads.

In an email to Tinig ng Plaridel, the UPFI said Banal is still awaiting the appointment from the office of UPD Chancellor Edgardo Carlo Vistan II. 

Banal is expected to succeed Rownd as the Institute’s director on July 1.

The UPFI Directorship Search Committee was headed by associate professor Patrick Campos. Other members include Professor Emeritus Nicanor Tiongson, assistant professor Anne Marie De Guzman, assistant professor Sari Raissa Dalena and professor Rolando Tolentino.