>News Update Indie films find audiences around the Philippines

>Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) – Festivals featuring independent films are being mounted all over the Philippines.

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) started the ball rolling this year with the first Sineng Pambansa in Iloilo City (Jan. 19-21). This was followed by the Bikol Film Festival in Naga (Jan. 31-Feb. 2), Bacollywood: Visayan Film Festival (Feb. 1-5) in Bacolod, and Cinema Rehiyon in Davao City (Feb. 9-12).

Through these regional events, indie films and filmmakers were able to touch base with local viewers.

Now on its second year, the Bikol fest was supported by the FDCP and the city government, and was initiated by local schools Ateneo de Naga University (Department of Media Studies headed by Dr. Digna Alba), Bicol University, Mabini College and Aquinas University, among others. Three feature films were shown: Alvin Yapan’s “Gayuma,” Jim Libiran’s “Happyland” and Veronica Velasco’s “Last Supper No. 3.”

Yapan told Inquirer Entertainment that “Gayuma” is the first full-length feature done completely in the Bikol language, which lead stars Mercedes Cabral and Kalil Almonte had to learn. Mercedes’ mom, who’s from Albay, taught her, Yapan said.

The film top-bills a cast of Bicolanos– led by stage actor Robyn John Reyes and poet Frank Pe�ones. “The theme song (‘Pagsamba’), composed by Jema Pamintuan and sung by Victor Robinson III, is in Bikol, too.”

Screenings were held in Emily Theater, one of the oldest in Naga. Yapan said Emily (owned by the Bichara family) is set for demolition. “The indie filmmakers loved the theater. We hope the city will reconsider,” he said.

Reality check Apart from screenings, there was a conference dubbed “Pelikula@Kultura” which aimed to jump-start filmmaking activities in Bicol. “We want to build a filmmaking community in Bicol, as filmmaker Peque Gallaga did in Bacolod,” said Yapan. “Young people want to break into the movies. We gave them a reality check, but told them that now is the best time to make films because of the energy that indies have brought to the industry.”

Among the speakers were critics Mike Rapatan and Roland Tolentino. In a speech, FDCP chair Briccio Santos noted that regional festivals would strengthen indie filmmaking.

The Bikol fest had a short film section which also featured works of Bicolanos, like Ian Baluca’s “Kapit.” Cinema Rehiyon also had “Kapit” in its lineup last year.

Highlight: ‘Amigo’

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has been championing the Cinema Rehiyon for the past three years. For 2011, Cinema Rehiyon’s main event was brought to Davao’s Gaisano Mall.

Highlight of the Cinema Rehiyon in Davao was a screening of US indie filmmaker John Sayles’ “Amigo,” shot in Bohol with American, Filipino and Chinese actors. Sayles was glad to meet audiences in Mindanao.

Films from Baguio, Pampanga, Samar and Cagayan de Oro, among other provinces, were shown in Cinema Rehiyon 3.

Rapatan, chair of the NCCA film committee, told the Inquirer, “There was an unexpected full house in the Cinema Rehiyon screenings. Audience response was very warm.”

NCCA also aided Bacollywood, spearheaded by Produksyon Tramontina, with the help of Robinsons Movieworld and various schools (University of St. La Salle, La Consolacion College, University of Negros Occidental Recoletos, Colegio de San Agustin) in Bacolod.

Bacollywood originally aimed to highlight the works of filmmakers from Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. On its third year, however, Bacollywood expanded to include films from other Visayan provinces “due to popular demand.”

From Feb. 23 to 25, the FDCP will hold the first Sineng Pambansa fest in Mindanao–in Zamboanga City, at the Mindpro Citimall. In June, the fest will be held in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

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