As Cinemalaya 2022 draws to a close, I can definitely say it’s so good to fully enjoy the festival again. It’s mainly because, for the first time in a long time, I was able to watch movies. Since August 5, rain or shine, the festival comes alive with people walking in and out of the cinema.
With filmmaker Zig Dulay and the cast of “Black Rainbow”.
There’s still nothing better than sitting in a dark theater, enjoying the experience of a larger-than-life screen, and laughing and crying with 2,000 spectators. This is the joy that Cinemalaya has brought to Filipino audiences over the past 18 years.
As someone who has recently found some time, I took the opportunity to catch up and watch the movies. As I attended as many premieres as possible, I also reconnected with peers and colleagues, talking about the odds and ends of filmmaking.
While I enjoyed supporting the eleven feature films that had their world premieres at Cinemalaya, the most memorable experience for me was watching the festival’s lineup of well-crafted shorts.
This year’s crop of shorts was truly strong, representing diverse and unique voices from different parts of the Philippines. They used their native language to share stories indigenous to their respective localities.
This batch of twelve short film directors took storytelling to a whole new level. Some of these films were products of various Short Film Lab programs and competitions the filmmakers participated in amid the pandemic.
In recent years, there has been an increase in opportunities for emerging filmmakers. For the first time, I finally saw the support mechanisms that the FDCP offered to our budding filmmakers bear fruit, the development aid and the platforms that allowed them to make their voices heard through their stories.
The columnist with the cast and crew of “Si Oddie” and their mentor Arden Rod Condez.
Gabriela Serrano’s “Dikit,” a silent film co-funded by the agency last year as part of the Mit Out Sound Silent Film Lab, was a competing short that represents the voices of today’s emerging filmmakers. In this LGBT-themed silent short, she embraced the principles of silent film with her experimental and playful exploration of the spectrum of gender identities through indigenous mythical elements and creatures as characters in her story.
There were also a variety of narratives that presented perspectives on global social issues and gave voice to minorities. While the production quality of these shorts varies from low cost shorts to high quality, well funded shorts, the craftsmanship poured into these films reflects how far we have gone in advocating for the short form in as a vehicle for telling stories.
Boost regional cinema
It was heartening to discover that most of the short films in the festival came from young, emerging filmmakers in the regions.
One of the most memorable titles is a short film that addresses the struggles of marginalized communities across the country, our Indigenous peoples who sometimes don’t receive the support and platform to tell their stories.
“Black Rainbow” by award-winning filmmaker Zig Dulay is a well-crafted short film that will touch hearts with its simplicity and sincerity and remind us all to still believe in the good of humanity.
Played by amazing Aeta kids, I hope the film’s impact goes beyond just appreciating its message. I hope this story inspires action to help meet the needs of our Indigenous communities.
Another memorable regional film I saw was “Si Oddie”, a short film written and directed by UP Visayas Communication and Media Studies undergraduate student Ma. Kydylee Torato.
The film follows a delivery man who struggles to find his oddly located customer while racing against time in a life or death situation. These films, along with ten other titles, form an impressive line-up that truly represents the talent and creativity of this new generation of filmmakers.
Short films as alternative cinema
Last Tuesday, Nick Deocampo’s Alternative Cinema was also launched at the festival. This book, co-published during my time at the FDCP with UP Press, chronicles the journey of independent filmmakers who have actively pushed alternative cinema to find its place despite the dominance of the commercial film industry over the past hundred years. Shorts played a prominent role in Nick Deocampo’s book.
Alternative cinema in the Philippines has existed alongside the mainstream industry for over a hundred years. And with short films used as a vehicle by our filmmakers to break into the filmmaking community, Filipino cinema has become more robust, diverse, inclusive and local while also going global. The lines faded. Exciting new possibilities arise because alternative cinema has become more agile, ready to react and adapt quickly to the upheavals caused by technological innovation.
The future is alternative
As we live through this changing industrial landscape, post-pandemic alternative content, especially short films, have found their way into the digital space.
Shorts are no longer designed solely as a stepping stone; they are an art form in their own right. Shorts offer the diversity and creativity we seek in a story because they are free from the traditional restrictions of commercial cinema. The shorts are open to experimentation; they push boundaries, tell a story you’ve never heard before, and do it in a way that captivates audiences.
Shorts are the future, and the future is alternative. Thanks to Cinemalaya for enriching Filipino cinema through these incredible films, and here are even more years of providing an unparalleled cinematic experience for filmmakers and audiences alike.