Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CALL FOR PAPERS 6th Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas

6th Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas
Conference: Circuits of Exchange (with)in Southeast Asian Cinemas
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
JULY 1 – 4, 2010

In recent years, independent filmmakers from Southeast Asia, in particular from The Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia have received some support from film festivals by way of monetary awards and grants. Simultaneously there have been co-productions (Singapore's Raintree Productions and MediaCorp for example) with film production companies outside the country, within the region, and with Hong Kong. Diasporic filmmakers also continue to return to make films in Southeast Asia.

At other levels, individual filmmakers work across several countries within southeast Asia or in Asia. While film practitioners have been more active on such circuits of exchange, the same cannot be said for film theoreticians in the region. Film theory in Southeast Asia seems haphazard and is applied on an ad hoc basis since its foundations in other bodies of knowledge (continental philosophy, for example) may sometimes provide inadequate ways of framing and theorizing films from Southeast Asia.

This conference therefore sets out to explore the different ways in which filmmakers and film theorists have worked and can work within and beyond the limits of the region: as a product of colonialism and the Cold War, as nodes on a global network linked to economic, cultural, media and socio-cultural structures and flows, as equal and unequal partners in forging an identity that is both universal and particular.

We invite panels on Circuits of Exchange (with)in Southeast
Asian Cinemas particularly questions concerning:

* Film Theory or Film Aesthetics in the Southeast Asian Context: Modified Possibilities, Indigenous Alternatives:
* What theoretical frameworks can we deploy when discussing SEA cinema? Are existing ones, mostly developed from places other than SEA, sufficient for discussing the work produced in SEA? Is there a need to develop new theories? If so, what are the challenges that arise in developing a theory specific to discussing SEA cinema? What is its place in film theory and what place does film theory have in SEA today?
* The Politics of Representation and Naming / Southeast Asian Cinema:
* Despite Southeast Asia as a region being a product of colonialism and the Cold War, the term continues to perpetuate certain colonial and imperial logics and power relations. Would it make more sense to think of individual SEAsian connections to other Asian countries and cultures (such as China, India, Japan or even the Middle East)? Why or why not? When we talk about "indigenous SEA" film theories, will 
that homogenize the field of SEA cinema?
* Theorizing SEAsia Through Transnational Discourses:
* Globalization theory, film festival circuits, actor-network theory, 
co-productions and diasporic filmmaking in Southeast Asia.
* Historical Connections:
* Examples include Filipino and Indian directors working in the studio system in Malaya during the 1950s and 1960s; the role of Indian/Chinese film producers in the early cinema histories of Indonesia, Malaysia/Singapore, Thailand, Burma, etc.; the impact of Indonesian films in Malaysia during the 1970s, etc.
* Religion and Censorship:
* In recent years, films that are deemed to be disrespectful of the religion of specific countries have either been censored or banned: in Thailand, Apichatpong Weeresethakul' s Syndromes and a Century (for portraying monks playing with airplanes), Yasmin Ahmad's Muallaf 
(2008) in Malaysia, and in Indonesia, Muslim clerics had a role to play in the withdrawal of films such as Kiss Me Quick (Buruan Cium Gue 2004). What are the repercussions and effects of such censorship regimes on civil society and filmmaking communities? 
How are films and film production reflective of social and political transformations (for example desecularisation) in these countries?
* Complicating Genres:
* Asian horror, film noir, melodrama, action, the teen flick, 
subgenres, Islamic film, `importance of education' subgenre of children's films, historical/costume drama, cult status films, political documentary, etc.

* New Media and its Impact on SEAsian Film:
* Blogosphere (film bloggers), Youtube, the Internet in general.
* Additional Panel Topics: Intertextuality, Folklore, Gender & Sexuality
We also welcome submissions for the open call.
Abstract Submission Deadline:
October 30th, 2009
Please send an abstract (max. 500 words) to: Gaikcheng.khoo@; Sophfeline@earthlin; cvanheeren@hotmail. com
Gaik Cheng Khoo
School of Humanities
Faculty of Arts
Building 14, A.D. Hope Building
The Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200
office tel: 61 2 6125 8472
fax: 61 2 6125 4490

Thursday, October 22, 2009



Digital cinema in Southeast Asia emerged in the late 1990s and blossomed in 2000-2006. Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand now have a thriving community of filmmakers gaining recognition in their countries and in the international arena.

Several reasons can be cited for the emergence of digital cinema in Southeast Asia. One is the establishment and strengthening of the information and communications technology (ICT) in the region such as through the Multimedia Super Corridor in Malaysia, and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CITC) of the Philippines. Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared in her State of the Nation Address the establishment of the CyberServices Corridor. The Cyberservices Corridor, which was also part of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s ten-point agenda, is an ICT channel that runs through the archipelago from the north in Baguio City to the south in Zamboanga. The drive towards ICT development in the Philippines stimulated growth in several industries such as the call center, internet gaming, and the recovery of the once robust animation industry in the Philippines. It has also given the young digital filmmakers a venue to circulate and distribute their works on the internet. In the case of Malaysia, part of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s push for information and communication technology is the development of a Multimedia Super Corridor, a geographically designated area in Malaysia specifically from Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and also includes Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and the Klang Valley. Part of the Multimedia Super Corridor is the Multimedia University where a lot of young Malaysian digital filmmakers were educated. The thrust into ICT also spurred the growth of the Malaysian animation industry which according to Hassan Muthalib, “from 1995 to 2005, an unprecedented 30 local animation TV series, 3 feature animation and 4 telemovies were produced for local consumption, surpassing any other ASEAN country. It also resulted in the rise of mostly young digital video filmmakers beginning in 1999 (Muthalib, 2006).” Gaik Cheng Khoo reiterates this, “Indie filmmaking has burgeoned due to the availability of cheap digital video technology, pirated foreign VCDs, DVDs and software, not to mention the government’s push for IT in its establishment of the Multimedia University and the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) (Khoo, 2004).”

The apparent dissatisfaction of young independent filmmakers with the current state of the film industries in their respective countries is driving them to find alternative ways to make films. In Malaysia, Hassan Muthalib elucidates, “Malaysian mainstream cinema is notable for its emphasis on pure entertainment and nothing but…Dishing out clichéd, stereotypical and uninnovative narratives and characters, many of these films somehow, attain to box-office success… (Muthalib, 2007)” While Villaluna gives voice to this dissatisfaction, “the expensive 35mm format lends itself into a vicious cycle: to be able to make one, producers need to recoup their investments, resorting to producing crass slapstick comedies, soft-porn moneymakers, formulaic horror films, big-star romances and intrepid melodramas therefore resulting in a creative bankruptcy if not the decline of box-office grosses. (Villaluna, 2007)” The decline is not only in terms of quality, but also in terms quantity of films produced in the local film industries. The Philippine film industry is a prime example of a declining film industry having been repeatedly hailed as dead or dying since the 1990s. From a robust industry that consistently produced around 120 films a year for wide theater release, Philippine cinema has experienced a steady decline in film production since 2001. Records from U.P. Film Institute show that the Philippine film industry only produced 103 films in 2001, 94 in 2002, 80 in 2003, 55 in 2004, 50 in 2005, and 49 in 2006. Several factors are blamed for the decline in film production such as rising cost of raw film stock, exorbitant taxes, and the constant influx of Hollywood movies. It is not surprising then that young Filipino filmmakers choose to make films outside of the mainstream film industry.

The increasing cost of making movies and its concomitant taxes is also one reason for independent filmmakers to find alternative and cheaper ways to make films. The cost of producing a full-length 35mm film could reach up to thousands of dollars making it unaffordable for a lot of filmmakers working outside of a film studio. The film industry is also saddled with taxes. For example, in the Philippines, the local film industry remains one of the most heavily taxed industries with 30% amusement tax, 5% withholding tax on the producers’ film share, 32% corporate income tax, 10% VAT on producers’ film share. As independent filmmakers use the digital technology, the cost of production is drastically lowered and they are not subject to most of these taxes.

The year 1999 was a landmark year when pioneering Filipino filmmaker Jon Red shot the first digital full-length film Still Lives (Jon Red, 1999) which was commercially released in the Philippines. The year 2000 was a historic year in Malaysian cinema with the public screening of Amir Muhammad’s Lips to Lips (2000), Malaysia’s first full-length digital film. According to contemp issue, a publication of the Office of Contemporary Art and Culture (OCAC), Ministry of Culture in Thailand, Punlop Horharin’s Everything will Flow (2000), shown at the Bangkok Film Festival 2000, is the first digital film in Thailand. ( contemp, 2006). In Singapore, a group of undergraduate students from the National University of Singapore made a digital film entitled called Stamford (1999) and the first full-length digital film was Stories about Love (2000) directed by three emerging filmmakers Cheek, James Toh and Abdul Nizam and produced by internationally acclaimed Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo (Millet, 2006).


*Research for this article was funded by the SEASREP Foundation. Research conducted in 2005 to 2007.

Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Just-do-it-yourself: Malaysian independent filmmaking.” Aliran Monthly Vol 24 (2004): Issue 9. Aliran Monthly. Accessed July 18, 2007.
Millet, Raphael. Singapore Cinema. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.
Muthalib, Hassan Abd. “Malaysian Cinema 2003 through 2005: Beginning of the Crossover.” E-mail to the author. May 23, 2006.
Thailand. Ministry of Culture. Office of Contemporary Art and Culture. Contemp. Bangkok: OCAC, 2006.
Villaluna, Paolo. “Bagong Agos: New Currents. New Visions. Emerging Cinema.” Bagong Agos: The Current Wave of Philippine Digital Cinema. Manila: Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, 2007.



Digital cinema has grown leaps and bounds in Southeast Asia, specifically Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, since the start of the new millennium. Due to the unprecedented growth of digital cinema in these Southeast Asian countries, it has created emerging modes of production and circulation, distinct from the mainstream film industry’s Hollywood patterned modes of production and circulation.

This essay explores the political economy of digital cinema in Southeast Asia, and as Douglas M. Keller and Meenakshi Gigi Durham in Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies succinctly explains, “A political economy approach to media and culture centers more on the production and distribution of culture than on interpreting texts or studying audiences. The references to the terms “political” and “economy” call attention to the fact that the production and distribution of culture takes place within a specific economic and political system, constituted by relations between the state, the economy, social institutions and practices, culture, and organizations like media (Kellner and Durham, 2006) .” Thus, the essay aims to address several questions such as: How are digital films produced and distributed in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand? What institutions support the production and circulation of digital cinema in the Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand? What are the venues for the dissemination and circulation of digital cinema in the Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand?

Hollywood has remained the dominant force in the production and distribution of cinema worldwide. Local film industries such as those in Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand follow Hollywood modes of production and distribution, practically fashioning themselves as “local hollywoods.” Digital cinema, part of the so-called “digital revolution,” has been hailed as the way to liberate filmmakers from the hegemonic grip of Hollywood and similar film industries. According to Jeffrey Shaw in Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, “the hegemony of Hollywood’s movie-making modalities is increasingly being challenged by the radical new potentialities of the digital media technologies (Shaw, 2003).”

The term “independent” remains a highly debatable and fluid nomenclature in Southeast Asian films. As Malaysian scholar Gaik Cheng Khoo writes, “Outside of Amir Muhammad’s definition of ‘indie’ as ‘a film that is not accepted by the Malaysian Film Festival’, there is much debate still around the term (Khoo, 2004).” Customarily, the term refers to films produced and distributed outside of the major film studios. The implication is that the creative decisions rest on the filmmaker who is free from the pressures of the studios and its commercial interests to realize his/her artistic vision. Though the focus of the term is tilted towards production and distribution, it is not limited to it. There is the aspect of representation – is the film trying to say something different? Nowadays, there is also an expectation for independent films to have alternative representations, novel narratives, innovative storytelling, thereby veering away from Hollywood formulaic narratives and conventions. Thaiindie, a group of Thai independent filmmakers, articulates this on its website, "We're getting tired with the word 'indie', people want to make indie movies because they think they can escape from the rules, but when we all do that, we're following another set of rules anyway. For us, we want to make movies that we really feel strongly about, and in the style that we think is unique - not better or worse, but unique ("

Nowadays, the term “independent” is often equated with digital cinema since the digital technology has been embraced by independent filmmakers in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand as their new weapon of choice. Independent filmmakers turn to the most affordable filmmaking technology of our day – the digital video. Though some major film studios have also used the digital technology in the hope of lowering their production costs, the independent filmmakers are the more active and adventurous champions of the digital technology.

Paolo Villaluna of the Philippine Independent Filmmakers’ Multi-Purpose Cooperative (for short, Independent Filmmakers Cooperative or IFC for short), a group of Filipino independent digital filmmakers, elucidates, “The new technology undoubtedly took away the monopoly of filmmaking from only those who can afford them. Filmmakers saw this as an affordable opportunity to make films the way they want to (italics and bold by original writer), minus producers breathing down their backs, minus the cliché of casting big stars and minus the pressure of recouping a large return of investment (Villaluna, 2007).”

Independent filmmakers have used and still use various film formats such as the Super 8 and the 16 mm but the introduction of the digital technology gives independent filmmakers a cheaper alternative. As Brian McKernan boasts, “today’s digital technology has democratized this most powerful form of storytelling, making it affordable enough for practically anyone to use (McKernan, 2005).” Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus writes “Within a few years if their introduction in the 1990s, mini-DV revolutionized independent and multimedia production… (Ascher and Pincus, 1999).” Villaluna connects the digital technology to its predecessors, “More importantly, this technology mirrors the independence that the previous generation saw in classic tools like the Super 8 and 16 mm (Villaluna, 2007).” Fully cognizant of the importance of other filmmaking medium such as Super 8 and 16 mm to independent filmmakers, it is the contemporary nature of the digital technology that merits the focus of this essay.


*Research for this article was funded by the SEASREP Foundation. Research conducted in 2005 to 2007.
**There are also nascent digital filmmaking communities in Indonesia, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries, but financial and time constraints limit this study to Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Ascher, Steven and Edward Pincus. The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age. New York: Plume, 1999.
Keller, Douglas M. and Meenakshi Gigi Durham. Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.
Khoo, Gaik Cheng. “Just-do-it-yourself: Malaysian independent filmmaking.” Aliran Monthly Vol 24 (2004): Issue 9. Aliran Monthly. Accessed July 18, 2007.
McKernan, Brian. Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Postproduction, and Distribution. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Millet, Raphael. Singapore Cinema. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet, 2006.
Shaw, Jeffrey and Peter Weibel. Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.
Thaiindie website
Villaluna, Paolo. “Bagong Agos: New Currents. New Visions. Emerging Cinema.” Bagong Agos: The Current Wave of Philippine Digital Cinema. Manila: Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, 2007.

A Short Film about Love* (John Torres’ Short Films)

John Torres went through a personal crisis when he was 27 years old – he had to deal with the end of a 13 year relationship with his first girlfriend. He was 14 years old when they started and he was quick to point out that he practically spent half of his life with his now ex-girlfriend. The break-up was devastating for John; he decided to give everything up. He quit his job and embarked to start a new life. He decided to make films to deal with his loss, his pain, his angst. He needed to make films to heal himself.

His healing came in the form of three short yet very personal films now called the Love Trilogy or Otros Trilogy. John Torres’ first film is Tawidgutom (2005), barely 3 minutes long yet full of anticipation, desire, longing, waiting, searching, expectation, frustration, surrender, and resignation. Ultimately, it leads to temporary yet unfulfilling satisfaction. John uses his own voice for the voice-over which is not necessarily a narration of what is shown visually. His voice-over is more of a poetic accompaniment to the visuals. His emotions resonate in his voice. Soothing music permeates the aural elements of the film. The poetic images are coupled with poetic subtitles. There are several layers of texts here: the film text, the voice-over, and the subtitles. The intertextuality of these texts enriches the film.

Salat , John’s second short film is his most personal. Composed of several vignettes like Ang Huling Serbetes, Laro sa Buwan, Miklos Fehrer (Portuguese footballer, told using words on a black screen) and Kulob, John’s intensely personal moment with his ex-girlfriend caught on film. John Torres reveals to us his pain and trusts us to share it with him. He says in the voice-over, “If you are watching this, I trust you.” Torres draws us into his world. John himself appears in Kulob, he is “Kulob.” He films his very personal moment with his ex-girlfriend who visited him after two years of being apart. In a dimly lit room with just the light of the camera’s LCD illuminating them and the sound from the other room filtering in, John coaxes her to cry. Nervous and self-conscious at first, she prods him not to film it. It is a game they play, said John, he plays the director, and she plays the actress. After a few seconds, tears roll down her cheeks slowly as John slows down the scene. The sound is muted, there is no need for that now; her silent tears are as powerful as Edward Munch’s The Scream. We have been witness to one of the most poignant scenes filmed in recent memory.

As John whispers over and over throughout the film, “Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, happy thoughts,” we are sure he is convincing himself to think happy thoughts, willing himself to get over the loss, coaxing himself to be happy, as if saying goodbye to pain.

When John finished Salat, she watched the film. John left her alone in the room so she can watch it alone. He came back after a few minutes to find her crying. He asked her if she understood what he wanted to say. He again went out to give her time to compose herself. John admits that Salat helped him in having closure, though they did have an off-camera closure, and we are privy to the John’s farewell to pain. Having explored his pain through Salat, John was able to survive his personal crisis and remained philosophical about his fate, “surrender sa kung ano nangyari (I surrender myself to what can happen).”

Kung Paano Kita Liligawan Nang Di Kumakapit sa Iyo? (How Can I Court You Without Ever Holding You?) is the 13 minute third installment to the Love/Otros Trilogy. It provides a closure to the series of themes of desire, longing, and loss in the trilogy. We are privy to a taped phone call by John’s ex-girlfriend where she thanks him and sings a couple of love songs herself noting that some lyrics are apt for the situation. One senses a feeling of letting go on the part of John Torres as he trains his camera now on his friends and how they cope through their struggles.

Moving to another equally personal topic, John Torres fourth short film Gabi Noong Sinabi ng Ama Kong May Anak Siya sa Labas (Night When Father Told Me That He Has A Child Outside). Here John tries to explore the painful topic of his father’s infidelity and its effect on their family. The film has an angrier tone with harsher music compared to the soothing music in the Love/Otros trilogy. It is as if John is lashing out at his father for his infidelity. John writes a letter to his father on film:

Because you left me without a wall to punch
a cloud to dry, the wind to shout to, and plants
to drown. I will play the flute for the wake of my
first tragedy. Let’s see what happens.

The anger is evident; the need for release is palpable. A jamming scene in a side street ensues, as if John in exorcises his father’s demons through drums, percussions and dancing.

John received a Hubert Bals Fund grant to develop Gabi Noong Sinabi ng Ama Kong May Anak Siya sa Labas into a full length film. It has evolved into his 2nd full-length film Years when I was a child outside.

John Torres’ four short films are more than personal films; they are confessions from the heart of John Torres. They are filled with desire, loss, infidelity, longing, and redemption. Ultimately, they are short films about love.

Written in March 2007.

*A Short Film about Love, 1988, Krzysztof Kieslowski

My personal encounter with John Torres

I first heard about him from my Ateneo students. To be exact, I heard about Los Otros, a place in Katipunan where Ateneans hang out and work on their multimedia AV presentations. They told me that a filmmaker owns the place and asked me if I know the filmmaker, I said no, thinking he must be one of those student filmmakers who would come and go quietly just like the countless others before him.

Again, I heard about him but this time from a U.P. student who wanted to make a finals project about a young filmmaker who has been creating a buzz in the international scene with his films. The student spoke highly of the filmmaker and was obviously passionate to make a project about him. I though I should not get in the way of my student’s passion. At the end of the semester, I was reading a paper about Love/Otros Trilogy, John’s compilation of short films Tawidgutom, Salat, Kung Paano Kita Liligawan ng Hindi Kumakapit sa Iyo, and Gabi Noong Sinabi ni Ama Kong May Anak Siya sa Labas. With titles like these for films, I got intrigue. So I watched the Love/Otros Trilogy, and I was stunned at how personal and honest the films were. I felt I already know a lot of personal things about this guy I have not met and I felt uncomfortable about it.

I heard about him again when I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia doing research on digital cinema in Southeast Asia. My KL friends were gushing over a film, Todo Todo Teros, by a Filipino digital filmmaker. They asked me if I knew him, I felt ashamed that I did not. It was blessing that I was staying with friends, film scholar Benjamin Mckay and Malaysian filmmaker Chris Chan Fui. Benjamin had a copy of this film that everyone was talking about. I watched it on one of my sleepless nights in KL, and it kept me up all night. I have finally met John Torres through Todo Todo Teros.

When you watch a John Torres film, you just don’t watch the film; you get to know the man. He takes you into his world, treats you like a confidant, tells you his deepest secrets, exposes his devastating pain, soothes you with his calming voice, and reels you into his life and pains until you are hooked. You feel like a voyeur. You may feel uncomfortable knowing too much about someone you don’t know. It is like having a close encounter with someone you do not know personally. Whether you like it not, you are affected. Knowing so many personal things about him by watching his films, you might even end up being his friend.

I have finally met the man I’ve known through his films. I have finally heard the soothing voice first hand. He has a humble demeanor and a disarming air around him. He does not have the “I am a filmmaker” swagger. He is just a man who wants to share his life through his films. I have had my first close encounter with John Torres.

Written in March 2007.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

For Alexis Tioseco

Thank you.

FUTURE PROSPECTS: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema


The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Though the effect of the information and communications technology on Philippine cinema in general is essential and evident, there are still prospects to be explored. For instance, like the Singapore Film Commission website which contains vital information such as a list of all the films released in the country-state for the past several years, it also includes information on the gross earnings of each film, cinema attendance per year, number of cinema screens and seating capacity. The website does not simply function as a website of the state institution; it also functions as a database for Singapore film releases. The Film Development Council of the Philippines website still needs to work on its database on Philippine cinema. The Internet Movie Database website is a central site (it claims to be the world’s biggest movie database) but sadly contains only a few entries about Filipino filmmakers such as Cris Pablo, Khavn De la Cruz, John Torres, Lav Diaz, Aureus Solito, Raya Martin, Brillante Mendoza, and Jeffrey Jeturian. A similar website will be useful to the digital film community. There are attempts to create a database for Philippine cinema with efforts from the U.P. Film Institute but it seems that the site has not been updated recently.

Filipino film classics can be transferred to the digital format and the database on Philippine cinema can contain excerpts of the digitized film classics such as Octavio Silos’ Tunay na Ina (1939), one of the oldest existing Filipino film and Manuel Conde’s Ibong Adarna (1941), the first with colored sequence. These excerpts can be very helpful to teachers and students of film.

It would also be beneficial to independent digital filmmakers to create a website where their films can be sold online. It may include a catalog of digital films in the Philippines complete with production notes. As of today, there is no internet store that sells digital films from the Philippines. An interested buyer would not have any idea where to buy the works of John Torres, Lav Diaz or Raya Martin. Most of the digital filmmakers now are just using the Do-It-Yourself or DIY approach, making DVD or VCD copies of their films and selling them to friends, bookstores, conferences, tiangges or film screenings. They can pull their resources together to set up a central website to sell the DVDs and VCDs of their films. They can follow the example of Objectifs Films , a Singapore-based organization, which features a catalog of around 40 digital short films from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Objectifs acts as a distributor of Southeast Asian short films and utilizes the internet as its display area. Digital films can also be downloaded from the internet for a fee but this requires a cable or DSL connection, and both are not yet prevalent in the Philippines.

Film criticism and writing in the Philippines can get a much-needed boost if a website that contains compilations of excerpts and links to film criticism and film reviews can be created much like the websites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic . Both websites contain a compilation of film reviews by well-known critics all over the world and acts as a database of film reviews.

Thought ICT has had a great impact in the distribution and circulation of digital cinema in the Philippines, there are several issues such as piracy, censorship and technological infrastructure. The proliferation of download sites such as Limewire and other P2P (person to person) file-sharing programs, digital films can easily be downloaded without the permission of the filmmakers. Filmmakers can avoid this by using Youtube since it does not allow downloading. They can also disable the right click functions in their websites or use Macromedia Flash. There are also digital filmmakers who allow the distribution of their films without copyright or with reasonable copyright. The issue of censorship is also surfaces since as of today the internet is not under any censorship body. Digital films distributed on the internet are not under the jurisdiction of the MTRCB. Another issue is the readiness of the technological infrastructure in the Philippines that can support a wide distribution of digital films. Most internet users still use dial-up which is very slow when downloading films. Only when cable or DSL connection becomes a standard does distributing films on the internet can become a norm.

Film distribution and circulation can also benefit with the potential integration of the internet, cable TV and mobile phones. Filmmakers can produce content which can be distributed in all the three major ICTs.

These issues and prospects will hopefully provide more avenues for the distribution and circulation of digital cinema in the Philippines and ensure the role of digital cinema in social and cultural transformation.

Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.



The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Though not as prevalent as the internet in terms of circulating digital films in the Philippines, the mobile technology holds tremendous promise. With the introduction of 3G in the country by the two largest mobile providers, SMART and GLOBE, distributing digital short films through the mobile phones is now being explored. With the proliferation of cellular phones equipped with a video camera, one can make a short film easily. The world’s leading mobile phone maker, NOKIA, sponsors Nokia Shorts, an international competition of short films made by using Nokia mobile phones. Nokia is also the major sponsor of Mobile Filmmakers Awards. Filipina Janice Yu won the Mobile Filmmakers Awards in 2005 by using her Nokia N90 to shot underwater scenes in Anilao, Batangas. Another Filipino, Noel Osting, won as Best Editor. The Mobile Filmmakers 2006 Awards had two Filipino finalists – Reynaldo de Guzman and Joel Cardenas. The digital films shot using a Nokia mobile phone is available for viewing at the Mobile Filmmakers Awards website and will also be shown at the international cable channel Discovery. It has not been distributed via mobile yet.

Mobifilms has a portion dedicated for the more established filmmaker such as Singapore’s Kelvin Tong and Bertrand Lee and Malaysia’s Yasmin Ahmad. The Philippines is represented by Jeffrey Jeturian’s Tracking Shots .

There have been efforts though, to use mobile phone technology to distribute television soap operas. ABS-CBN Interactive and Globe is pioneering Mobisoaps, the first ever series created exclusively for mobile phones. Digital short films on mobile phones may not be far behind.

Cable TV also promises to be a good avenue to distribute digital films. Finalists for the Cinema One Originals film competition are screened on the Cinema One cable channel. Unfortunately, like the mobile technology, its potential has not yet been fully explored. On regular local TV, ABC 5 airs documentaries on its late night show called DOKYU. It has since been transformed as an avenue to show independent and mostly digital short films in a show called SHORTS: Istilong Iba, Indie Pelikula.

Part VI: FUTURE PROSPECTS to follow.

Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.



The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

The internet has been an important avenue for digital filmmakers to distribute and circulate their works. Digital filmmakers use their personal websites while others use their personal blogs. Perhaps one of the most techno-savvy digital filmmaker who uses ICT to extensively to disseminate his ideas about digital cinema in the country is Khavn De La Cruz. He is the festival director of .MOV Digital Film Festival and has made nine digital features and more than thirty short films. His website This is not a film by Khavn contains several manifestos in strong support for what he calls “filmless films” referring to digital films. In the Digital Dekalogo: A Manifesto for a Filmless Philippines he declares that “Film is dead. Please omit flowers.” The Filmless Manifesto is a poetic rant in support of digital cinema. In The Zero-minute Film School, Khavn gives budding filmmakers suggestions on how to make a film. In Dogman2000's The 12 Bowowows of Impurity, Khavn issued rules on independent digital filmmaking, apparently as a response to Dogme 95’s Vow of Chastity. Khavn’s website also contains his filmography and film-related articles.

Digital filmmakers also use web blogs to feature their works such as Tad Ermitano , Mike Dagnalan , Quark Henares , Sigfreid Barros-Sanchez, and Jeffrey Jeturian . Chuck Gutierrez has a compilation of his digital short films with links to Youtube and Google video.

Art writer Gibbs Cadiz uses his blog to circulate his writings about film, as well as noted film critic Noel Vera . An interesting blog is Philippine Art Scene where Philippine art and culture news such as exhibits, film festivals, cultural summit, art contests may be posted.

Independent digital film producers such as Arkeo Films use their website to publicize their films such as Joel Ruiz’s Mansyon and Mario Cornejo and Monster Jimenez’s Big Time. Similarly, Mes de Guzman’s, director of Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong, created the independent film and digital outfit Sampay-Bakod and has a website that contains trailers, production notes, reviews, filmography, etc for films such as Imposible and Midnight Sale.

Several digital films have their own websites namely JP Carpio’s Balay Daku , Doy Del Mundo’s Pepot Artista , Auraeus Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros , Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Babae (Woman) , Lav Diaz’s Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino , Ian Gamazon and Neill dela Llana’s Cavite , and Will Fredo’s Compund contains reviews, production notes, trailers, screenings, awards, etc. Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador (The Bet Collector) uses Multiply, an internet network site similar to Friendster, as a website.

At the same time, digital filmmakers in the Philippines have used the internet as an avenue to distribute their works. Youtube, Google Video and Yahoo! Video are popular websites which enables digital filmmakers to upload their films . Their audience can then access their digital films for free. One can find short films made about the Guimaras oil spill, as well as short films by Filipino digital filmmakers Chuck Gutierrez, Jim Libiran, Khavn De La Cruz on Youtube. It also gives a space for student filmmakers to show their film projects. Youtube contains the trailers for Cris Pablo’s digital films Duda/Doubt, Slowmotion, Bathouse and Metlogs. Jon Red’s Boso (first digital film of VIVA) and Astig trailers can be watched on Youtube, as well as Will Fredo’s Compund. Ramon Bautista’s One Sip at a Time is also accessible on Youtube. Videos by RA Rivera and Marie Jamora made for Filipino bands are also accessible at Youtube . Youtube does not allow downloading of the films but only streams the film, which means one cannot copy the film but can only watch it on the internet.

Another website for film distribution is Atom Films which hosts Raymond Red’s 2000 Palme D'Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival award winning film Anino (Shadow) . Filipino digital short films are also accessible at Nice Shorts such as Joel Ruiz’s Mansyon.

An important website where Filipino digital films can be viewed is 8arts , “Asia’s first internet film, video and animation site.” It aims to give the public access to the best of Asian independent short film and animation. It features Cinemanila founder Tikoy Aguiliuz’s 30 Views of Mt. Mayon and the internet premieres of shorts by Filipino directors Erwin Romulo’s The Window, Pam Miras’ Reyna ng Kadiliman (Queen of Darkness), Peter Chua’s Buwan and Tad Ermitano’s Sausage and Una Transmiccion del Cueva Del Ermitano (The Retrochronological Transfer of Information).

A promising website is the newly created The Filipino Filmmaking portal created by Dino Manrique which contains film event announcements, reviews, links to blogs, forum, tips on filmmaking, database, etc. It aims to be a:
…repository of Filipino films and a venue to discuss the merits of these creative works…one of its goals is to provide a marketing platform for these films – to help further popularize Philippine aspires to be cyberspace’s one-stop shop… (to) distribute Filipino movies… (it) is also an online interactive workshop, a place to talk shop about the art of filmmaking, where one can trade and share filmmaking experience and knowledge. And lastly, is a venue for collaboration, a place to look for or meet like-minded persons who could help you realize your cinematic vision and goals.

The boom in digital cinema in the Philippines in the last two years attracted the attention of critics here and abroad contributing to a rise in film reviews circulated on the internet. Lav Diaz’s Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family), a critically acclaimed ten hour digital film, was first noticed by Ekarn, a Slovenian film journal, writer Paolo Bertolin in (On) Time: Lav's (R)Evolution. It also attracted the attention of writer Brandon Wee in his essay The Decade of Living Dangerously: A Chronicle from Lav Diaz for the Australian film journal Senses of Cinema. Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr. also wrote Lav Diaz's Ebolusyon A Rearrangement of a Troubled Landscape. These online film reviews, and others, give us a glimpse on the production, direction, vision, and distribution of Lav Diaz’s landmark film, the longest film in the history of Philippine cinema.

Online film journals include Senses of Cinema is dedicated to “the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema” and the UK-based Firecracker . In the Philippines, the now defunct Sinewaya , was an online journal created by young Filipino film critics. Criticine: Elevating Discourse on Southeast Asian Cinema is an online publication that specializes on discourse about Southeast Asian Cinema and edited by the young film critic Alexis Tioseco, is an important source of information about Southeast Asian cinemas in general, and Philippine cinema in particular. It contains in-depth, incisive and engaging interviews conducted by Tioseco on three maverick digital filmmakers: John Torres, Ato Bautista and Lav Diaz. It also features film reviews by noted film critic Noel Vera, Raya Martin’s journal about his experiences as Cannes Cinefondation Resident in 2006 and feature essays by Tioseco. More importantly, Criticine builds bridges between film critics, historian and filmmakers in Southeast Asia.

It has also been easier for Filipino digital filmmakers to get information about international film festivals through the internet. Filipino filmmakers have been very active in participating in international film festivals and 2005 and 2006 have been banner years for Filipino digital filmmakers in terms of international awards. Films can even be submitted to the festivals online.


Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

VIRTUAL FILM COMMUNITIES: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema


The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Even with the increase in number of films made digitally, the problem of circulation remains. Most of them do not reach a commercial release. Independent digital filmmakers in the Philippines usually do not have the marketing machinery of major film studios such as Star Cinema, GMA Films, VIVA Films, and Regal Films. This is one area that the information and communication technology, particularly the internet, have had its greatest impact.

A vital component of the information and communication technology, the internet has become an arena to create virtual film communities. Electronic mailing lists or e-groups such as Yahoo! Groups, MSN Groups and Google Groups can accommodate an unlimited number of members and allow easy and widespread distribution of information through email messages. Membership to e-groups are hardly regulated, most are open to membership while some require the approval of the owner or moderator for membership. Messages can also be posted freely, though there are a few e-groups which require the approval of the owner or moderators before a message can be posted. There is a proliferation of e-groups related to Philippine cinema such as the University of the Philippines Film Institute e-group which has about 2,100 members. This e-group keeps UP students, alumni, employees, and other interested parties well-informed about screenings at UP Cine Adarna and other film-related events outside of U.P. The very popular and active e-group of Cinemanila is open to general membership and has close to 7,000 people subscribed. Members rely heavily on the e-group for announcement of festival film schedules and competition deadlines. Another important e-group is Pinoy Indie Cinema created and moderated by digital filmmaker Cris Pablo which has more than 1,000 members. The e-group is described as “a group of Filipino digital video movie producers, directors and artists who are producing self-financed or partially funded digital video movies, who intend to show these movies to commercial or mainstream cinema venues. The digital video movie producer/director/author/artist is not producing the movie under a major or commercial cinema production company or even a company that produces commercials and movies.”

These e-groups are vital in announcing the activities of the newly-formed and important Philippine Independent Filmmakers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, popularly known as Independent Filmmakers Cooperative, an organization of independent filmmakers that provides a range of services to its members from production to distribution. IFC functions mainly as a support and network system for independent filmmakers who need assistance with their movies. The Pinoy Indie Cinema e-group and other e-groups are integral part of the IFC’s networking and organization efforts.
E-groups have also become a fertile ground for people from all walks of life to post their comments and reviews about Philippine films. Debates about the state of Philippine cinema, the concept of “independent” filmmaking, and other issues are heavily debated in these e-groups. Filmmakers also frequently post casting calls on the different e-groups. Filipino digital films participation, as well as their victories, in international film festivals may be ignored by mainstream media, is usually announced and celebrated in e-groups.

Film-related articles by writers such as Billy Balbastro of ABANTE Tonite, Bayani San Diego Jr., Rito Asilo, Ruben Napales, and Marinel Cruz of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Juaniyo Arcellana of The Philippine Star, and Iza Santos of Malaya regularly find their way into numerous e-groups.

Other film related e-groups include Cineaste Guild of the Philippines , ABC 5’s television show DOKYU , eKsperim[E]nto Festival of Film, Video New Media , film school Asia Pacific Film Institute , The CCP Sineklab , the relatively inactive e-group of the Southern Tagalog Exposure , and SineKalye spearheaded by the independent cinema icon Rox Lee. Individual filmmakers even have their own e-groups, such as Joey Fernandez and Khavn Dela Cruz , dedicated exclusively to their announcements.

E-groups have also been used by film scholars to circulate essays they have written about the history of Philippine cinema. Nick Deocampo, independent filmmaker and scholar, shares his recent findings on the history of Philippine cinema on several e-groups such as his recent post on “RP cinema marks 110th year.” Dr. Grace Alfonso-Javier, a filmmaker, film critic, artist, professor at the U.P. College of Mass Communications Film Department, sketched a brief history of how the digital technology emerged in Philippine cinema together with an overview of the Cinemalaya Film Festival in 2005 and the film forum that accompanied the festival in her column in the Daily Tribune that came out in the Cinemanila International Film Festival e-group. German film professor and U.P. CMC faculty Tilman Baumgarteal’s essay on “The Downside of Digital” which appeared at the Philippine Daily Inquirer was reposted on e-groups and elicited various debates and surfaced several hotly contested issues such as the limitations of the digital medium.

E-groups have been a fertile ground in network building among filmmakers, crew, cast, critics, enthusiasts, historians, students, and fans. It comes in handy for students researching on topics related to Philippine film can just post questions on the e-groups and expect answers. It is a common incident where people look for each other in these e-groups and hook up.

Philippine internet forums such as Pinoy Exchange (PEX) and Peyups also function as virtual film communities. They provide registered members an avenue to express their insights about Philippine films. PEX boasts of 35 discussion areas, over 200,000 discussions, 190,748 members served, 18,151,045 messages posted, and more than 1,000 people online., with 39, 841 members, is primarily for U.P. students, faculty, and alumni but the forum is open to other people. Film related forums in PEX and Peyups are some of the most popular on the internet.

E-groups and internet forums have become virtual film communities where casting calls made, film showings are announced, issues debated, victory celebrated, films are reviewed, film history is shared, and networks built.


Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

Note: Since January 2007, a lot has happened in terms of virtual film communities such as the emergence of Facebook, Multiply, Twitter, etc.



The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

In the face of constant invasion of high-budgeted and well-marketed Hollywood films, Filipino films remain important to Filipinos and watching films remain as one of the favorite activity in the country. The Metro Manila Film Festival still commands the attention of the general populace in spite of the constant controversies surrounding it and the persistent calls for its abolition. Fully cognizant of cinemas hold in the public imagination and the role of cinema in the country’s development, the Philippine government lends it support to Philippine cinema through various institutions such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). The Philippine government created the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) through Republic Act 9167, “An Act Creating the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Defining its Powers and Functions, Appropriating Funds Therefore, and for Other Purposes.” Film’s role in national development is clear in the mandate of the FDCP, “the State, as a policy, recognizes the need to promote and support the development and growth of the local film industry as a medium for the upliftment of aesthetic, cultural and social values for the better understanding and appreciation of the Filipino identity.” FDCP envisions “a flourishing professional and united Philippine film industry that produces and promotes high quality films which encourage social and cultural transformation and is viewed by a wider audience.”

Film, together with television, video, radio, entertainment software, internet activity sites, electronic media advertising, and other entertainment activities, has also been identified as part of the creative industry under the category of audiovisual and new media by the United Nations and is included in the UNESCO Framework for Cultural Statistics. In a paper prepared by the Institute for Labor Studies , film (along with radio, television and other entertainment activities, figured prominently as part of the creative industries at an annual average of 36,373 workers or about 21% of average total employment in community, social and personal service establishments for the years 1999, 2001, and 2003. The importance of cinema in national cultural and economic development is evident.

Regrettably, Philippine cinema has long been hailed as “dying” or “dead” but from impending death, there are signs of recovery. Digital cinema technology, together with ICT, is at the heart of it, breathing new life to a sluggish film industry. From a robust industry that consistently produced around 120 films a year for wide theater release, Philippine cinema has experienced a steady decline in film production since 2001. Records from U.P. Film Institute show that the industry only produced 103 films in 2001, 94 in 2002, 80 in 2003, 55 in 2004, 50 in 2005, and 49 in 2006. Several factors are blamed for the decline in production such as rising cost of raw film stock, taxes, and the constant influx of Hollywood movies.

Digital cinema in the Philippines has grown leaps and bounds for the past few years. Due to the unprecedented growth of digital cinema in the Philippines, it has created new modes of distribution and circulation, distinct from the Philippine film industry’s Hollywood patterned modes of distribution and circulation. Digital cinema, part of the so-called “digital revolution,” has been hailed as the way to liberate filmmakers from the hegemonic grip of Hollywood and similar film industries. According to Jeffery Shaw in Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, “the hegemony of Hollywood’s movie-making modalities is increasingly being challenged by the radical new potentialities of the digital media technologies.”

2005 was a banner year for digital cinema in the Philippines with the establishment of two major film festivals dedicated solely to digital films – Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals. The 1st Cinemalaya: Philippine Independent Film Festival in 2005 featured nine digital feature films and six digital short films with Pepot Artista of Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr. winning as Best Picture feature category and Joel Ruiz’s Mansyon winning in the short film category. The most successful entry though was Aureus Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (APMO for short, The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) which won numerous awards in international film festivals. APMO was subsequently transferred to 35mm and had a relatively successful commercial theater run. It earned Php 800, 000.00, the highest first-day gross of for a digital film, and more than P2 million in its first week with only 14 prints

The 2006 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition featured eight digital feature films and ten digital short films with Michael Sandejas’ Tulad ng Dati winning in the feature category and Rommel “Milo” Tolentino’s Orasyon winning in the short film category. Though the Cinemalaya entries did not really enjoy commercial success and only APMO was able to have a regular commercial theater run and critical success, the film festival and competition still provides Filipino filmmakers an avenue to explore narratives not usually explored by mainstream films.

Cinema One, the country’s popular Filipino movie channel on cable TV supports digital filmmaking in the country through its Cinema One Originals where several selected film projects are commissioned and given a substantial production grant to encourage the creation of full-length digital films. Cinema One Originals is a project of Creative Programs Inc., an entertainment subsidiary of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest media conglomerate. Cinema One gave production grants to film projects such as Dennis Marasigan’s Sa North Diversion Road, Mark Gary and Denisa Reyes’ Sandalang Bahay, and Topel Lee’s Dilim. Now on its 2nd year, Cinema One originals also started to give awards beside the seven production grants. The finalists are assured of theater screenings and will air on cable TV’s Cinema One channel. Huling Balyan Ng Buhi directed by Sherad Sanchez won the 2006 Grand Prize winner.

Cinemanila International Film Festival, the country’s longest running film festival, has also instituted a digital film competition in 2005 with Digital Lokal: Cinemanila Digital Film Competition with eight entries with the first place going to Aureus Solito’s Tuli, second place to Ramon De Guzman’s Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong and third place to Briccio Santos’ Ala Verde Ala Pobre. The 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival in 2006 reaped six films for the Digital Lokal competition with Brillante Mendoza’s Manoro winning the top prize and Khavn dela Cruz’s Squatterpunk winning the Jury Prize.

The digital technology has allowed budding filmmakers to experiment and to tell stories otherwise ignored and marginalized by studio films. The technology has allowed filmmakers to make their films without huge budgets and studio financing. Filipino digital filmmakers of note include Lav Diaz (Heremias, Ebolusyon ng Pamilyang Pilipino), Khavn Dela Cruz (Mondomanila, Squatterpunk), Raya Martin (Bakasyon, Isla sa Dulo ng Mundo, Indio Nacional) and John Torres (Todo Todo Teros, Salat, Tawidgutom). Digital films such as Jeturian’s Kubrador, Torres’ Todo Todo Teros, Mendoza’ s Masahista and Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros have reaped awards from international film festivals.


Commissioned by the DOST, Presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

Introduction: The Role of ICT in Digital Cinema

Part I. Introduction

The Role of Information and Communication Technology in the Area of Arts, Culture and Heritage: Digital Cinema
Eloisa May P. Hernandez

Philippine cinema, in general, has been benefiting from advances in information and communication technology in the country. Major film studios such as ABS-CBN’s Star Cinema , Regal Films and VIVA Films have their own websites to aid in the marketing of their films and the promotion of their talents. These websites also has forums where fans can discuss about the films. An important section is the complete filmography of the major studios. Films produced and distributed by these studios are also available for sale on the internet. Some films have their own official websites such as Zsazsa Zaturnnah , Mano Po 5 , and Kasal Kasali Kasalo . The internet has become a major site for marketing and distribution of films produced by major studios.

Mobile phone networks have been used by film studios to send promotion messages to its subscribers. ABS-CBN owns a cable TV channel, Cinema One, dedicated primarily to Philippine films. Filipinos abroad continue to enjoy Filipino movies through ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (TFC) and Cinema One Global, international cable channels. Viewers abroad can even vote for their favorite contestants in ABS-CBN’s local reality shows such as Pinoy Dream Academy through the website of TFC giving them a sense that they are still involved in their favorite entertainment shows even if they are outside of the country.

Digital filmmakers, most of them independent from major studios, do not have the marketing and distribution machinery that major studios have. Filipino digital filmmakers have embraced the information and communications technology and rely heavily on them to distribute their works. One of the integral reasons for the development of digital cinema in the Philippines is the parallel growth of information and communications technology in the country.

Information and Communication technology or ICT is a loosely defined concept that commonly refers to technologies such as the internet, mobile phones, AND cable TV. It has transformed the field of digital cinema in the Philippines by opening and creating distinct and varied avenues of distribution and circulation of digital films. Consequently, ICT enables digital films to be more accessible to the public. This paper will focus primarily on the internet, an integral component of ICT, with particular attention on electronic mailing lists (more popularly known as e-groups), blogs, forums, personal websites and the role that they play in the circulation and distribution of digital cinema in the Philippines. Other ICT components such as cable TV and mobile phones, and its potential integration, will also be explored.


Commissioned by DOST, presented at the ICTD4 Roundtable Discussion, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, January 30, 2007. Published in the book The Role of Information and Communication Technology in Digital Cinema. Information and Communication Technology in Philippine Art, Heritage and Religion. Department of Science and Technology in 2008.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Yanggaw by Richard Somes (2008)

Hell on Earth

This is not your run-of-the mill horror movie. There are no special effects or computer-generated images to boast of. No monsters, no gory disfigured creatures. At the crux of Yanggaw is not the horror instigated by the presence of an aswang in a village in a remote town, it is the terror wrought on a family as a daughter is inflicted with an unknown disease that turns her into one.

Yanggaw dwells deep into the transformations - physical and otherwise, of a young woman turned aswang and how her family is forced to deal with her affliction. Yanggaw’s explores the folklore of the aswang, prevalent in Philippine culture and society, as a disease that one contracts and that health centers and faith-healers do not have the remedy for. The premise of the film, the focus on the family’s moral dilemmas rather than on old, worn-out scare tactics for the sake of a few screams, was promising at the onset, but sadly proved to be its ruin in the end as the film uncontrollably degenerates into excessiveness.

Nevertheless, the initial directorial effort of Richard Somes in feature filmmaking is laudable. Yanggaw is a well-made film employing sound, aural orchestration, visual design, cinematography and editing to strike terror in the hearts of the viewers. The sound and aural orchestration is eerily filled with silences and screams, grunts and groans, evoking fear of the unseen and unsightly. The cinematography is apposite – concealing and revealing in a premeditated and studied manner. The visual design is commendable. All these elements make the fear palpable.

The presence of Tetchie Agbayani (as Inday), Joel Torre (as Dulpo) and Ronnie Lazaro (as Junior) turns Yanggaw into an acting tour-de-force. But it is Ronnie Lazaro that bears the Herculean burden and moral dilemma in Yanggaw. What does a father do when his daughter turns into an aswang? Does he seclude her from the community but pose danger to the other family members? Or does he let her go free to hunt for survival and prey on the townsfolk just so he can protect the other family members? Junior dictates the fate of his family - patriarchy at its finest and its worst. His entire family follows his lead into the film’s gruesome denouement. Ronnie Lazaro brilliantly rises to the challenge - in the end, we witness Lazaro as he plunges himself and his family into hell. And there is no turning back.

Still Life by Katski Flores (2007)

A painter is afflicted with a disease that eventually paralyzes him. He leaves for the bucolic countryside to paint his last painting before he kills himself. A young woman gets pregnant and leaves her child with her doctor. Painter and young woman meet, they strike an unlikely relationship. Both end up in the hospital. Young woman turns out to be the painter’s mother. Young woman saves the painter from suicide. But there’s a twist here, the woman has been dead for years. The story, written by Katski Flores in her directorial debut, is hardly original. Yet Katski Flores’s initial attempt in filmmaking is laudable with a bounty of beautiful imagery, crisp editing, and impressive performances from Ron Capinding as James Masino, Glaiza De Castro as Emma Vaszquez, and John Lloyd Cruz in a brief yet effective role as an actor studying the role of an artist.

The art of painting plays a central and integrative role in Still Life. The title draws a connection between the film and the painting genre of still life. The still life has a long history in art starting from the Dutch stilleven where the term originated around 1650. Still life (plural “still lifes”) refers to painted flowers, fruit, vases, wine, bread, food, and other inanimate objects. Still life is also referred to as nature morte in French, which came into popular use in the 19th century as a variation of the term peinture des choses inanimees (painting of inanimate objects). (Mariam 4) In Italian it is natura morta while in Spanish it is called naturaleza muerta and bodegon.

The lead character, James Masino (Ron Capinding), is a painter and the film dwells on the psyche of an artist, how he thinks about art, his art making process, and the role of art in his life – much like a portrait of a young man as an artist. Landscapes and seascapes also abound in Katski Flores’s film with beautifully shot scenes on location in Guinyangan, Quezon and Jala-Jala, Rizal.

The title of the film, Still Life, operates on several levels in this film. It alludes to the impending immobility (the Dutch term stilleven, according to Mariam, also means “nature in repose or immobile”) of James’s body due to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a debilitating disease that will eventually paralyze his body, spelling the end of his painting career. James dances with death and grapples with suicide, reminiscent of memento mori, reminders of death and mortality, as seen in countless still life paintings. Vanitas, another term associated with still life, which according to Patrick Flores, is used to refer to still life works which contemplate the transience of life through the iconography of hourglasses, extinguished candles, soap bubbles, and skulls. (22) James is in transition, moving places from the city to the island, preparing to take his own life, eventually finding a second life after art. Emma as well, is in a transient state, as we shall discover at the end of the film.

The film is replete with images of still life. James’s paintings are still life, albeit of the unconventional type, not filled with flowers or fruits, but instead of a broken red stiletto, a dinner table with wine and left-over food, an empty swing in motion, a broken eyeglasses, a bench with a floating trench coat – all devoid of life, as Emma noticed. Katski Flores also paints her own still lifes in scenes such as an empty chair, a drift wood, a bowl of flowers in the garden, and bougainvilleas in the patio. She also literally transforms some scenes into paintings as seen from the eyes of James.

Still life can also allude to the life of James as it is put on hold by his disease, the end of life as he knows it. It can also refer to his life on a stand-still – when Emma comes into his life, all the moments that James and Emma spent together all occurred in just a matter of a few earthly hours, while James bleeds from his attempted suicide, the hours are stilled.

Sadly, the film reinforces some conventional and questionable, notions about art – an artist as a solitary figure, an artist as a wretched angst-filled soul, an artist space as a room-of-one’s one, and an artist as a middle-class male. The film is also unabashedly conservative with its preachy pro-life diatribes on suicide and abortion. Emma’s role is also conventional as a woman, taking care of the house, preparing the food, doing the laundry, and washing the dishes. Still Life also suffers from excess - the repetitive piano score was haunting at first but eventually becomes unbearable; the dialogue is uneven, sometimes witty but turns cheesy at some point; and the symbolisms were contrived and the twist in the plot was predictable.

In spite these excesses, Still Life's cinematography and visual design is exceptional for its sweeping panorama of nature in its landscapes and seascapes capturing its transitory nature with almost painterly quality, the attention to details in indoor spaces with almost still life property, transforming the frames into hand-painted paintings and the evocative use chiaroscuro – the play of shadows and light - to create mood. Brian Uhing’s paintings and Christina Dy’s sketches are also vital component to the over-all theme of the film. When Mariam wrote, “As a critic and art historian once so aptly remarked, what could be better explain the phrase “devouring with the eyes” than a still life?” she could be referring to Flores’s Still Life as it is literally a feast for the eyes ready to be devoured.

Glaiza De Castro gives an impressive performance as Emma, the young care-free woman. She emanates an inner beauty on screen and is unpretentious in her role. But it is Ron Capinding’s portrayal of James, in his first on screen performance, who stands out in the film as he turns in an understated yet nuanced performance that shifts from haughty to endearing, desperate to hopeful, and from confusion to enlightenment. Capinding’s restraint and roughness as an actor is a contrapunto to the natural joie de vivre and exuberance of De Castro. In the end, the love between James and Emma becomes palpable, yet both De Castro and Capinding effectively evinced love without the romantic entanglements and sensual frills.

Ultimately, as Still Life shows, there is still life for James even after art.

Flores, Patrick. “The Tradition of ‘Still’ Life: Objects, Faces, and Structures as Culture.” Perspectives on the Vargas Museum Collection: An Art Historical and Museological Approach. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Department of Art Studies, Jorge Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, 1998.

Mariam, Mariu. Still Life. Madrid: Aldeasa, 2001.

Kaleldo (Summer Heat) by Brillante Mendoza (2006)

Sizzling summer heat loses steam in Brillante Mendoza’s Kaleldo (Kampanpangan for “summer heat”). Mendoza’s directorial skills turn arid Pampanga into a beautiful setting for a family drama hampered by a problematic screenplay. A story about the Manansala family of Guagua, Pampanga, it stars Johnny Delgado as Rudy Manansala, a woodcarver and father to three daughters: Jess, wonderfully played by Cherry Pie Picache, is the eldest daughter and a lesbian who suffers the scorn of her father; Lourdes, played by Angel Aquino, is the favored middle child who is married to a weakling of a husband, Andy (Alan Paule); and the youngest daughter, Grace, played by Juliana Palermo, who is married to a mama’s boy Conrad (Lauren Novero).

Kaleldo is a movie in three parts; each daughter’s story is prefigured by an element. The first part, Wind, is Grace’s story and how she tries but fails to integrate with her husband’s family. Fire prefigures the story of Lourdes, her failing marriage and costly indiscretion. Water, the last part of this trilogy of elements, is the story of Jess and her girlfriend Weng (Criselda Volks), and is highlighted by the death of the father and ends with Weng walking out of Jess during the father’s wake. The fourth element, Earth, is the landscape of Pampanga. The importance and purpose of these elements in the narrative is never clear. Are these just devices to divide the narrative? Or are there stereotypical characteristics of the elements that are present in the stories of each daughter? Are the daughters’ personalities akin to the elements? The screenplay is out of its element. The three parts are not woven tightly and is far from seamless; the division is more disruptive than unifying. It is safe to say that the sum of the three parts did not achieve a cinematic whole.

Kaleldo created a buzz in the public’s imagination with a lesbian, Jess, as one of its central characters. Once marginalized and close to invisible, there has been an abundance lately of lesbian representations in Philippine cinema with Joel Lamangan’s Sabel, Connie SA.Macatuno’s Rome and Juliet, Auraeus Solito’s Tuli, and Babae by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. Though films with lesbian characters offer a deeper understanding of the woman-loving-woman relationship, some representations are problematic (Carlos Siguion Reyna’s Tatlo…Magkasalo comes to mind as one of the most). Even if these films render lesbians visible in predominantly patriarchal representations in Philippine cinema, the discourse about lesbians that these films generate leaves much to be desired. Most lesbians are represented as drunkards (Jess’ lesbian friends in Kaleldo spend most of their screen time drinking or drunk), confused, criminals, evil, violent, and spurned by men they love and so turning them into men-hating lesbians.

Most films also dichotomize lesbians into butches and femmes (for lack of more appropriate terms). The butches are depicted as very macho and patriarchal, and the femmes are depicted as very feminine and subservient. At the end of the film, the lesbians are turned straight, made to go back to the altar of heterosexuality, and married off to the next available bachelor, thereby fulfilling the heterosexual happy-ever-after plot. Kaleldo places itself in this quandary. After exposing the flawed heterosexual relationships between Lourdes and Andy and younger sister Grace and Conrad, and portraying the lesbian relationship between Jess and Weng as a stable, loving, caring, and supportive partnership between two women, it chooses to break up and destroy the lesbian relationship and marry Weng off in a church wedding. Why deny lesbian love its much-needed and deserved happy-ever-after? Why succumb to the heterosexual and patriarchal notion of relationship?

A voice-over narration feebly attempts to explain that Jess had to let go of Weng because she loves her, unlike the kind of love her strict father had for them that left her scarred. Whatever happened to fighting for one’s love? Where is redemption here? Where is empowerment? Instead of liberating Jess from the scarring and stifling patriarchal love of her father, she succumbs and is defeated by it.

Brillante Mendoza, winner of last year’s Young Critics Circle Film Desk awards for his first film Masahista, creates some stunning picture-perfect scenes with sparkles of cinematographic brilliance that turns lahar-stricken Pampanga into a beautiful setting, albeit some scenes are devoid of context.

The acting is uneven and inconsistent, making it difficult for us to empathize with the characters. Johnny Delgado’s acting during his daughter’s wedding seems more lustful than loving. Angel Aquino, Alan Paule and Lauren Novero render forgettable performances. Liza Lorena is over the top. Juliana Palermo and Criselda Volks are competent.

The bright spot in this acting ensemble is Cherry Pie Picache who turns in the most subtle yet searing portrayal of a devoted and dutiful lesbian daughter that still does not command the love and respect she deserves from her father. Picache’s transformation is effective and detailed - in small quiet gestures, a painful look, a longing stare. Her characterization is intelligent and void of histrionics. Picache inhabits Jess in a convincing manner and blends with the landscape that is Pampanga. We ache as she strives for her father’s respect, acceptance, and ultimately, his love. We cringe as she is constantly berated and publicly embarrassed by her father for how she dresses. We cheer as she defends her sister from a rampaging husband with a leg of pig as a weapon. We experience her love for her girlfriend Weng with her intimate caresses. We flinch as she is slapped by her father for answering back and standing up for herself and Weng. We sense her fear as she ever so slightly recoils in the presence of her domineering and violent father. We empathize with her vulnerability as she mourns his death.

Contrary to prevalent, albeit erroneous, representations in film and other mass media where the lesbian is typecast as macho, brusque, uncouth, and abrasive, Picache’s portrayal of a lesbian is strong yet sensitive, willful yet tender and loving, and impenitent yet compassionate. Defying pervasive filmic and societal lesbian constructs, she intelligently captures the nuances of Jess’ character portraying her as a dutiful, hard-working and responsible daughter, a protective sister, and a loving partner. Picache does not characterize Jess solely as a lesbian, but more importantly, as a person. This is reminiscent of Jeanette Winterson’s musings on being a lesbian in Art Objects, “I am not a lesbian who happens to write. I am a writer who happens to love women.” Cherry Pie Picache’s Jess renders more depth and humanity into a lesbian character than most of lesbian representations in recent Philippine cinematic history.

Cherry Pie Picache is the saving grace of Kaleldo, and yet it is her character, Jess, that suffers the most tragic loss as lesbian love wilts under the sweltering heat of summer in Pampanga.

OLIVER ni Nick Deocampo (1983)

OLIVER: Pagbabago mula Spiderman Tungo sa Kalayaan
Ang Oliver ni Nick Deocampo ay isang dokumentaryo tungkol sa buhay ni Reynaldo Villarama, isang female impersonator. Ito ang unang bahagi ng trilohiyang Ang Lungsod ng Tao ay Nasa Puso ni Deocampo. Sinundan ito ng Children of the Regime noong 1985 tungkol sa child prostitution at ng Revolutions Happen Like Refrains in a Song noong 1987 tungkol sa saya at pagkabigo pagkatapos ng 1986 EDSA People Power. Ang trilogy ay nanalo ng Grand Prix sa 9th International Super 8 and Video Festival sa Brussels, Belgium noong 1987.

Sa pelikulang ito, makikita natin ang kaibuturan ng buhay ni Villarama. Halata ang tiwala ni Villarama kay Deocampo, kitang-kita ito sa napakalapit at napakalalim na pagpasok ni Deocampo sa buhay ni Villarama at ng kanyang pamilya. Sinuklian naman ito ng respeto ni Deocampo, hinayaan niyang magsalita at magkuwento si Villarama at ang kanyang pamilya nang walang bahid na paghuhusga mula sa kamera at sa director. Hindi din hinayaan ni Deocampo na maging spectacle ang mga palabas ni Oliver, lalo ang kanyang Spiderman.

Makikinita natin sa Oliver ang mapanuri ngunit sensitibong paggamit ni Deocampo ng sining ng sine upang ipakita ang buhay ni Villarama habang isinisiwalat ang iba’t-ibang isyu at problema sa lungsod. Matapang ang pelikula ni Deocampo sa pagsiwalat sa mga problema ng bansa sa ilalim ng rehimeng Marcos tulad ng prostitusyon, exploitation ng mga bata, kahirapan, squatter, pabahay, basura, at opresyon. Ayon sa kanya, pinili niyang gumawa ng dokumentaryo dahil, “I stuck to the documentary in total opposition to the illusion-ridden movies made commercially with little regard for the actual realities around us Filipinos.” Walang takot na ginawa ni Deocampo ang pelikula sa ilalim ng diktatoryang Marcos noong 1983, kung kailan pinatay si Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. Ayon kay Deocampo, “Deep inside me I felt something like a revolution was bound to happen in the country.”

Bumabalot ang tema ng pagbabago sa pelikulang Oliver. Malaking pagbabago, na tila rebolusyon, sa personal na lebel ay makikita sa buhay ni Villarama at sa metamorposis na nagaganap tuwing siya ay nagiging Oliver. Sa pagpapalit ng eksena mula sa totoong buhay ni Villarama at sa pagganap ni Oliver na Liza Minelli, Grace Jones o Spiderman, epektibong pinakita ni Deocampo ang kapangyarihan ng metamorposis, ang pagbabagong anyo at pagbabagong buhay. Gabi-gabi tuwing pumunta, nagbabagong si Villarama, mula Reynaldo Villarama nagiging Oliver. Balot sa kahirapan ang buhay ni Villarama, pilit binubuhay ang pamilya sa pagtatrabaho bilang impersonator, minsan ay prosti, nakatira sa squatter’s area, at “one scratch, one eat” (aniya ng lola). Pagdating naman sa club, si Oliver ay nagiging sikat na manganganta (Liza Minelli) o sikat na performance artist at manganganta (Grace Jones) o sikat na superhero (Spiderman). Nagbabagong anyo si Oliver, nagiging babae, maganda, kaakit-akit, pokus ng atensyon, at glamorosa. Gabi-gabi, tuwing si Villarama ay pupunta sa club, makikita natin ang pagbabago mula sa pang-araw-araw na buhay at pagkatao ni Villarama.

Ang isyu ng pagbabago ng sekswalidad ay tinalakay din sa pelikula. Sa bahay si Villarama ay isang tatay at asawa, sa club naman siya ay may boyfriend, at bilang Oliver siya ay nagiging babae sa kanyang mga ginagaya. Ngunit sa pagmumuni niya, tinanong niya kung maiintindihan kaya ng kanyang anak paglaki nito na ang kanyang tatay ay isang bakla o silahis. Sa kabila ng pagtatanong ni Villarama, makikita natin na komportable si Villarama sa pagbabagobago ng kanyang sekswalidad.

Hindi lamang pagbabagong-anyo at pagbabago ng sekswalidad ang tema ng Oliver. Higit na mas mahalaga an pagbabagong-buhay ni Oliver. Hindi itinuring ni Deocampo si Villarama na biktima ng lipunan o ng kanyang trabaho. Kahit na napapaligiran si Villarama ng hirap, pilit niyang binabago ang kanyang pang-araw araw na kalagayan. Patuloy na naghahanap ng mas mabuting buhay para sa pamilya at sa sarili. Tinapos ni Deocampo ang maikling dokumentaryo sa papalit-palit na eksena ng Spiderman sequence ni Oliver at ang paglipat ng bahay ni Villarama. Bumuo si Oliver ng sapot ng gagamba mula sa pisi na nakapasok sa kanyang puwet. Binalot ang sarili sa sapot at saka ito winasak. Habang pinapakita na nagbubuhat ng mga damit na binalot at mga gamit para maglipat ng bahay si Vllarama karga ang anak. Sa pagwasak ni Oliver ng sapot ng gagamba, gayun din ang pagwasak ni Villarama ng dating buhay na balot sa hirap. Taas kamay si Oliver pagkatapos was akin ang sapot, halik naman ang ibinigay ni Villarama sa anak habang tulak ang kariton patungo sa bagong buhay. Sa paglaya ni Oliver bilang Spiderman, gayun din sana ang paglaya ni Villarama mula sa kahirapan.

Si Reynaldo Villarama ay isang 24 anyos female impersonator na mas kilala sa palayaw na Oliver. Ginagaya niya si Liza Minelli sa awiting Cabaret na ayon sa kanya ay apat na taon na niyang ginagawa. Apat ang kanyang kapatid –isang may asawa na at iyong tatlo ay pinapaaral pa niya. Ayon kay Oliver, gusto na rin niya ang kanyang trabaho bilang female impersonator, masaya at madaling kumita ng pera. Dahil dito ay naaalagaan niya ang kanyang pamilya.

Sa panayam sa babaeng kapatid ni Oliver, walang problema sa kanya ang trabaho ni Oliver dahil napapakain at napapaaral sila nito. Ayon naman sa lola ni Oliver na kasama niya sa bahay, mabait na bata si Oliver at gagawin lahat para buhayin ang kanyang pamilya. Ayon kay Oliver, ang kanyang trabaho ay hanapbuhay na niya. Pinakitang muli ang impersonation ni Oliver kay Liza Minelli.

Sinalubong si Oliver ng kanyang anak na lalaki pag-uwi niya sa bahay nila sa Navotas. Ikinuwento ni Oliver ang pagkamatay ang kanyang ina noong 1970 at pag-iwan sa kanila ng ama noong 1971. Noong 1972 pinaampun sila ng lola nila at doon natuto si Oliver mag-rondalla. Umalis si Oliver sa ampunan at nakilala niya si JX (hindi tunay na pangalan) na nagdala sa kanya sa isang club sa Mabini para maging mananayaw. Lumipat siya sa Taberna sa Espana hanggang siya ay napunta sa Monokel.

Pinakilala ang anak at asawa ni Oliver sa isang panayam. Pinakitang pinapainom ni Oliver ang anak ng ng gatas. Nagmumuni-muni si Oliver tungkol sa kinabukasan ng kanyang anak. Kahit na aksidente lamang ang pagkakaroon niya ng anak, masaya daw siya at napatunayan niya sa kanyang sarili na lalaki siya. Iniisip ni Olvier kung matatanggap ng kanyang anak na siya ay isang bakla o silahis.

Ikinukuwento ni Lola na sila ay nakatira sa Dagat-dagatan. Nagbabayad daw sila sa gobyerno hanggang 25 taon. Makikita ang bundok ng basura sa Isla Puting Bato, Navotas malapit kanila Oliver. Nagpapasalamat pa rin si Oliver dahil sa pakiramdam niya ay mas maayos pa rin ang buhay nila kumpara sa mga taga-Isla Puting Bato. Sabi ng lola ni Oliver, sila ang pinakamahirap na lugar. Wala sila masyadong mapagkakakitaan. “We are living on one scratch, one eat.” Maski ganun daw si Oliver, binubuhay niya ang kanyang mga kapatid. Pinaparaaral at pinapakain niya ang mga ito. Nang mamatay ang kanilang ina at iniwan ng kanilang ama, nagdaan sila sa hirap. Ipinasok niyang katulong ang magkakapatid. Kinukuha niya ang suweldo ni Oliver.

Pinakita ang diyaryong may balita tungkol sa child prostitution. Pinakita din ang Venus Cinema sa Tondo. Nagkukuwento si Oliver tungkol sa Venus Cinema kung saan merong mga male prostitutes. Naging male prostitute din si Oliver at noong siya ay 15-anos binayaran siya ng 500 pesos para lumabas sa isang pelikula.

Naglalakad si Oliver sa Fort Santiago, tumigil at pinanood ang mga namamalimos na bata habang ang mga ito ay naglalaro. Nag-iisip si Oliver tungkol sa buhay at kinabukasan. Kahit mahirap ang buhay, meron pa ring mas dukha kesa sa kanya – tulad ng mga batang pinanonood.

Sunset sa red-light district ng M.H. Del Pilar, puno ng iba’t-ibang kulay mula sa ilaw ng mga nightclub. Simula na naman ng trabaho ni Oliver kasama ang mga mananayaw, call boy at impersonators – masaya sila.

Sumasayaw ang isang macho dancer sa mapang-akit na tunog. Nag-Liza Minelli na naman si Oliver. May mga Shirley Bassey at Donna Summer impersonator din. Tuloy sa sayaw ang macho dancer sa kantang “Chiquitita.” Sumunod si Oliver bilang Grace Jones. Hubad si Oliver maliban na lang sa gintong pintura ng kanyang katawan.

Ayon kay Lola, maghihiwalay na ang maglolola dahil hindi na kayang magbayad ng bahay sa gobyerno. Magsasama-sama na ang magkakapatid at si Lola naman ay papasok sa ospital. Gusto ni Lola na magakaroon ng maliit na hanapbuhay ang magkakapatid, isang tindahan sa bahay para hindi na sila aalis pa ng bahay. Balik sa Grace Jones. Sabi naman ng kapatid ni Oliver na kung hindi na siya kayang pag-aralin ay titigil na lamang siya. Tuloy pa rin ang pag-Grace Jones ni Oliver. Sabi ni Lola si Oliver na ang may responsibilidad sa kanyang mga kapatid.

Kandong ni Oliver ang anak habang nagkukuwento. Handa na silang magsarili, ayon sa desisyon ng kanilang lola. Sa baryo sila titita, mas malaki ang matitipid nila. Pag-aaralin ang kapatid na lalaki. Ang upa nila ay 250 pesos.

Naglalagay ng gamit sa kariton sila Oliver at kapatid na babae, paghahanda sa paglipat ng bahay. Pinapakitang naghahanda si Oliver para sa kanyang “Spiderman.” Nagrolyo ng 100 yards na pisi na ipapasok niya sa kanyang puwet. Ayon kay Oliver, hindi niya alam kung paano niya naisip ito, basta ginawa na lamang niya. Nagustuhan ng mga tao at pinagkaguluhan. Kahit daw si Lino Brocka ay naloka sa “Spiderman” at bumalik pa kinabukusan kasama ang mga banyang kaibigan. Naglalagay pa ng gamit si Oliver at kapatid sa kariton kasama ang anak ni Oliver. Pinakita ang kamay ni Oliver habang inaayos ang pisi para sa show.

Pumasok si Oliver sa dressing room ng club. Naghubad at naghanda para sa “Spiderman.” Pinakitang tinutulok ni Oliver at ng kapatid ang kariton habang buhat ni Oliver ang anak. Nagsuot si Oliver ng costume. Pinakita muli ang magkapatid na nagtutulak ng kariton. Naglalagay ng oil sa kanyang puwet at ipinasok ang pisi dito. Pinakitang hinalikan ni Oliver ang anak habang naglalakad ng may kariton.

Nasa gitna ng entablado si Oliver at sinimulang hatakin ang pisi palabas ng puwet. Tinali niya ang pisi sa pakong nasa lapag. Dahan dahang gumapang patungong pader at mga lamesa habang tinatali ang pisi sa mga ito. Napuno ni Oliver ng pisi ang buong entablado animo isang sapot ng gagamba. Pumunta sa gitna ng sapot si Oliver at sinimulang hatakin ang pisi hanggat ito ay mawasak. Lumaya si Oliver mula sa sapot.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros by Auraeus Solito (2005)

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros

Growing up in a slum area in one of the more under-privileged communes in Metro Manila with a family of criminals sounds like a typical story. Spice it up with a love angle between a gay preteen, Maxi, and a handsome rookie policeman, Victor. Maxi’s brother commits murder; Maxi tries to cover up for his brother, whom Victor already suspects of the crime, leaving Maxi torn between filial piety and the throbs of first love in his young heart. This powerful ethical dilemma posed at the start of the film, unfortunately, did not blossom into moral fruition.

Directed by Auraeus Solito (his first full-length feature), written by Michiko Yamamoto (who also wrote Magnifico), and produced by Raymond Lee, it features Nathan Lopez in the title role. Since its premiere in the 1st Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2005 in Manila where it won the Special Jury Prize, Best Production Design and Special Citation for Performance (for Nathan Lopez), Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros has won Best Picture in the First Films World Competition of the Montreal World Film Festival 2005, participated in imagiNATIVE Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, and competed in the World Cinema Feature Competition of the Sundance Film Festival (a first for any Filipino filmmaker).

The film starts out promising. Though, technically, sound still is a problem for Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, just like the other digital films in Cinemalaya. The production design is subdued and subtle - a poster of Romeo and Juliet made by Brenda Fajardo prefigures the doomed love affair of Maxi and Victor. Nap Jamir’s cinematography is competent considering the lighting conditions. Sampaloc, Solito’s old neighborhood, offers a good background to Maxi’s crime-filled world.

Albeit some boring scenes, the film has some touching moments balanced with sporadic witty lines. The scene of young boys from the neighborhood parading around in gowns fully made up evoke memories of beauty contests enacted in countless living rooms, though I personally think the scene is not essential. Nathan Lopez’s portrayal of Maxi is believable but his sashaying tends to be distracting. Maxi also has a tendency to just sit in a corner and cry while his whole world is turned inside out.
The competent acting from dependable Soliman Cruz as Maxi’s father with Ping Medina and Neil Ryan Sese as Maxi’s two older brothers is the saving grace of the film.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros hardly offers new insights on gender issues in the Philippines, though there are attempts. For instance, Maxi’s very macho father and brothers do not beat him up; but rather treat Maxi lovingly. Maxi’s brothers even beat up a couple of neighborhood thugs who harassed him. Maxi’s family seems to counter the stereotype of gay-bashing fathers and brothers. Maxi is protected from the usual perils of growing up as a young gay because he is surrounded by a family of criminals. As a YCC member aptly puts it, “[Maximo] lives in a state of total freedom because he lives in a context of total crime.”

In return, Maxi serves them dutifully by cooking, cleaning, sewing, washing clothes, and tending the house – practically fashioning himself as the “woman” of the house, equating the roles of women and gays in Philippine society. It reinforces the stereotypical and patriarchal notion that the role of women, and now even gays, in society is to serve the men in their lives.

It is also a wonder why people continuously declare that the film is not a “gay film” when the title itself belies the fact. Maxi falls in love with a man, a gay beauty contest is enacted, the ethical dilemma of the movie is inherently gay - the film is undeniably a gay film. Why relegate that fact to the margins? This denial further pushes the discourse about homosexuality in Philippine society to the periphery.

Unpunished crimes (the murder committed by his brother and the murder of his father) served as impetus to the blossoming of Maxi. Both murders spiral the film into its denouement – the loss of innocence of his paramour, Victor, and hopefully, Maxi’s own blossoming into a life filled with possibilities amidst a world full of crime.

Let the Love Begin by Mac Alejandre (2005)

The Hero in Let The Love Begin

On the surface, Let the Love Begin appears as a run of the mill romance movie. A pretty actress and a handsome actor comprise the love team in a typical rich girl-poor boy story. There are the staple accoutrements of the genre: comic sidekicks for friends, a scheming and not so charming prince pretender, a popular song for the movie’s title, and the perfunctory celebratory scene in the end complete with raindrops falling on the protagonists’ heads. However, despite this rather stereotypical mix of plot, characters, and events, the film succeeds in that it provides a rather refreshing take on what it means to be a “hero” or “savior” in this day and age.

Our hero in the story has a mission – to win the heart of the girl he loves. He tries to do this by helping her out with schoolwork, specifically by leaving finished homework under a school chair they share, she by day and he by night. The girl is enamored with her “savior,” yet his true identity remains obfuscated from her. He is hesitant to reveal himself and his intentions, so he takes his time until events overcome him: she leaves for the United States after graduation. A few years transpire and they meet again; she is now a corporate executive, while he as a janitor in her office. A friendship develops between them, yet she remains ignorant of the fact that the janitor used to be her “savior.” In a moment of desperation, she prays for her “savior” to save her again. And once again, our hero comes to save the day. Finally, our hero decides to divulge his identity and intentions to his beloved, but a prince charming pretender steals the glory. As our hero’s beloved finally recognizes that the pretender is not heroic, she realizes that she loves the janitor. She sees in the janitor the heart of a true hero, ultimately realizing that the janitor is her “savior.” With this realization, our hero’s identity and intentions are finally revealed.

Working within the confines of the romance genre, the film triumphs in the characterization of our young hero. He is a typical teen-ager with teen-age concerns and angst, coupled with the fact that he is poor and orphaned. Yet, he is intelligent enough not to allow his poverty to deprive him of a good education. What he lacks in material things, he makes up for in kindness in that he is always willing to help, albeit anonymously, his beloved. His heroism shines in his willingness to sacrifice his chance to study in a top university abroad for his grandmother. He is a diligent, hardworking young man who, at the same time, is a conscientious and intelligent student. His heroism is in his every day life—in his capacity to overcome the temptations and vagaries of youth, in his efforts to educate himself out of poverty. No, he may not be our typical knight in shining armor on a white steed; but his intelligence and kind heart shine through, making him a knight in an armor all his own.

He is not faster than a speeding bullet, nor is he more powerful than a locomotive and he cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound – he is as human as he can get but is an everyday hero, a savior, who fulfills his mission set at the beginning of the film. Let the Love Begin ends with what most of us yearn for in life – a happy ever after.