Sunday, March 18, 2012

Relax...Watch a Movie

Summer is here, and one great way to spend these hot summer days and nights is to stay indoors and watch movies. You can catch up on the movies you missed during the semester, or organize movie nights with your barkada. If you are looking for places to watch other films aside from the usual summer movie blockbuster fare like Clash of the Titans in the cineplexes, try to catch movies in alternative venues such as the University of the Philippines Film Institute, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Mogwai Cinematheque in Cubao X, and Fully Booked in The Fort, among others.

Teaching in the University of the Philippines in Diliman and living inside the campus as well, I consider myself fortunate that I have easy access to the UP Film Institute Cine Adarna. It has been my “home” movie house since my college days in the late 1980s. I wait for the embassy films such as the Eiga Sai Japanese Film Festival, as well as the Cinemalaya and CinemaOne films. I remember my first exposure to the films of Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kai-wai, Japanese filmmaker and actor Takeshi Kitano, and Thai filmmaker Pen-Ek Ratanaruang at the UPFI and I have followed their film careers since then. The UPFI has two screening venues: the main cinema which has a seating capacity of 766 and the smaller and more intimate Videotheque which has a seating capacity of 50. For the past few years, the UPFI has provided regular runs and premieres for digital films, mostly independently produced. With the recent closure of Robinson’s IndieSine, the UPFI remains the only venue to offer regular runs to independently produced films that do not have access to the mall-based commercial cinema houses. For screening schedules of the UP Film Institute Cine Adarna, you can check out their website as well as join their Facebook fan page and e-group.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), located at Roxas Boulevard, Manila, is a regular venue for film screenings and workshops. Since 2005, the CCP has conducted the annual Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. Check out their website for their screening schedule. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in Intramuros, Manila not only gives funding to filmmakers to produce their films, they also hold screenings albeit not on a regular basis.

Restaurants, cafes, galleries, and bars are popular alternative venues for film screenings. Unfortunately, some have closed shop already, such as Khavn de la Cruz’s Ora Café and Joey Fernandez’s Brash Young Cinema. Cinekatipunan of Mag:net Katipunan started in September 2005 and was very active in screening independent films. Rock Drilon, Mag:net owner, said, “…we were practically the only venue screening indie films daily” for the past several years. Sadly, in June 2009 the MTRCB asked them to stop showing films. According to Drilon, “After three years of daily screenings (indie films mostly) and occasional talks with featured filmmakers, MTRCB suspended us and threatened to lock up café unless we change our license to theater. Even if we counter-argued Cinekatipunan is only a component of our programming and that we are also a venue for live music, poetry readings and art shows, they would not hear any of it. We had no choice but to discontinue.” Cinekatipunan was programmed by several filmmakers and practitioners such as Kiri Dalena, Nap Jamir, John Torres, Elvert Banares, Khavn de la Cruz, and the late Alexis Tioseco.

Good thing there is still Mogwai Cinematheque, located at Unit 62 & 63 Cubao Expo, Gen. Romulo Ave., Cubao. Owned by filmmakers, it is “…dedicated to showing all sorts of films from Hollywood classics to underground cinema, art-house fare to Pinoy grindhouse flicks. Run by practicing filmmakers and film scholars as consultants, it is the only other cinema aside from the U.P. Film Center and Cultural Center of the Philippines to have no censorship restrictions in the country.” It recently screened Mark Peranson’s Waiting for Sancho, the Oscar-nominated animated film The Secret of Kells by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, and the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man, as well as Woody Allen's Annie Hall. A popular watering hole for artists, filmmakers, and students, the café/restaurant beneath the Mogwai Cinematheque is a perfect spot to hang out after watching to exchange ideas.

The Fully Booked Film Series at the Fully Booked Fort Bonifacio's U-View Cinema was programmed by the late film critic Alexis Tioseco. It is now known as The Tioseco-Bohinc Film Series to honor of the memory of Tioseco and Nika Bohinc, both talented film critics murdered late last year. They recently screened Christopher Gozum’s Anacbanua, Khavn’s Paalam Aking Bulalakaw, Ray Gibraltar’s When Timawa Meets Delgado and CLIMAX, “a live cinema /experimental video project consisting of many episodes and incarnations.” You can join their Facebook page for their screening schedule.

The Titus Brandsma’s pelikula@titusbrandsma is a free monthly film screening by the Titus Brandsma Center (TBC) Media Program that features a variety of films. They recently screened Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild, In the Mood for Love, and 2046; Stephen Daldry’s Billy Elliot; Guillermo del Toro’s Pan's Labyrinth; Bong Joon-ho’s Madeo (Mother); Marleen Gorris’s Antonia (Antonia's Line); and Pedro Almodovar’s La flor de mi secreto (The Flower of My Secret). Titus Brandsma is located at St. Elijah Hall, 26 Acacia St. Brgy. Mariana, New Manila, Quezon City. For their screening schedule and queries, you may contact Ms. Bituin Quinto at 726-6054 or 09174759244 or join their e-group.

After the summer break, if you still have not satisfied your craving for films, you can always wait for the annual film festivals such as the Cinemanila International Film Festival, Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, and Cinema One Originals.

The Cinemanila International Film Festival, organized by veteran filmmaker Tikoy Aguiluz, is the longest running international film festival in the country. I fervently followed Cinemanila especially during its early years. I would save all my five-peso coins and when the festival commenced, I would use my savings to pay for the tickets. My five-peso coins got me tickets to some of my most memorable films, including Lars von Trier’s Dogville, François Ozon’s Swimming Pool, Fernando Meirelles’s City of God, Mojtaba Raei's Birth of a Butterfly, Walter Salles’s Central Station, Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her, Takeshi Kitano’s Zatoichi, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas, and Gustavo Mosquera’s Moebius.

The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is organized by the CCP and features newly-produced original full-length digital films every year. They also show films out of competition during the festival.

Cinema One Originals funds full-length digital feature films every year. It is a project of the Creative Programs, Inc. (CPI), a subsidiary of the country’s largest media conglomerate, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation. Both Cinemanila and Cinema One Originals started in 2005. There is also .mov International Digital Film Festival, organized by Khavn and last held in 2008. Visit their websites for updates on the festivals.

One festival that I personally miss is the Pelikula at Lipunan, organized almost single-handedly by the indefatigable Nick Deocampo, independent filmmaker, film historian, and cultural worker. The annual film festival featuring Filipino film classics from the country’s top filmmakers such as Lamberto Avellana, Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, Gerry de Leon, Eddie Romero, and Peque Gallaga started in 1994 with the help of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Film Committee, then headed by Eddie Romero, National Artist for Film. I followed Pelikula at Lipunan since its inception and I remember spending several days in SM cinemas in film marathons watching classics such as Juan Makabayan, Oro Plata Mata, Himala, Moral, Karnal, Brutal, Jaguar, and Manila by Night. I vividly remember rushing to Ever Gotesco in Recto just to catch Ishmael Bernal’s Nunal sa Tubig. I was determined to watch as many Filipino classics as I could and it turned out to be a very enriching experience for me.

The various cultural arms of the embassies also show films or sponsor film showings such as the Alliance Française de Manille, Goethe-Institut in the Philippines, and the Instituto Cervantes of Manila. I remember watching Krzysztof Kieślowski’s White at the Alliance Française. The Goethe-Institut has been active in organizing film production workshops and film screenings as well. You can check out their websites for announcements of their film-related activities.

Students and friends ask me where they can get copies of good old Tagalog movies, classic Hollywood movies, art house films, and films that are not usually shown in the commercial movie houses. Here are some suggestions.

Check out the DVDs, VCDS and Blu-ray discs in video stores in the malls such as Astrovision. Rummage through their sale bins for some great deals. I bought Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, a film banned by the MTRCB in the late 80s, for P99 a few weeks back. Though not very well-stacked with classic Filipino films, there are some gems to be found. I recently upgraded two of my favorites, Peque Gallaga’s Oro Plata Mata and Ishmael Bernal’s Himala, from old worn-out VHS to DVDs.

I also scout Fully Booked and Powerbooks. Both bookstores carry re-mastered classic Filipino films and new releases. Amazon, the popular online store, sells films but I have not yet personally tried it. You could also download films on the Internet through torrents, but since I have no idea how to do it, I cannot tell you much. My friends and students have tried to teach me several times but I am an epic fail. And of course, there is always your friendly neighborhood Jack Sparrow who walks the streets and offers pirated DVDs. You need not go to Quiapo, Divisoria, or Greenhills to get a DVD fix; they are brought right to your doorstep.

I remember the days of small video rental shops on almost every street in the metro. Growing up, I was fortunate to have an auntie who loved borrowing Betamax and VHS tapes. I recall accompanying her to a video store on West Avenue to borrow the taped episodes of her favorite TV series and old Hollywood movies. The video store happened to be right in front of my uncle’s car repair shop in West Avenue, so I usually volunteered to accompany family members on their car repair errands just so I could visit the video store. That shop was Video48, a video store that proved to be an integral part of my film education. I remember borrowing old Hollywod classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, My Fair Lady, and An Affair to Remember. Video48 has an extensive collection of old Filipino movies as well as films from other parts of the globe.

If you find yourself getting more interested in films and you want to know more, you may explore the option of enrolling in film production classes such as in Mowelfund Film Institute, UP Film Institute, and the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute & Arts Center. You can also enroll in film appreciation and Philippine cinema classes. The UP Film Institute offers Film 10 Sining Sine and Film 12 Sine Pinoy as general education subjects. The UP Department of Art Studies offers Art Studies 177 (Cinema in Philippine Culture) and Art Studies 274 (Philippine Cinema) - I love teaching both subjects. Imagine spending the whole semester watching movies and discussing the films with your classmates after watching – heaven! Ask around in your schools and universities, they might have similar courses. There are also numerous school-based organizations that hosts lectures with film showings. Regularly check your school’s bulletin boards for announcements.

Finally, just to keep myself informed about film-related activities, I subscribed to two e-groups where most announcements are posted – the University of the Philippines Film Institute and Cinemanila. Another source of information is Facebook has also been increasingly utilized as a venue to announce film showings and other film-related activities; always check the events posted there.

There is a variety of venues to watch films and there are numerous ways to get your hands on some films you have been planning to watch. So, relax … see a movie.

Originally published in POC Metakritiko in April 2010,


1. If you have information to contribute, please feel free to add in the comments section. Thank you!
2. Mogwai has since closed.
3. New alternative spaces include:
Cinema is Incomplete in 117-C Anonas Extension Sikatuna Village
Blacksoup Cafe in Unit G, Maginhawa Bldg., 154 Maginhawa St. Sikatuna Village, 1101 Quezon City, Philippines

Movies Released in the Philippines 2011

February 2 (Wednesday)
Bulong (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) PG Comedy 1:45

February 9 (Wednesday)
My Valentine Girls (GMA Films; Regal Entertainment) G Romance 2:27

March 2 (Wednesday)
Who's That Girl (Viva Entertainment) PG Comedy 1:47

March 23 (Wednesday)
Catch Me, I'm in Love (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; Viva Films) G Romance 1:46

April 6 (Wednesday)
Tum: My Pledge of Love (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; RCP Productions) G Romance 1.56

April 23 (Saturday)
Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kawk! (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; APT Entertainment; M-Zet TV; Octoarts Films) G Comedy 1.55

May 4 (Wednesday)
Tumbok (Viva Entertainment) PG Horror 1.40

May 11 (Wednesday)
In the Name of Love (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) PG Romance 1.56

June 15 (Wednesday)
Forever and a Day (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) G Romance1:45

July 6 (Wednesday)
Joey Gosiengfiao's Temptation Island (Regal Entertainment; GMA Films) PG Comedy 1:59

July 13 (Wednesday)
The Adventures of Pureza, Queen of the Riles (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) PG Comedy 1:45

August 17 (Wednesday)
Way Back Home (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) G Drama 1:45

August 24 (Wednesday)
Tween Academy: Class of 2012 (GMA Films; SMDC) G Youth 1:53

August 31 (Wednesday)
Wedding Tayo, Wedding Hindi (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) PG Comedy 1:55
Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (Origin 8 Media) PG Comedy 1:35

September 7 (Wednesday)
Thelma (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) G Drama 1:40

September 14 (Wednesday)
My Neighbor's Wife (Regal Entertainment) R13 Drama 2:06

September 28 (Wednesday)
No Other Woman (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; Viva Entertainment) R13 Romance 1:52

October 26 (Wednesday)
Praybeyt Benjamin (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; Viva Entertainment) PG Comedy 1:47

November 2 (Wednesday)
Aswang (Regal Entertainment) PG Horror 1:51

November 30 (Wednesday)
The Road (GMA Films) R13 Horror 1:53
Won’t Last a Day without You (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; Viva Entertainment) G Romance 1:43

December 25 (Sunday)
Enteng ng Ina Mo (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; M-Zet TV; APT Entertainment) G Fantasy Comedy Adventure 1:50
Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story (Viva Entertainment; Scenema Concept International) R13 Action 2:00
My Househusband (Octoarts Films) PG Comedy 1:48
Ang Panday 2 (GMA Films; Imus Productions)G Fantasy Action Adventure 1:47
Segunda Mano (Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions; MJM Productions) PG Horror 1:47
Shake, Rattle and Roll 13 (Regal Entertainment) PG Horror 2:24
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Regal Entertainment; Studio 5) PG Drama 1:57

Digital Full Run
Haliparot (Lara Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:35 011911
Presa (Sunflower Films; Astral Productions) PG Digital Drama 011911
Rindido (IFC) R Digital Drama 012611
Bikini Boys (Sunflower Films) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:20 020911
Brod (Sunflower Films) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 021611
Untamed Virgins (Artistic Scoop Productions) R Digital Adult Romance 1:22 022311
Masikip sa Tatlo (Metro Films International) R Digital Adult Romance 1:40 030211
Mayohan (Quantum Films) PG Digital Drama 030911
Senior Year (Digitank Studios) PG Digital Drama 030911
Student Project (Sunflower Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:30 031611
Hinala (Sinehan Digitales) R Digital Adult Romance 1:25 032311
Lihim ni Adonis (M-Six Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:30 032311
Bata Pa si Rafael (El Niño Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:15 033011
Seksing Masahista (Artistic Scoop Productions) R Digital Adult Romance 1:27 040611
Senior Year (Digitank Studios) PG Digital Drama 041311 re-release
Lamog (Leo Films) R18 Digital Adult Romance 1:22 050411
Law Law Gang (Lara Films) PG Digital Comedy 1:26 050411
Ombre (Phylum Productions; Ignatius Films; Pro Pro Artists) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:25 050411
Rigodon (El Niño Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:20 051111
Taksikab (Astral Productions) R Digital Drama 1:46 052011
M2M Eyeball 3 (Sinehan Digitales) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:15 052511
Third World Happy (Creative Programs) PG Digital Drama 052511
Tubero (Sunflower Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:17 052511
Dose, Trese, Katorse (Sinehan Digitales) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:23 060811
Manong Konstru (Sinehan Digitales) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:15 062911
Tiyo Pablo (Jimgital Video) R Digital Adult Romance 1:20 070611
Dulas (Fortune Arts International) R Digital Adult Romance 1:07 072011
Mainit (Big Dream Kreations; Sunflower Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:34 072711
Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (Quantum Films; Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) PG Comedy 1:27 080311
Private Nights (Silverline Entertainment) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:37 081011
Wanted: Male Bed Spacer (Sinehan Digitales) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:16 082411
Trabajador (El Niño Films) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:15 082611
Bahid (Good Vibes Films) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:40 090711
X-Deal (Digital Viva) R Digital Adult Romance 1:30 090711
Bingwit (Fortune Arts International) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:30 091411
Ikaw ang Pag-ibig (Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute; Star Cinema; ABS-CBN Film Productions) G Digital Drama 2:00 091411
Rakenrol (Regal Entertainment) PG Digital Drama 1:30 092111
Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me (Regal Entertainment) R13 Digital Romance 1:24 092811
Sulot (Fortune Arts International) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:10 092811
Kape Barako (Lexuality Entertainment) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:21 100511
Kubli (Golden Pot Film Productions) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:40 101211
Bahay Bata (Ignatius Films) PG Digital Drama 1:30 101911
Baywalk (Dagli Films) PG Digital Drama 1:26 101911
Sexventure (Sunflower Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:24 101911
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (FDL Entertainment and Talent Agency) PG Digital Drama 1:26 102611
Babang Luksa (Creative Minds Production) PG Digital Horror 1:04 110211
Batang Ifugao (NJ Films) R Digital Adult Romance 1:10 110211
Laro (Silver Line Multimedia) R Digital Adult Romance 1:10 110911
Daklot (Fortune Arts International) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:36 112311
Di Natatapos ang Gabi (FDL Entertainment and Talent Agency) R Digital Drama 112311/121411
Playmates (Sunflower Films) R Digital Same-Sex Romance 1:19 113011
Sigwa (Beginnings at Twenty Plus) PG Digital Drama 120711
4some aka Foursome (Silverline Multimedia) R Digital Adult Romance 1:13 121411

Ani ng Sine (1-5 February 2011)
Sakay sa Hangin (Regiben Romana)
Askal (Marc Misa)
Cine/Sine: Spanish Beginnings of Philippine Cinema (Nick Deocampo) <1st screened 2009>

Cinema Rehiyon (9-13 February 2011)
Balangay (Sherad Anthony Sanchez)
Mananabang aka The Midwife (Orvil Bantayan)
Ganab di Anos aka The Price of Perseverance (Donna Kebeng)
Amianan aka North (Ron Bryant)
Baboyirongbuang aka Mad the Swine (Keith Deligero)

Cinemalaya (15-24 July 2011)
Amok (Lawrence Fajardo)
Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (Marlon Rivera)
Bahay Bata (Eduardo Roy Jr.)
Cuchera (Joseph Israel Laban)
I-Libings (Rommel Sales)
Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me (Erick Salud)
Niño (Loy Arcenas)
Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (Alvin Yapan)
Teoriya (Zurich Chan)
Bisperas (Jeffrey Jeturian)
Busong (Auraeus Solito)
Isda (Adolf Alix)
Patikul (Joel Lamangan)
Boundary (Benito Bautista)
Gayuma (Alvin Yapan)
Huling Halik (Zig Dulay)
Liberacion (Adolf Alix)
Local Girls (Ned Trespeces; Onnah Valera)
Tha Natural Phenomenon of Madness (Bebs Gohetia)
Nono (Milo Tolentino)
San Lazaro (Wincy Aquino Ong)
Maskara (Laurice Guillen)

Cinema One Originals (9-15 November 2011)
Anatomiya ng Korupsiyon (Dennis Marasigan)
Big Boy (Shireen Seno)
Cartas de la Soledad aka Letters of Solitude (Teng Mangansakan)
Di Ingon ’Nato aka Not Like Us (Ivan Zaldariaga; Brandon Relucio)
Ka Oryang (Sari Dalena)
Mga Anino sa Tanghaling Tapat (Ivy Baldoza)
My Paranormal Romance (Victor Villanueva)
Sa Ilalim ng Tulay (Earl Bontuyan)
Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa (Mes de Guzman)
Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (Tonette Jadaone)

Cinemanila (11-17 November 2011)
Lawas Kan Pinabli (Christopher Gozum)
Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa (Mes de Guzman)
Sakay sa Hangin (Regiben Romana)
Señorita (Vincent Sandoval)
Siglo ng Pagluluwal (Lav Diaz)
Buenas Noches, España (Raya Martin)
Mapang-akit (John Torres)

MMFF New Wave (17-21 December 2011)
Dyagwar (Ogie Diaz, Sid Pascua)
Haruo (Adolfo Alix Jr.)
HIV (Neal Tan)
Ritwal (Yeng Grande)
Pintakasi (Imee Marcos , Nelson Caguila)

More Releases
Crossfire (Arnel Mardoquio)
Watawat (Cinecilio Productions) <1st screened 2010>
Botelya (Gener8 Productions) <1st screened 2008>
Son of God (Khavn de la Cruz)
Subject: I Love You (Francis de la Torre)
Dominic: Light of the Church (Dominican Province of the Philippines) <1st screened 2010>
Deadline (Xiti Productions)
Kasambuhay Habambuhay (Nestle) 061211
Paglipad ng Anghel (De La Salle University)
Reinvigorating Documentary Filmmaking: Tundong Magiliw (Jewel Maranan)
.mov Fest: Elegy to the Visitor from the Revolution (Lav Diaz; 2-6 September 2011); Mapang-akit (John Torres); Ex Press (Jet Leyco)
Animahenasyon (22-25 November 2011)
EDSAngangdaan (7-8 December 2011)
Huling Halik (Zig Dulay)
Maligalig (Paul Singh Cudail)
Sponsor (Mark Shandii Bacolod)
Marcie (Gerardo Calagui)
Idnal (GA Villafuerte)
Gayuma aka Pilgrim Lovers
Mestizo (Gabs Ramos)
Sinelas (Gerardo Calagui)

from UPFI and YCC's Nonoy Lauzon

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Conversation with Ed Cabagnot

While doing my research on digital cinema in the Philippines, it was inevitable that I talk to Ed Cabagnot. Here's an excerpt of our conversation where Ed shares his experience with the ECP and the early years of Gawad CCP.

I worked with Ed in the early 1990s, he's at the CCP Film while I was with the CCP Visual Arts and then CCP Outreach. I learned a lot about films and photography from him. One afternoon, passing through Ed's office I saw him watching a film, I stopped and joined him. I was enthralled, completely awed and fell in love. The film was Raise the Red Lantern by Zhang Yimou. Unfortunately, I had a meeting to go to and I was not able to finish the film. But the images stayed with me. I was fortunate to finally finish the film a few years back. I am still in love with it. Thank you, Ed.

EH: I’m very interested in your first-hand experience in the GAWAD CCP, Freefest and Cinemalaya. Please take us back in time.

ED: My first statement is that Cinemalaya is one of the most successful projects of the Cultural Center of the Philippines to date in the sense that audience-wise even if we did not have press release, people came and the screenings get filled up. So audience-wise, every year people flock to watch Cinemalaya films. Number two, revenue-wise it is also one of the most lucrative CCP projects. In the past year Cinemalaya earned 27.5 million pesos in ticket sales, compared to the first year which was barely 5 million -- so you can see the trajectory. And I’m not saying “kasi ang galing- galing ng CCP,” I’m just saying that the time is right. We have a lot of people making new films. We have a lot of audiences who are looking for films and then we have a venue like CCP which is giving these people the space.

My statement there is that the success of Cinemalaya wasn’t overnight. The road to Cinemalaya was a long, long road and I think if you will allow me, I think it even goes beyond CCP. For me, from my experience, I think the first stirring of this movement was called Philippine Independent filmmaking which started as early, even before the 80’s. My first hand experience with the indies was working under the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. So I can bring you back -- this was created by the Marcos administration in February 1982 to be the managing organization of Imelda’s Manila Film Center. So the ECP was created to create film-related events that can push Philippine cinema forward. So on one side of the ECP was Imelda’s MIFF - Manila International Film Festival – whose main goal was to make Manila the Cannes of Asia, the Cannes Film Festival of Asia. On the other side of CCP was Imee. Imee was tasked by Marcos to create the other incentives. And what were the other incentives? Other incentives included a film fund which means if you have a film in production but cannot finish it due to financial difficulties, you can show your rushes and then the ECP would give you the balance. And then there were film production which was responsible for four of the best films I know – Oro, Plata, Mata, Himala, Soltero, Misterio sa Tuwa. And then you have the archives headed ni Ernie De Pedro. It was a beautiful archives below. And then you have Film Education of Ward Loarca but that did not really take off.

And then where I was, was the Alternative Cinema. Alternative Cinema’s job was just to fill up all the theatres of the Manila Film Center and we had more than 13 theatres with regular screenings. The main theatre of the Manila Film Festival Center could seat approximately 1,800 people. The 2 smaller theaters were big; they were as big as the Little Theater – 450-seater and a 350-seater. And then you have the mini preview rooms which could sit 100 people to 300 people. So that was our job.

My boss before was Boy Noriega. So doon sa Alternative Cinema, I was handling the classic films - the Renoirs, Truffauts, Kurosawas, the Fellinis, etc. And then somebody else was handling the Filipino titles. And then somebody else was handling the independent films. For me, it all started with the ECP Independent Film and Video Competition. It started, if I’m not mistaken, in 1982. Bienvenido “Boy” Noriega Jr., the playwright, inspired it. He was also a bank vice president for PNB, but at the same time he was an officer of ECP, and he was an author. He loved short films, he loved classic movies, so he was the one with Imee, who thought of coming up with a competition. So the ECP Experimental Cinema and Independent Film & Video competition became the first ever regular competition sponsored by the government that gave young Filipino filmmakers awards for the best documentary, best short feature or narrative film, best experimental and best animation - so the 4 categories were there. The likes of Nick Deocampo, Raymond Red, Joey Agbayani, Rox Lee and a host of other people who many consider as the pillars of Philippine Independent Cinema became known here. And I remember we were all young then, they were programming the festival, we were all joining the festival, and it was fun.

EDSA People Power happened in 1986 and one of the first things that the new administration did was shut down most of the Marcos’s machineries. Unfortunately, I felt it was very relentless. They should have kept the ones that worked and I felt that the ECP was one of the best efforts of the government, but unfortunately they shut it down. Manila Film Center was closed. CCP changed its thrust. You know that Eloi, you were from here - decentralization, etc. They opened CCP to include the non-performing arts so the VLMA (Visual Literary Media Arts) was formed and Hammy Sotto became the head for Film. They wanted the CCP not just a venue but also a Coordinating Center.

So when Hammy came in, he asked me to join him. To be honest, I did not want to work with government anymore but Hammy is a nice guy and said. “Don’t worry Ed, we’ll have as much fun as you did in ECP.” When I joined CCP, most of the projects/programs that we did at the ECP were adopted by the CCP. But of course, CCP’s budget is much smaller than ECP’s - you know all of a sudden arts and culture fell into nothingness. You were here, you know how our budgets were, but we did very good projects. One of the projects that had a reincarnation was the ECP Independent Film and Video Competition that was renamed GAWAD CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video.

Hammy was so wise. He didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so the Coordinating Center for Film in 1987 was patterned after the ECP but on a very, very small scale. I managed World Cinema. Lyn Pareja managed Filipino Greats. And then you had Jon Red who was managing the Indie film. So Jon Red was in-charged of GAWAD CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video. And what was nice even though there was one or two years gap between the end of ECP and the start of Coordinating Center for Film, when we started the GAWAD there was a smooth transition. A lot of people joined like Mark Leily, they all joined. To be honest with you, even the exact rules and regulations of the GAWAD was based on the ECP.

EH: So this was about ‘88?

ED: ‘87. The good then thing is we felt that the ECP pattern was good, so why re-invent it? That’s the problem with Filipino, when there’s a change in management, everything changes. That’s why I like Hammy because he is not like that, for him it was “let’s just do this because it was good in the first place.” So the categories survived up to now.

The GAWAD CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video is one of the longest running GAWAD of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. But Eloi, please help me with this research, it’s my claim that “it is the longest running Independent Film Festival in Asia.” There’s no other independent competition, especially for shorts, that I know existed in countries including Japan or even India. So if you could help me with that claim. But at least for Southeast Asia I know we were first and we’re still there.

So yung Independent Cinema scene I think, if you just look at all the winners of the GAWAD, you would see the trending, you would see the themes and technologies that were the trend for certain periods.

EH: Were you able to keep the films?

Ed: No. We only started archiving the films between 20 years, during the 10th or 11th year. But the nice thing is most of the entries of the GAWAD CCP came from Mowelfund, UP, Ateneo, La Salle and most of these schools would have their archives. Unfortunately, I just found out from Ricky Orellana that even Mowelfund is having a hard time archiving their shorts. They still have but they need the funding and the people to maintain it, digitize it - so that’s the problem.

EH: What about your catalogs?

ED: The catalogs are almost complete in the CCP library. And for the 20th anniversary (of CCP), Ricky and I had been talking about having some of the Mowelfund shorts digitized using CCP equipment. Because we feel that we own it partly because they’re GAWAD winners. And as I’ve said, young people nowadays especially they’re going into independent filmmaking, it’s nice for them to realize that they are not alone - a lot of people started before them.

EH: That they’re not “putok sa buho?”

ED: Exactly. For me, that’s one of the ways we can help them. There are a lot of independent filmmakers who are big-headed; they think they are always the first to do things, which I don’t mind, it’s nice to have a big ego but if you feel like you’re a part of a tradition, then that’s better.

Part 2 to follow.

Cultural Center of the Philippines May 14, 2009