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

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