MANILA, AUGUST 2, 2012 (INQUIRER) By: Marinel R. Cruz - The speech of Cinemalaya Foundation Inc. chair Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco at the close of the 8th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival on Sunday night left more questions than answers about the annual indie fete.

Cojuangco did not address the controversies hounding Cinemalaya, foremost of which was the sudden resignation of two of its officials.

During the awards night held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), there were rumors that the venue (one of Cinemalaya’s biggest sponsors) had plans of withdrawing support from the festival.

Competition committee chair Laurice Guillen-Feleo said Cojuangco could not give specific answers yet because “there are unique problems this year that the board members still have to talk about.”

Tess Rances, deputy festival director and CCP administrative services department manager, denied speculations that the CCP was considering withdrawing support as Cinemalaya sponsor.

[PHOTO - IZA CALZADO, best actress]

She told the Inquirer that people spreading the rumors were “just jealous that the CCP and the Cinemalaya still have a good relationship.”

It will survive

Cojuangco, in his closing speech, expressed optimism that Cinemalaya would survive “as the laws of nature favor the strong.”

NES JARDIN, Cinemalaya Foundation head He added: “It will live on in our budding and seasoned filmmakers, in our audience and in all those who have been exposed to Cinemalaya—its experience in one form or another these past eight years.

The Cinemalaya spirit will invade the local film industry, the homes and media devices of our audience, and the Internet.”

Like The Beatles

He likened his “baby,” the Cinemalaya, to The Beatles “that burst into the music scene (at a time when it was) well-populated by instrumental groups like The Ventures and The Shadows.

[PHOTO -RAYMOND Red, best director in the directors showcase]

“At that point in The Beatles’ career, its melodies were great but its lyrics were pathetic. They went on their world tours and were inevitably exposed to other music icons, notably Bob Dylan, a songwriter and poet,” Cojuangco observed. “This experience led The Beatles to write about their world views and advocacies.”

He noted that, despite the group’s eventual breakup, people—even the young—continue to sing their songs today.

[PHOTO -MES DE Guzman, best director in the new breed category]

He compared The Beatles’ experience to that of Cinemalaya.

“She (Cinemalaya) was born when the local movie scene was drowning in pathetic films,” Cojuangco said. “She was a breath of life. We have seemed to expose our baby to other life challenges … (She) has now created a feeding frenzy among the young and seasoned filmmakers. The quality of this year’s festival is proof of this.”


The only announcement Cojuangco made that night was that Cinemalaya will be shouldering the travel expenses of “four or five” finalists invited to the Rome International Film Festival in Italy in November.

[PHOTO -BIENVENIDO Lumbera, jury chair]

In his welcome address, Cinemalaya Foundation president Nes Jardin (photo at right) admitted that “the road to where we are now had not been paved with roses all the way.”

Jardin resigned as festival director in the wake of the controversy surrounding the disqualification of Emerson Reyes’ “MNL 143” in May.

[PHOTO -EDDIE Garcia, best actor]

Robbie Tan has reportedly also resigned as monitoring committee head of the festival.

“We’ve had to contend with problems and issues of financial viability both for the film production and the festival, technical and logistical concerns, marketing and distribution problems, and even issues about artistic expression and freedom,” Jardin said. “But Cinemalaya has forged ahead, in full force, despite all the road blocks.”

Jardin announced that the festival’s audience increased by 12 percent from 58,000 in 2011 to this year’s count of 65,000.

“Next year, we will endeavor to add more cinemas and locations, and who knows, perhaps five years from now, we will be covering practically the whole of Metro Manila just like the MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival),” he said.

[PHOTO -AMA QUIAMBAO, best actress]

Aside from three venues at the CCP, Cinemalaya films were screened at the Greenbelt Mall in Makati City in 2011.

They were likewise shown at the TriNoma Mall in Quezon City starting this year.

An hour late

The awards ceremony held at the CCP’s Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) in Pasay City started almost an hour late from the 7 p.m. call time, due to heavy rains and flooding caused by Tropical Storm “Gener.”

The program, almost three hours long, was marred by technical problems. Actor Jonathan Tadioan, who hosted the show with singer-actress Ciara Sotto, kept complaining about his TelePrompTer.

Award-winning writer Ricky Lee, who was also a jury member, apologized for the “kinks in the show’s script.”


[PHOTO -TONYBOY Cojuangco and Gretchen Barretto]

Lee, as well as National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, had to go up the stage to explain why the jury had decided to give only one acting award to four female actresses—Iza Calzado, Judy Ann Santos, Agot Isidro and Janice de Belen—in Jose Javier Reyes’ “Mga Mumunting Tinig.”

He told the Inquirer after the show: “We decided not to give separate awards for best actress and best supporting actress. Instead, we gave one to the ensemble for their performance.”

Lumbera sat as chair of the jury composed of Lee, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino chair and UP College of Mass Communication dean Rolando Tolentino, Malaysian filmmaker U-Wei Bin Haji Saari and Italian movie and TV director Italo Spinelli.

Lee also explained that Mes de Guzman’s “Diablo,” which bagged the best picture award in the New Breed category, won because “of the director’s unique approach to a material that’s already familiar to us.”

“(De Guzman) lent a new style to the simple story of a wife and a mother to five kids handling a death in the family. It is evident even in the cinematography and acting,” Lee stressed.

Jarell Serencio’s “Victor,” which won best picture in the Shorts category, got more rave reviews from the foreign jurors, said Lee. “They liked it because it shows the Filipino way of life but not in a manner that’s overdramatized and melodramatic.”

Playing safe

Asked to react to comments that the jurors played it safe by distributing awards to most of the entries, Lee explained: “This could not be avoided. The recipients of the individual awards were all outstanding. The results were based on the decision of not just one person but a whole group. ”


Photos by Richard Reyes

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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