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What is the Third Golden Age of Philippine Cinema? - Young Philippine Filmmakers gathering at TIFF Symposium

Report / 28th Tokyo International Film Festival

The Emergence of Regional Diversity in Philippine Film

Ishizaka: I agree that low-budget filmmaking is one of the merits of the age of digital film. But another thing I'd like to point out is the diversity of film among the different regions. Visiting the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, for instance, I noticed that there was an increase in directors from more rural areas such as Mindanao, making the regional variation more pronounced. I felt that the “Mindanao school,” in particular (if there is such a thing), was very active, but how do you see this; this emergence of directors from various regions in the Philippines?

Fajardo: I don't think there is a Mindanao “school” per se because there literally are no film schools there. I, for example, am also from the Visayas and did not go to film school. I actually began as an actor and production designer for theater, but gradually was fascinated in film and filming with a camera. I started playing with my 8mm camera in the early '90s and was completely taken over. I can't speak for the filmmakers from Mindanao, but I would assume there is an increase in their numbers because there are many histories or stories that are particular to Mindanao that can be made into themes for films.

Tieng: To add to that: the five films Brillante and I selected for the Sinag Maynila this year were, in fact, all from different regions. This may have been because Brillante and I shared a similar vision for the festival or because the films themselves were so regionally diverse that our selections inevitably ended up to be varied. For example, SWAP was filmed in Cebu Island and with its specific dialect, and Bambanti was filmed in northern Luzon, and, again, was shot in Ilocano dialect. The same diversity can be seen in the news programs that the television company that I run broadcasts: we run them in English, Tagalog, Cebuano, and also in Panpanga dialect.

Sta. Ana: I think it is also important to note that the majority of Philippine mainstream film developed in Manila prior to independent films coming to the forefront. As such, commercial films were mainly set in Manila, portraying the everyday lives of the city, mainly in Tagalog. There was very little exposure of cultures from the Visayas or Mindanao, that it lead to the people not quite relating to or understanding those cultures.

On the other hand, the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival, and the Sinag Maynila Film Festival are very much aware of the cultural diversity within the Philippines and even consider it an important element of the country. So those film festivals encourage filmmaking for artists located in the rural regions where they no longer have to compromise or give in as much in pursuing their filmic or artistic potential.

Fajardo: Yes, as Paul said, mainstream cinema is very Manila–centric so the language used also has to be the Philippines' lingua franca which is Tagalog. In light of this, however, Kultado, a short film I made set in my hometown, Bacolod, was selected for the first Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in 2005. As I said, I am from the Visayas so I naturally used Ilonggo dialect for the film, but people couldn't understand it and the film was even made fun of in some instances. For the screening at the Festival, however, they added subtitles to my film so it was understandable to the audience. So, to be honest, I felt like a foreigner and my film a foreign film among other Philippine films (laughs.) Despite this, I won the Jury Prize. So, as a filmmaker, my voice is to tell our story; that “this is our Visayas cinema”.

Ishizaka: Thank you. I think we'd like to open the discussion to the floor now. Any questions, please?

-Q & A session-

Audience: I would like to hear about the Philippine film market. How is the sales distribution for domestic and foreign films?

Tieng: The Philippines market is driven by Hollywood, so they are all from major film studios in the United States. But recently that has shifted and there is an increase in domestic films being shown in our theaters and even their screening periods are being extended. Particularly interesting is the shift of independent films becoming a mainstream, which is a phenomenon we can't quite pinpoint the cause of. Films such as Pac da tagala and Small de vares from a few years ago, and other films such as English only, please and That thing called Tadhana, which were both selected for the Metro Manila Film Festival, all generated revenues of around PHP 200 million. In addition, Henera Luna, on show now (in October 2015), was filmed without the involvement of major film studios. Behind the recent success of young producers and directors is, I suspect, the use of social media. I would assume it is similar in China or Japan, but I think it is safe to say that the effective use of digital media really determines a film's success in the market. So the reality is if you can make good use of social media, then you would not need to rely on the help of large film studios.
Another point I forgot to mention: the copyright issues surrounding filmmaking is also changing quite a bit. As Paul said before, there are far more platforms where filmmakers can find opportunities for screening their works due to the development of technology. Where there were only home-videos before, there are now newer platforms such as video-on-demand, and the ways revenues are made have become quite diverse.

Ishizaka: Thank you. Unfortunately, it is time for us to close the session. You can find out more on Philippine commercial films in the CROSSCUT ASIA pamphlet so please look through it if you'd like. Thank you again for joining us today.

(October 26, 2016)

Event detail

Titel The Japan Foundation Asia Center presents Crosscut Asia #02: Heat of Philippine Cinema
Symposium with Philippine Young Filmmakers: What is the Third Golden Age of Philippine Cinema?
Date October 26th Mon, 2015
Place TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills Screen1
Guest speaker Lawrence Fajardo, Paul Sta. Ana, Wilson Tieng
MC Kenji Ishizaka (TIFF Programming Director)