One way to evaluate film festivals during 2020 might well be how they shifted to accommodate the ruthless global demands of the coronavirus pandemic. If so, Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Festival deserves the highest rating. Best Screenplay, Best Director, Special Jury Prize, Best Short Feature Film and the NETPAC winner. An Audience Award was also determined through a vote by the audience.
Since the ten films in competition were short films, the Cinemalaya staff made the decision that the NETPAC jury would not only select the winner of the NETPAC award, but also all the other categories, except, of course, the audience award. This did not present any problem for the jury and seemed like an efficient and wise move. I was humbled that the other two members of the jury, renowned filmmakers Raymond Red and Sari Dalena, selected me to serve as Chairperson of the jury. After watching all ten short feature films in competition, the jury deliberated on Aug 10 for several hours via Zoom, having a spirited discussion. As Limmayug carries firewood back to his home village, something falls from the sky – a 1950s television with a hysterical showbiz star named Laura Blancaflor, trapped inside it. The frightened man saves the television – nay, saves Laura – from the flames of the impact. Worlds apart in their language and methods, the two try their best to engage each other. But for Limmayug, an indigenous man from an off-the-grid mountain town, Laura’s TV talk seems too contrived and finds her even uncontrollably tactless during commercial breaks.
The filmmaker, Carla Pulido Ocampo, was overcome with emotion during the Award Ceremony. She spoke passionately about how her film was meant to combat stereotyping of indigenous values and people, and how much the Awards meant to not just to her, but how she was sure would mean so much to her entire indigenous community which was involved in making Tokwifi.
One of my personal favorites was a 19 minute documentary short, Ang Pagpakalma Sa Unos (To Calm the Pig Inside) by filmmaker Joanna Vasquez Arong, which was awarded the Special Jury Prize. It is a devastating look at the savagery caused by the November 2013 super typhoon Haiyan to the city of Tacloban in the Philippines. The poetic dialogue interwoven with myths and legends told with innocence by the voice-over narrator combined with the mixture of archival footage of the typhoon, still images of buildings and faces, and -most of all- the haunting pictures drawn by children from their memories of their traumatic experiences, during Haiyan lingered inside my dreams long after the Cinemalaya film festival ended.
From beginning to end, participation in a virtual 2020 Cinemalaya was an excellent and positive experience. Salamat to the amazing Cinemalaya staff.
-- Author Jeannette Paulson Hereniko
-- Editor Latika Padgaonkar