Aptly dubbed “Jump-start,” the 2021 edition of the QCinema International Film Festival held in Quezon City, Philippines, aimed to spark a new momentum in film festivals in the country. It is the first film festival in the Philippines to bravely take on the challenge of launching a hybrid festival since the pandemic started. While several film festivals remained online this year, QCinema took the risk of offering both online and in-person screening platforms for the film selections.
The introduction in the festival program reads: “Filmmaking has been overtaken and overwhelmed by the pandemic. Yet the industry needs to reel up from its battered condition. The passion must be renewed. Challenges must be overcome. The great rebound is on! QCinema leads the way!”
The festival featured both local and international films including opening film Memoria directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Lav Diaz’s Historya ni Ha; and Lamb by Valdimar Johannsson.
Six Filipino short films were in competition for the NETPAC jury prize: I Get So Sad Sometimes by Trishtan Perez (which won Best Film); It’s Raining Frogs Outside by Maria Estela Paiso (Gender Sensitivity Award); Henry by Kaj Palanca; Mighty Robo V by Miko Livelo and Mihk Vergara; City of Flowers by Xeph Suarez; and the NETPAC prize winner, Skylab by Chuck Escasa.
Skylab, shot in black and white, is a stylized period piece set in 1979, when the Skylab satellite is expected to fall to earth, leading to the end of the world – at least this is what the protagonists, two young schoolboys, believe. Their fears of doomsday play out against the backdrop of Martial Law in the Philippines. Soon they realize that the dark forces that they must fear are not coming from faraway but are much closer to home. The film uses striking, sometimes unusual, images to convey the story that has otherwise sparse production design.
The NETPAC jury discussed not only the merits of each film in competition, but also their faults. At times profound and subtle, sometimes overly theatrical, and direct, Skylab is an imperfect film, but it is also one that the jury could not stop talking about and returning to even after discussing other films.
After careful deliberation, it was decided that the NETPAC prize be awarded to Skylab for its worthy attempt at telling a significant story of oppression and tyranny that is relevant not only in the Philippines, but across Asia and the world.
-- by Ida Anita del Mundo (Philippines) – NETPAC Jury Member
Ida Anita del Mundo is a writer, filmmaker, and musician. Her first film, K’na, the Dreamweaver, premiered at the 2014 Cinemalaya Film Festival where it received the Special Jury Prize. It won Best of Show at the 2015 Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto, Canada and was recognized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts with an Ani ng Dangal (Harvest of Winners) award in 2015. K’na the Dreamweaver is the first feature film about the T’boli people of South Cotabato, Mindanao and the first film in the T’boli language. She has gone on to direct documentaries and music videos.
She is an active member of the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema and is a screenwriting and directing teacher with the Digital Film Department of De La Salle - College of St. Benilde in Manila, Philippines. Ida is currently a graduate student at the School of Visual Arts in New York under the MPS Directing program
-- edited by Raman Chawla