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TO Bautista made his first feature film, “Sa Aking Pagkakagising Mula sa Kamulatan,” in 2005, after years of training on television.


Ato Bautista
explosion in filmmaking,” but hastens to add that it has also been “an arduous journey.” Independent filmmakers have been invited to foreign festivals and won awards, he notes, “but none of our films has seen a respectable run in local theaters. We have yet to reach the Filipino audience.” Yes, he says, digital cameras made filmmaking technically and financially accessible. The next step, as he sees it, is “to master it as a craft and business.” With the help of media and schools, the indies can reach more Filipinos, Ato adds. “We have to make our films accessible to them.” He says the next battlefield is promotion and distribution. “We don’t have the money and the machinery. We have to figure out a way. Filipino films are for the Filipino audience.” Bayani San Diego Jr.

ATO BAUTISTA: “None of [the indies] has seen a respectable run in local theaters.”

The searing drama competed in two top festivals: Mar del Plata in Argentina and Warsaw in Poland. It was screened at the Split Film Fest in Croatia and won an Urian (from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, pioneering movie critics group) Best Supporting Actor for Ketchup Eusebio. His next big film, 2007’s “Blackout,” starred mainstream actors Robin Padilla and Iza Calzado and is just as well-traveled—screened in San Francisco, Indianapolis and New York in the United States, as well as in Japan, Poland, France and Sweden. In 2008, his “Carnivore” won

Best Director and Actor (for Carlo Aquino) at the Cinemanila’s Digital Lokal tilt. (Cinemanila, the country’s only international film festival, is in its 12th year.) Ato served as juror in the

Free Spirit section of the 25th Warsaw Film Festival this year. He shares his colleagues’ enthusiasm but tempers it with a dose of reality. He calls the last five years “a time of abundance and creativity ... some sort of

Auraeus Solito
URAEUS Solito (with scriptwriter Michiko Yamamoto and young actor Nathan Lopez) is largely credited for “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros,” one of the most awarded independent productions.
In a year-long juggernaut that started with a Cinemalaya Special Jury Prize, “Maxi” went on to win top prizes at the Montreal, Rotterdam, Las Palmas (Spain), Asian First Film (Singapore), Torino and Berlin fests (from 2005-2006). “Maxi” is also the first Filipino film to compete at Sundance (2006) and in the Best Foreign Language category of the Indie Spirit Awards (2007), both in the United States. Auraeus’ third film, “Pisay,” a


heartfelt homage to his alma mater, Philippine Science High School, merited the Grand Prize and Audience Award at the Vesoul fest in France in 2008. This year, Auraeus and fellow INQUIRER honorees Brillante Mendoza, Raya Martin and Pepe Diokno are included in the book “Take 100,” from Phaidon Press, which features “the most exceptional and talented emerging film directors in the world.” (Phaidon Press is the prestigious British publisher of books on the visual arts. According to the PP website, artistic directors of the top 10 international film festivals were consulted for “Take 100.”) Auraeus describes the last five years as a “wonderful, magical, painful and surprising roller-coaster ride.” Like an earlier Yamamotoscripted film, Maryo J. de los Reyes’ “Magnifico,” “Maxi”

“ANG PAGDADALAGA ni Maximo Oliveros”
started as an indie underdog only to blossom into a darling of the cinema world. “‘Indie’ became an everyday word,” Solito recalls. “The Philippines won the most number of international film awards in the last five years.” Like his colleagues, he credits digital technology for the winning streak. He recounts his speech in Montreal, where “Maxi” won its first international award in 2005: “Digital technology has leveled the playing field between Third-World and FirstWorld filmmakers. We may be poor, but not in spirit. [The digital revolution has] set free our limitless imagination.” Theater-trained, Solito explains why he was inevitably drawn to cinema. “I come from a lineage of Palawanon shamans and storytellers. Filmmaking is just the modern medium for healing and storytelling.” His advice to filmmaking aspirants? “Be fearless.” Bayani San Diego Jr.

AUREAUS SOLITO: “Be fearless.”

Brillante Ma. Mendoza


RILLANTE Ma. Mendoza was dubbed “leader of the new Philippine cinema” by the website of the Venice International Film Festival last year.
Brillante is the first Filipino to win the Best Director prize in the main competition of the Cannes film fest—in 2008, for “Kinatay”—an award that had eluded past masters. Apart from Cannes, Brillante has cinched practically every major prize from competitions worldwide. Yes, in the last five years. Between his debut, “Masahista,” and his latest, “Lola,” Brillante topped festivals in Africa (Durban for “Kaleldo” and “Foster Child,” Marrakech for “Tirador”) Asia (Vladivostok for “Serbis”), North America (Miami for “Lola”), Europe

(Berlin’s Caligari for “Tirador”). In South America, Brillante was accorded the distinct honor of a retrospective at the Indie 2009 World Film Festival in Sao Paolo, Brazil. He is also among four Filipino filmmakers featured last year in the Phaidon book, “Take 100.” Brillante has also won awards and nominations from local bodies like the Manunuri and Young Critics Circle. If he seems to be in a mad rush, snapping up trophies left and right, it’s because he considers himself a “late bloomer,” having started directing only in 2005, after 12 years as a production designer in the movie and advertising industries. Brillante says he developed his aesthetics while working behind the scenes. “My edge was that I got to work with top local

BRILLANTE MA. MENDOZA: “Be truthful and real.”
and foreign directors. I got to observe how they worked and then figured out my own style.” Indeed, he apprenticed with the best in the 1980s, from Celso Ad. Castillo to Chito Roño. He considers the last five years “the most fulfilling, in spite of the financial hardships.” He says his goal with each project is to “create films that will make the audience think, films that truly reflect who we are as a people.” Also, to capture, visually, the country’s simplicity and complexity. “I’m happy that I get to show foreign viewers the richness of our culture,” Brillante says. His tip to those who wish to follow in his footsteps: “Just be truthful and real.” Bayani San Diego Jr.

Chris Martinez


OCAL filmmakers’ common goal, says Chris Martinez, should be “to make people go back to watching movies in movie houses.”
Chris directed of the critically acclaimed drama, “100” and wrote the boxoffice hit comedy flick, “Kimmy Dora.” Says Chris, “I was recently invited to be a member of the Director’s Guild of the Philippines. The guild’s plan on film appreciation is promising. They’re seeking to make film part of the curriculum for elementary and high school levels. I agree—education is key. We should

CHRIS MARTINEZ: “Start somewhere. Start now.”

start from there.” This graduate of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines in Diliman became a playwright (“ZsaZsa Zaturnnah, Ze Muzikal,” among others) and a theater director (“Temptation Island,” “Welcome to IntelStar”). Chris won several Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for his plays. He is also the author of “Laugh Trip and Last Order sa Penguin,” nominated for the Philippine National Book Awards. He proceeded to write scripts for award-winning directors Jeffrey Jeturian (“Bridal Shower,” 2004; “Bikini Open,” 2005) and Chito Roño (“Sukob,” 2006; “Caregiver,” 2008). He also directed TV commercials. Chris’ first feature film, “100,” about a dying woman who sets out to do 100 last

things, premiered at the 2008 Cinemalaya. “Ang sarap gumawa ng pelikula (It feels good to make movies). The process is never easy, but every day is different; I’m always excited to work with “100” my actors,” he says. “It also excites me to work with cinematographers, designers ... I always look forward to bringing out the best in them.” “100” won five major awards at the Cinemalaya 2008. It also bagged the Audience Choice Award at the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival and the Prix Emile Guimet at the Vesoul (France) International Film Festival of Asian Cinema in 2009. It represented the coun-

try in festivals in Morroco, Japan and the United States. It also received nominations from local award-giving bodies. Chris says competing internationally can be addicting. He explains, “We got to travel the world because of ‘100.’ And in festivals, the filmmaker is given importance and respect. He is the star! He meets a lot of important people and learns about world cinema.”

But he says one should never forget his audience at home. “Most of the films we screen in international festivals are not for the local movie-going public. Mainstream and alternative cinema have different cinematic languages.” This is why, Chris says, he makes it a point to write/direct films like “Kimmy Dora” and “Here Comes the Bride,” for local audiences. “They are films with mainstream appeal, but don’t insult viewers. The good news is, ‘Here Comes the Bride’ will soon do the international festival rounds, too.” He tells young directors, “Start somewhere, and start now. You don’t have to be a director right away. Be involved. Now is the best time to be making movies.” Marinel R. Cruz