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TELLING THE FILIPINO STORY TO THE WORLD
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2010
Y HIS own admission, Raymond Red has witnessed the evolution of the indie scene—from its infancy in the days of 16mm, 8mm and super-8mm to its recent resurgence with digital technology.
“What we are witnessing now is only a revolution in technology, as the cinema revolution has been happening for decades,” Raymond notes. “It is a continuing evolution and revolution.” A dogged revolutionary for the cause of cinema, he dared, in the 1990s, to tackle historical themes in the landmark films “Bayani” and “Sakay.” As short filmmaker, Raymond won in Montreal (Canada), Brussels (Belgium) and the ultimate prize: a Palme D’Or (Cannes) for “Anino” in 2000. He and Kidlat Tahimik are the only Filipinos mentioned in the Oxford History of World Cinema. He served as juror in the Singapore, Tokyo Short Shorts Asia, BMW Shorties Malaysia and New York Asian-American festivals. In 2009, Raymond made his first digital feature, “Himpapawid,” which competed in Tokyo—the first time the country participated in the 22-year history of the A-list festival.
“Inspiring,” he describes the “emergence of Philippine cinema as a major force in festivals abroad.” It’s a “cause of pride,” he adds, but swiftly cautions, “I have seen trends come and go. We should take advantage of the moment to establish our cinema, not for the glitz and glamour ... but rather to rediscover cinema as part of our cultural heritage, as a recognized and respectable art form.” There is a need to “develop a strong national cinema that will survive, with or without international festivals to legitimize it.” Digital technology sparked the revolution anew in the last five years, he says, but, “I go back to the realization that these are just tools or weapons as I focus on the true intent of making a film. That is, communicating with an audience.” The future is here and now, he says. “Philippine cinema is in the hands of the new generation, both the new moving image makers, and the new audiences. They will create and demand according to their will, and they will have to adapt to the swiftly evolving technologies that will continue to change our viewing habits, the way we will make, as well as absorb, new motion pictures.” It’s a never-ending story. “Every generation, or possibly every decade, will have a ‘new wave.’ I hope they have sincere and progressive convictions.” Bayani San Diego Jr.
RICO MARIA ILARDE: “No one is making any real money from all the attention.”
Sherad Anthony Sanchez
HERAD Anthony Sanchez can speak passionately about cinema, even between sips of beer and drags on his cigarette.
Seems his films are just as potent and feverish as his ideas. His short film “Apple” premiered at the Rotterdam fest in 2006. A year later, Sherad, as a senior college student, made his
first feature “Huling Balyan ng Buhi (The Woven Stories of the Other).” His debut topped the Cinema One Originals fest and was screened in Jogjyakarta (Indonesia), Singapore, Seoul, Torino, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Vienna, Mexico, San Francisco, Paris, Mexico, Rome, among others. “Balyan” also won top prizes at the Osian’s-Cinefan (in India), Munich and Marseille fests.
SHERAD ANTHONY SANCHEZ: “Cinema is a powerful healing medium.”
His follow-up “Imburnal” was equally well-received and well-traveled, in spite of an X rating from the local censors in 2009. It was shown in Hong Kong, Jogjyakarta, Granada, Thessaloniki, Rome, Goa (India), Izola (Slovenia), among others, and won the Grand Prize, Netpac and Woosuk awards in Jeonju (South Korea). “Imburnal,” which swept the Cinema One fest and cinched the Lino Brocka award in Cinemanila, won Special Mention prizes at the Bangkok and Buenos Aires fests as well. He described the making of “Imburnal,” a gritty story of Davao gangs, as a personal journey, a “healing process.” “It may sound like a cliché but cinema is a powerful healing medium. I hope it continues to heal me ... that the film will connect to people who understand and relate with the film’s message,” he said. He also picked up the HAF
Award, which comes with a HK$150,000 (US$19,230) cash prize, for his proposed film “Kaluha” this year. (The HAF or the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum is the region’s premier “pitching” market.) He proudly said of his film work: “The term industry is defined on the basis of economy. My practice doesn’t have one.” He admitted that his stint as scholar in the University of Southern California (as part of the US Embassy of Manila’s Fusion Arts Program) in 2007 opened up a world of possibilities. “It showed me that I can do mainstream if I wanted to. It showed me what I like about Philippine cinema.” The last five years witnessed a boom, he conceded. “There is an increase in number of films produced, as well as in the number of aspiring filmmakers. But with diversity also comes recklessness.” The next big task is formulating “distribution strategies” for these films. He pushed neophyte filmmakers to be fearless: “There is no formula! There is no deadline!” Bayani San Diego Jr.
RAYMOND RED: “Develop a strong national cinema with or without international festivals to legitimize it.”
ICO Maria Ilarde takes great pride in being an outsider —even within a community of so-called cinematic rebels.
In a filmmaking scene where social realism is the norm, Rico has boldly pursued genre films—a hodgepodge of horror, drama and action flicks that defies classification in the end. For his daring and determination, Rico has been rewarded with recognition on foreign soil—with screenings in “fantastic”-niche events like Puchon (Korea), Sitges (Spain) and Santiago Rojo (Chile), as well as in more “general” festivals like Fribourg, Udine (Italy), Vancouver (Canada) and Rotterdam (The Netherlands). He also won two international Best Picture awards: for “Sa Ilalim ng Cogon” at the 2005 Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Film Fest in Argentina and for “Altar” at the 2009 Montevideo Fantastic Film Fest in Uruguay. Son of radio and TV host Eddie Ilarde, Rico was cer-
Rico Maria Ilarde
tain of his passion for cinema even as a child. “Nine out of 10 of my childhood heroes were filmmakers,” he recalls. He grew up on a steady diet of movies by Sam Peckinpah, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock, among others. In his early 20s, he made the superhero film “Z-Man,” which was picked up by the Los Angeles-based firm Overseas Filmgroup/Firstlook Pictures in 1988. “It’s still available on Amazon, but it’s in German,” he quips. Then and now, Rico regards filmmaking as “an opportunity to share stories with people from all over the globe.” The world is now paying attention to Rico and other outsiders. He sums up the last five years as “exciting and exasperating.” It’s thrilling, he says, “because of the worldwide acclaim,” but frustrating because “no one is making any real money from all the attention. The world buys films from all over Asia, except the Philippines.” To make a dent in the foreign market, Rico says, “the indies need to upgrade the overall production value of films, while the mainstream folks need to do the opposite and tackle grittier and more dangerous material.” He urges the youth to learn from the experiences (mistakes and successes) of the indies: “Read Khavn de la Cruz’s book, ‘Philippine New Wave.’ You’ll get a healthy dose of wisdom from people who’ve survived in the cinematic trenches and won a few battles along the way.” Bayani San Diego Jr.
JIM GUIAO PUNZALAN