Student filmmakers front and center of the Manila Film Festival

Bot Glorioso - The Philippine Star
Student filmmakers front and center of the Manila Film Festival
The Manila Film Festival (TMFF) consultant and director Ed Cabagnot (center), director Dwein Baltazar (fifth from left) and ANIMA exec Kren Yap (fifth from right) with the eight student filmmakers (from left) Vhan Marco Molacruz, Cedrick Labadia, John Pistol Carmen, Ronnie Ramos, Joyce Ramos, Miko Biong, Charlie Vitug and Adrian Renz Espina whose works are set to be showcased in this year’s edition of TMFF, which will run from June 5 to 11.
STAR / File

The Manila Film Festival (TMFF) is all set to showcase diverse film narratives from a new breed of filmmakers representing public and private universities and colleges in the country.

Out of the total of 100 entries or submissions, eight student filmmakers with most appealing story entries were chosen. Each of them then received a P150,000 grant to fund their short films created in line with this year’s festival theme, “Manila in Me.”

Joyce Ramos of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila gained the nod of the screening committee for her entry titled “An Kuan,” which centers on the mother with a queer daughter who is on a quest to find a job in Manila that does not require her to speak since they are new in the city and they are not that fluent in Tagalog yet.

University of the Philippines Film Institute student Miko Biong created an extraordinary cinematic masterpiece through “Bahay, Baboy, Bagyo.”

Through a blind character put front and center in the story of “Ballad of a Blind Man,” De La Salle-College of St. Benilde’s Charlie Vitug aims for audiences to realize that loss of sight doesn’t mean the end of someone’s life.

Adrian Renz Espino of Adamson University successfully translated into film his childhood beliefs in good luck and bad luck in “Ditas Pinamalas.”

Ronnie Ramos of University of the Philippines Film Institute, on the other hand, came up with “Happy Mother’s Day” that puts the spotlight on the dilemma of an elementary student, raised by two fathers, on who to invite for a Mother’s Day presentation in school.

Bicol University student John Pistol Carmen’s “Pinilakang Tabingi” centers on the story of two young boys who both love watching films. Due to poverty, they can’t afford to buy cinema tickets and just content themselves with watching pirated films on DVD.

Colegio San Juan de Letran’s Vhan Marco Molacruz described “Una’t Huling Sakay” as a film that examines the relationship between people and places. Through the characters of two habal riders, Vhan was able to show the importance of our values as Filipinos.

Cedric Labadia of iAcademy came up with the romantic-comedy film titled “three for 100: o ang tamang porma ng pag uukay at iba pang mga bagay-bagay, I think!” which is about love being expressed in a “weird” way but is, nonetheless, a clear message of true love.

TMFF consultant and festival director Ed Cabagnot expressed delight over the fact that this year’s edition yielded various concepts that they had never come across in the festival’s previous edition.

“We felt na para maiba at mas sensible kung mag-hahanap tayo ng mga batang filmmaker from different schools (across the country) who might have fantastic stories in mind instead of bringing in projects that are full length,” said Ed who is also one of the founding members of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. His first work experience with indie films was under the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines created by the Marcos administration in 1982.

“Let’s spread out (because) the idea here is maraming ideya o kuwento na lumabas.”

The nationwide contest led Carlo, from Bicol, to become one of the finalists. “He’s from Bicol because the story of Manila is not only centered in the city, it is spread throughout the Philippines. It’s the story of a city in our minds,” offered Ed.

Ed shared that there are a lot of stories expressing the yearnings and aspirations of young Filipinos, including their dreams of discovering what Manila is all about.

“Hindi tayo nauubusan ng kuwento. It’s a testimony that Filipinos everywhere have stories to tell and (they are) so eager to share with people.”

That’s why people behind the festival are considering the idea of developing a whole-year program of bringing the films to communities to boost the promotion of Manila as a creative hub for Pinoy arts and culture, particularly in Cinema.

Given his varied experiences in working with excellent and praise-worthy films, it is best to know straight from Ed the basics of filmmaking like what does it really take to come up with a good film and which element of filmmaking needs to be considered first and foremost.

For Ed, he primarily looks at the context. He told The STAR, “Primarily, I think hindi ka gumagawa ng pelikula ng isang takbo lang, so, No. 1, alamin mo ‘yung context mo, what is your context for the film at kasama na diyan (for example)  ‘yung presidente mo, ‘yung vice president, etc. etc. but at a certain point ‘yung gusto mong ikwento is something that you want to say, so it’s never just the idea na gagawa ka ng pelikula at sasali ka (sa contest) but something that you want Filipinos to watch.”

Does the content of the film automatically reflect the talent of the filmmaker?

“Ang maganda dito parang thesis film ‘yan. Patingin nga ng thesis concept mo, ng breakdown ng ideas mo but then yeah, you see what’s on the paper but the moment na mag-usap tayo it’s when they tell you why they want this film meron kasing hindi mo maisulat sa papel pero lalabas (in the discussion),” said Ed.

“That’s why, the idea of pitching is so precious because sometimes pag binasa mo, ‘wow, ang galing,’ but still there’s a process. Sa dami ng gustong gumawa ng pelikula, kailangan marinig mo rin from his own words kung bakit niya gusto.”

What the indie film expert likes so much about making shorts is the idea of being totally free to tell stories without having to consider any preferences or expectations of private film companies or producers.

Making short films also led to the discovery of new filmmakers. Ed said, “Napakahirap gumawa ng pelikula and when you’re telling a story under such a limited time, doon lumalabas talaga kung gaano kayo kagaling mag-piga ng kwento, ng karakter in just a small amount of time. Short films are more elegant than full-length films. They’re harder so I really think these guys (referring to the eight finalists) are amazing.”

Apart from the eight student filmmakers, TMFF will also feature four short films created by professional directors namely Pepe Diokno with “Lumang Tugtugin;” Sigrid Bernardo, “May at Nila;” Dwein Baltazar, “Nananahan;” and JP Habac, “Shortest Day, Longest Night.” All four are produced by ANIMA, an entertainment production studio that brings Filipino talents to the global stage.

The eight student films and four shorts by featured directors are set to have their premiere on June 4 at the Metropolitan Theater and will have their theatrical run from June 5 to 11.

The awards night will be held on June 11 also at the Metropolitan Theater. Winners will be selected by the TMFF jury composed of Park Sungho, Asian Cinema programmer at the Busan International Filmfest; Bianca Balbuena, head of studios of Kroma Entertainment’s ANIMA; director Neil Daza; cinematographer, choreographer and photographer Coreen Jimenez; and director and screenwriter Eduardo Dayao.

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