Edinburgh film fest rides PH new wave

by Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Jul 07 2012 04:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2012 04:25 PM

LONDON - Filipino films took center stage at the Edinburgh Film Festival featuring a strong contingent of filmmakers from the so-called New Wave of independent Philippine cinema.

From shorts to feature-lengths, the international film festival showcased contemporary Filipino filmmakers in a special program entitled “Philippine New Wave,” named after a documentary by indie director Khavn de la Cruz, who attended the festival and advised organizers on the film selection.

Creative Filipino films at the festival included “Amok” by Lawrence Anthony Fajardo, “Nino” by Loy Arcenas, and “Isda” by Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.

“Khavn De La Cruz has put together a superb selection of new feature films and a brilliant selection of shorts from the past thirty years. The whole program is an excellent representation of Philippine cinema and it makes a strong case to UK audiences for the vitality of filmmaking in the Philippines,” said Chris Fujiwara, Artistic Director of Edinburgh Film Festival.

He added: “The Philippines is the single most exciting country in the world of filmmaking today. A real creative explosion has been going on there for several years, and it keeps going. The number of Philippine directors who are establishing themselves as auteur increases every year.”

The festival also screened classic Filipino films, including Manuel Conde and Lou Salvador’s violent epic “Genghis Khan” from 1950, previously screened at the same festival in 1952.

The film was projected unconventionally as a backdrop to a special theatrical performance by creative collective “The Brockas”, named after legendary Filipino director Lino Brocka, previously seen at various film festivals around the world.

The group is consisted of independent Filipino filmmakers de la Cruz, Lav Diaz and Emerson Reyes, together with special guest members from the local festival scene.

“Khavn suggested that we do a Brockas concert here as part of our celebration of Philippine cinema. ‘Genghis Khan’ lends itself beautifully to this kind of event because it is such a visually striking film, filled with interesting images and scenes of spectacle and action. The film is currently being restored, and the restoration will premiere at the Venice Film Festival later this year,” explained Fujiwara, who was chosen as an honorary member of The Brockas in Scotland, alongside Edinburgh-based drummer, Paul Canavan.

Established in 1947, the Edinburgh Film Festival in Scotland is a major part of the international film festival circuit, aiming to discover and promote creative filmmaking talent from around the world. Films that previously premiered at the festival include Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker”, cult classic “Let the Right One In”, and box-office hit “Billy Elliot”.

Riding the wave

MONDOMANILA by Khavn de la Cruz is a visual rollercoaster ride in the world of Philippine poverty

“Philippine New Wave: This is Not a Film Movement”, a stylized documentary by de la Cruz, led the Philippine delegation at the Edinburgh Film Festival. It presents a cinematic dialogue between independent Filipino filmmakers, including Raya Martin, Kidlat Tahimik, and Cannes favorite Brillante Mendoza.

de la Cruz’s other film, “Mondomanila, or: How I Fixed My Hair After a Rather Long Journey”, also made an appearance at the festival. Based on the novel of Norman Wilwayco, it creates high-octane spectacle out of poverty and demonstrates the resilience of Filipinos in the face of adversity.

Cherry Pie Picache gives birth to a fish in ISDA by Adolfo Boringa Alix Jr.
Adolfo Boringa Alix Jr. brought a surreal twist at the festival with “Fable of the Fish” or “Isda”. With an all-star cast including Cherry Pie Pecache, Rosana Roses, and indie favourite Bembol Roco, the film tells the story of a woman who gives birth to a fish, set against the slums and a fragile marriage.

Featuring Filipino model Hazel Orencio, Lav Diaz’s “Forentina Hubaldo, CTE” took the record of being the longest film in the festival. Screened for 360 minutes without intermission, it tackles the complicated world of poverty, corruption and colonialism through the story of a woman forced into prostitution by her own father, alongside the quest of two men in search of lost treasures.

“Forever Loved” or “Lawis Kan Pinabli” by Christopher Gozum brought a sombre tone to the festival with his stylized documentary about a man’s search for his missing wife in the Middle East, set against a series of recollections and letters from Filipino migrant workers plucked from millions around the world.

A glimpse at the claustrophobic city commute in MNL 143 by Emerson Reyes

Emerson Reyes took a snapshot of the metropolitan landscape with his observational film “MNL 143”, following a commuter’s journey across Metro Manila and revealing subtle moments of irony and poignant life stories unfolding in the claustrophobic space of public transportation.

Starring Mark Gil, “Amok” by Lawrence Anthony Fajardo presents the twists and turns of life from a day in Manila, as a random act of violence quickly turns into a brutal struggle for survival, following the intertwining lives of Filipinos in the Philippine capital.

Filmmaker Loy Arcenas touched on the religious aspect of the Philippines with “Nino”, the story of an aristocratic Filipino family as they experience loss, desperation and hope. It highlight’s one woman’s cry for a miracle through a young boy whom she dresses up as the Catholic holy child Santo Nino.

Mark Gil in the streets of Manila in AMOK by Lawrence Anthony Fajardor.
Known for his films about the plight of children, Mes de Guzman’s “Of Skies and Earth”, aka “Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa”, brought the affecting story of four innocent children who attempt to create a home together under a vacant hut in Nueva Vizcaya, their very own paradise. But life is more complicated than it first seemed, as they fight for survival finding regular meals and maintaining some form of order.

The infamous slums of Manila features in “Tondo, Beloved: To What Are The Poor Born?” or “Tundong Magiliw: Pasaan Isinisilang Siyang Mahirap?” by Jewel Maranan. The harrowing documentary about poverty in Tondo follows a woman and her family as they carry on with their daily lives from the biggest slum in the Philippines, surviving on fish from the city’s ports, and creating their own version of home entertainment while dealing with a crisis threatening their fragile existence.