MANILA - Filipino filmmakers Melissa “Aissa” Peñafiel and Miguel Ocampo are among the six winners of the US State Department -sponsored "Democracy Video Challenge", a worldwide online competition that challenges filmmakers to enhance the global dialogue on democracy.
The US State Department said Peñafiel and Ocampo will receive an all-expense-paid trip to New York, Washington, and Los Angeles in September, where they will meet with democracy groups, film and television companies, the media, and government organizations.
Screenings of their films, including Peñafiel's and Ocampo's "Long Live the Fearless Man", are planned in all three cities.
“This is a wonderful achievement for Aissa Peñafiel and Miguel Ocampo. Their three-minute video, entitled ‘Long Live the Fearless Man,’ shows the real power of Filipinos increasingly in the film and creative arts industry," US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said in a statement.
The Challenge asked young video makers to complete the phrase, “Democracy is…” through three-minute videos posted on the competition’s YouTube site. More than 900 people from 95 countries answered the challenge.
An independent jury co-chaired by Hernando de Soto (President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy) and Michael Apted (President of the Directors Guild of America) selected the 18 finalists, and the online voting public chose the six winners, one from each region of the world. The Philippine entry also featured local actor Alastaire “Alas” Tabilos.
Peñafiel and Ocampo, both from the University of the Philippines Diliman, said their short film tries to express their "radical and liberal" definition of democracy - one that critically examines both its good and bad sides. They said this almost "activist" take on the issue differentiated their film from other entries.
"I think what we discussed in the film is what most people actually feel about democracy. Democracy should be the voice of the people, we should have a right to vote for our leaders, but at the same time, it's not happening like that. There are people who are in control of us. We also wanted to show how we experience democracy as Filipinos, that we do not actually have control over our democracy," Peñafiel said in an interview on ABS-CBN's Mornings @ ANC on Monday (June 8).
No stranger to film contests, Peñafiel and Ocampo had previously joined the 62nd Cannes Film Festival with their short film "Manong Maong."
Black and White
"Long Live the Fearless Man" is narrated in Tagalog, with English subtitles, featuring chiaroscuro scenes and close-up shots of the landscape of a man's body, played by Alistair Tabilos. Etched on his skin are words like "Demokrasya" and "Dalamhati" (despair) in indelible ink, flawlessly complementing the film's poetic and thought-provoking narration.
"The body parts and the texts on the body, we wanted to do that to emphasize how you, as a person, as a citizen, cannot change who you are. It will show how you feel about your government [and] your country. It will show [that] no one, [even those] who will [try to] take that away from you, they cannot erase that," Peñafiel explained.
With the 2010 elections coming up, Peñafiel and Ocampo said that the short film is socially relevant. It challenges voters to choose leaders wisely, and for leaders not to abuse their power.
Image"It's a challenge to us all to practice what democracy should be, to practice the power we have at our fingertips. This video is not something to diss democracy, it is something to promote responsible democracy. Let's face it, democracy is not perfect, but we can make it as close as we can to effective, by our own responsibility," Ocampo said.
As a wry warning to voters and politicans alike, the film's narrative states: "Democracy, fueled by the voice of the masses, but what drives the masses to speak? Hunger, pain, despair, ambition, money, fear. Will you not vote for the killer if you already feel the cold steel of his gun against your head?"