A hundred years since Filipinos started capturing in film the story of their islands and their people, recorded facts, narratives, and perspectives have been shaped and developed. This year marks a special occasion for this collection of Filipino stories as they are set to be celebrated in Daang Dokyu, the first Philippine documentary festival.
Daang Dokyu is set to present classic and contemporary titles gathered from different countries and regions from March 16 to 21, 2020 at Cine Adarna, UPFI Film Center.
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The celebration of Philippine documentaries is crafted through the Filipino Documentary Society (FilDocs), which was founded by documentary filmmakers Jewel Maranan, Baby Ruth Villarama, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, and Coreen Jimenez.
Old and new
The six-day festival features film curations of Filipino directors as well as titles from international countries, with each showing followed by discussions. It presents some of the earliest known documentary materials as early as the 1900s as well as some of the latest and much-anticipated films to be released this year.
With the theme “Tracing The Filipino Story,” Daang Dokyu aims to reach a broader audience; stir relevant debates on current issues; and present different forms of audio-visual pieces such as virtual reality and multi-screen installations. The initiatives energize and galvanize the importance of bringing to fore authenticity in the creative telling of stories painting the Filipino identity.
Daang Dokyu opens with the Philippine premiere of Aswang, a film by Alyx Ayn Arumpac telling the story of the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte to rid the Philippines of drug addicts and dealers.
Aswang follows the lives of people who are linked together by the growing violence in the country following the onset of the war on drugs. They are a photojournalist and missionary brother who comforts bereaved families and makes a stand against lawlessness; a night shift manager of a funeral home; and a street kid with parents and friends in the cemetery.
Daang Dokyu ramps up the celebration on a high note on the last day with a montage of some of the oldest existing short documentaries on the Philippines. These short newsreels, which are stored in the British Film Institute and the US Library of Congress, will be shown for the first time in the country
Among the 35mm films stored in the London archives that are featured documentaries made in 1911 titled Fabrication Des Chapeaux De Manille and Industrie De L’abaca A L’ile De Cebu; a film made in 1926 called Manila Street Scene; and another filmed in 1929 called Glimpses Of The Culion Leper Colony And Of Culion Life.
A Rustling of Leaves: Inside the Philippine Revolution by Nettie Wild, a Canadian documentary filmmaker, is a 1988 film that will have its Philippine premiere in Daang Dokyu. It has never been shown in the Philippines and after 32 years, it will be making its debut.
In the film, Wild examines the left-wing revolution in the Philippines. It poses key questions facing the revolutionaries and the Filipino Left: If the people’s movement should continue the guerilla war or do they enter legal politics and reveal the hidden face of the revolution.
Making its world premiere in the country is A House in Pieces by Jean Claire Dy and Manuel Domes. The film shares the stories of some people who were internally displaced because of the war between ISIS-affiliated extremists and the Philippine government in Marawi in May 2017
Dreaming in the Red Light by Pabelle Manikan produced by Wena Sanchez will also have its Philippine premiere. The film follows the lives of Amy, a former sex worker and Tisay, Amy’s daughter from a German customer and how women make choices when options are few and far between.
To Calm The Pig Inside, a short film by Joanna Vasquez Arong which talks about Supertyphoon Yolanda’s impact in the Philippines, is another documentary making its premiere in the country.
The Nightcrawlers, a documentary from the National Geographic that got short-listed for the Oscars, will have its Philippine premiere in the festival. It shows a hideous side of the war on drugs, in which some people claim over 20,000 people have been killed. The film tells the story of RL, a former staff photographer for a prominent newspaper, who leads the Manila Nightcrawlers, a group of photojournalists exposing a different side of the campaign.
Also making its Philippine premiere is We Still Have to Close Our Eyes, a short film by John Torres.
Other highlights of the festival include a screening of Bunso, a film by Ditsi Carolino showing the lives of three boys, aged 11 to 13, living in a prison complex and Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari by Kidlat Tahimik, a 1994 film that was shot over a decade.
The festival also presents documentaries tackling issues on the country’s environment, taboos, history, regions, and the future. It aims to bring the most relevant debates on these current issues through its “Reality Check” sessions, all offering the documentary way or “docu way” to take stock of how Filipinos have been as a nation and where it are headed.
Part of creating Daang Dokyu was curating the documentaries that would be a part of these sections. These film curators are responsible for choosing which films are shown during festivals and other types of film series.
The curators for the documentary festival include Teddy Co, an archivist for more than thirty years, Sari Dalena, a director at the University of the Philippines Film Institute and an independent filmmaker and Adjani Arumpac, an award-winning documentarist and filmmaker.
The first day will focus on documentaries about the ecology and the environment. The section will reflect on different catastrophes and how the planet is facing a climate and ecological crisis, and the Philippines, along with other struggling nations, is in a very vulnerable position.
The Reality Check session for the first day will attempt to examine the roots of the vulnerability of the country to natural calamities, it explores the long history of colonialism and post-colonial mentality of excessively serving others that may have removed its natural defenses, and how it has overlooked its development of a scientific culture.
For the second day, the festival will present titles looking at today’s environment of fake news. In a community where it is considered to be a society of spectacle, the Reality Check session for this day asks the difference between truth and propaganda. The section also provides an in-depth look at historical revisionism and how images, media, and education are used to secure more power.
The third day will feature themes delving on taboos on religion, politics, and the human body. For this Reality Check session, this day delves on the ways on how the country can respond to the issues that society most people will not talk about, such as identity and mental health, issues that affect different sectors and the youth. It also ponders on the question if documentaries are safe spaces to tackle these issues and how it can serve to prompt dialogue and public conversations.
The fourth day will provide glimpses of the regions, where differences comprise the texture of the nation. In this Reality Check session, the festival examines documentary works made in different regions and the experience of making them from various vantage points revealing a tapestry of Filipino identity.
For the fifth day, Daang Dokyu will present documentaries about the direction of documentarists and the documentary practice in the country. The Reality Check session for this section explores the area of vulnerability in the cultural and democratic life of Filipinos.
With an estimated 76 million internet users, which are also termed as “netizens”, the Philippines tops all other countries for the heaviest internet usage in the world. Under a period of great political tension and social unrest, the section will take a look at the Filipino connectivity which can arguably be both beneficial and problematic.
Fighting fake news
The first-ever Philippine Documentary Forum is the culminating session at the festival, providing a space for debate and dialogue in a time of fake news and disinformation as well as a look back to the country’s past. It will be the largest gathering of the country’s community of documentarists for film, television, arts, culture, and education.
Daang Dokyu will also hold industry sessions during the six-day event. It will include roundtables, lectures, and masterclasses of renowned documentarists in the industry on the most relevant and pressing concerns of the documentary community and industry. These sessions are open to the documentary community, including students, enthusiasts, educators, and the general public.
Researchers of Daang Dokyu have also found over a thousand documentaries for its Dokyubase, a long-term database project aimed at tracing lost and forgotten histories of documentary film and video in the country. It is continuously discovering more titles as of late.
The documentary festival is still open to looking into films that resonate with Filipinos, provoke convention, or question existing taboos. They are also hoping to discover hidden films that emerge from different regions.
To be launched at Daang Dokyu is a book on the genre. The Dok Book is a collection and recollection of histories and stories, as well as views and interviews, centered on the rich landscape of the Philippine documentary in film and television.
It includes details and historical accounts from the arrival of cinema in the late 1890s to the shutdown of the press during Martial Law as well as the advent of digital technology in the 2000s. The book contains contributions from scholars and practitioners in the field including Nick Deocampo, Teddy Co, Adjani Arumpac, Patrick Campos, Ed Lingao, Howie Severino, Kara David, Kidlat Tahimik, Kiri Dalena, Sari Dalena, Gutierrez Mangansakan II, and many more Filipino documentarists.