International fest debuts in Gensan Tuesday
He compares his decision to mount the first SalaMindanaw International Film Festival (SIFF) to a leap of faith.
Filmmaker Gutierrez “Teng” Mangansakan II, SIFF director, was in fact standing on a cliff facing the ocean in Maasim, Sarangani, when he weighed the pros and cons of the project. “Manong Armin, my tour guide, said, ‘It looks scary, but it’s really fun,’” Magansakan told the Inquirer. The guide, a former fisherman, was a walking repository of anecdotes, the filmmaker said. “His vast experience is a rich source of tales that he enjoys sharing.”
Manong Armin told Mangansakan that he had lost a cousin and a few neighbors, all fisherfolk engulfed by giant waves at sea at the height of typhoon “Pablo’s” onslaught in December last year.
(Mangansakan was reminded of the guide’s tale when calamities recently struck the country again—the killer quake that shook Bohol and Cebu and the supertyphoon that devasted Samar and Leyte.)
The filmmaker reflected on regional parallels: “By rekindling common icons and images among the peoples of Southeast Asia, we see that we stand on common ground. [Consider] the earthquake and tsunami in Banda Aceh (Indonesia) in 2004 and now, ‘Yolanda’ … East Timor’s fight for independence … the Moros’ quest for self-determination. These stories hold common themes of longing, survival, hope. Films translate these issues vividly onscreen and push us to look closely at the things that bind us.”
Mangansakan remembered asking the guide what lay beyond the horizon. “Manong Armin told me, ‘That’s Indonesia. If the sea is calm, we can get to Indonesian waters in no time.’” The idea hit Mangansakan: A film festival that builds a bridge between Mindanao and our Asian neighbors.
“I realized I was standing on the edge of an unexplored gateway,” Mangansakan mused. In the so-called Philippine backdoor, he saw instead “a sea of boundless possibilities, the connection to a vast world beyond our shores.”
The inaugural SalaMindanaw starts Tuesday at Robinsons Movieworld in General Santos City and runs up till Nov. 30. To be showcased are eight films from across Asia: Kan Lume’s “Liberta” (Singapore); Babyruth Villarama-Gutierrez’s “Jazz in Love” (Philippines); Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s “Constructors” (Kazakhstan); Vorakorn Ruetaivanichkul’s “Mother” (Thailand); Nontawat Numbenchapol’s “By the River” (Thailand); Adjani Arumpac’s “War is a Tender Thing” (Philippines); Prassana Vithanage’s “With You, Without You” (Sri Lanka); and Sanif Olek’s “Sayang Disayang” (Singapore).
These films, previously shown in international festivals—from Moscow to Yamagata, from Locarno to Busan—will vie for SIFF’s Golden Sambolayang Prize and the Netpac (Network for
the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Prize.
Mangansakan acknowledged regional cinema’s steady growth in the country: “Mindanao filmmakers are at the forefront of the regional cinema [movement].”
The SIFF is dedicated to documentarians Linda and Nadjoua Bansil, who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu early this year.
SalaMindanaw comes from the words salam, which means peace, and Mindanaw, “our home,” Mangansakan said.
He hopes SIFF will become an annual event that “celebrates the plurality of creative expressions in an environment of peace.”
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