Inquirer’s Guyito a symbol of hope in filmmaker’s fight for free cinema
Malaysian filmmaker Bradley Liew, who broke ground as the first non-Filipino recipient of the recent Inquirer Indie Bravo! award for “Singing in Graveyards,” stated: “I hope that the Guyito will stand as a symbol of hope to remind us that cinema has no boundaries. And that this will somehow help Southeast Asian cinema as a whole and push filmmakers to be brave and fight for free cinema.”
In a speech read by EpicMedia colleague Lilit Reyes, Liew stated: “This [award] is for the fundamental right to free speech. For the freedom of the press. Fight for this because there’s nothing darker than a world where words are shackled.”
First-time honoree Victor Kaiba Villanueva (“Patay na si Hesus”) said he got confused when some of the guests asked him: “‘Is this your first Guyito?’” He replied by saying: “What? I haven’t drunk anything yet,’” thinking that they were referring to an alcoholic beverage similar to mojito.
Guyito is the Inquirer’s carabao mascot that is given to each honoree, along with their Indie Bravo! trophies.
The Cebu-based Villanueva added: “We considered making ‘Patay na si Hesus’ in Tagalog, but later decided against it. We were shocked with the audience’s positive reaction to it. We wish that there would come a time when there would be no more distinction—a film in Tagalog and a film in Cebuano are both made by Filipinos.”
For first-time honoree Maricel Cabrera-Cariaga, the Indie Bravo! Awards last Monday was also “date night” with her mom Cecilia, who was on vacation from her work as a carer for the elderly in London.
“She moved her flight home to an earlier date so she could attend the awards night with me,” recalled Cabrera, who is feted for her film, “Pitong Kabang Palay.”
The director recalled that her mother “froze for a moment” upon meeting another awardee, actress Charo Santos-Concio. “My mom was starstruck. She’s been watching ‘Maalaala Mo Kaya’ for over a decade now. She’s a big fan!”
Concio, who also heads one of the country’s biggest film companies Star Cinema, recalled her days as a neophyte actress, to inspire the doggedly determined directors who, in their acceptance speeches, recalled their struggles to find an audience in the country.
She recounted that when her debut film, Mike de Leon’s “Itim,” was shown in a cavernous, 1,000-seater theater in 1977, “there were only a handful of people in the cinema on opening day.”
When another Santos starrer, De Leon’s “Kisapmata,” was fielded in the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), it placed 10th in a lineup of 10 entries, in terms of early grosses. “But after it swept the awards, winning nine out of 10 trophies, it landed in the top three at the tills by the end of the fest.”
Honoree Baby Ruth Villarama, whose documentary “Sunday Beauty Queen” won best picture in last year’s MMFF, remarked: “It was an inspiring night to hear words of truth and encouragement from colleagues in the industry.”
Filmmaker and animator Avid Liongoren, whose movie “Saving Sally” won three awards at the 37th Fantasporto fest in Portugal, hoisted his Guyito as if it were a championship cup.
“When the film won in Portugal, I created graphics to announce the win on Facebook. I enclosed the title of the two awards I knew of in laurels. But looking at the layout, it didn’t look right, so I put another set of laurels just to balance it out,” he related. “It read, ‘Extra laurels for symmetrical purposes only.’”
“But when the Inquirer reported about it, I learned that we actually won three awards, and that there was no need for the fake laurels!” Liongoren said.
Batch 2017’s youngest honoree Jared Joven, who shares the award with fellow 18-year-old director Kaj Palanca for their short film “Contestant #4,” told the Inquirer: “It’s pleasing to realize that I have more years ahead. That I can keep on exploring and making more films. I will never regret starting at a young age, and this cements my decision to continue dreaming as a filmmaker. I’m excited with what more I will discover through cinema.”
Now, for a bit of reality check. Awardee Dexter Hemedez related: “When our film ‘1st Sem’ had its theatrical release last April, we were pitted against ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 2,’ which was shown in over 500 cinemas. We only had five theaters and all of our screenings were sliding.”
It was “heartbreaking,” Hemedez admitted, but the CineFilipino film later brought them to different countries abroad, where it won five awards this year. “It gives us hope to keep pursuing our dreams.”
Allan Michael Ibañez, Hemedez’s codirector, described the Indie Bravo! night as a
“time to chat with fellow filmmakers and get encouraged by their stories.”
For first-time honoree Samantha Lee, the award was heartening. She explained: “This will give more chances for LGBT-themed films (like her drama ‘Baka Bukas’) to be seen.”
Awardee JP Habac, whose film “Maria” made waves abroad, expressed the hope that “short films would be given more platforms for showcase and appreciation in our country so that we might have more avenues for stimulating entertainment and voices of truth.”
Honoree Eduardo Roy Jr. pointed out that the rise of microcinemas like Cinema ’76 has allowed indie films to have regular screenings all year round. “I made my film ‘Pamilya Ordinaryo’ almost two years ago, but until now it’s still being shown in independent movie houses. Now, we are no longer afraid of the first day-last day [syndrome].” Most indie films get pulled out of cineplexes after only one day because of poor performance at the box office.
Vincent Nebrida, president of TBA, pledged to program the Inquirer Indie Bravo! Film Festival next month at Cinema ’76, to support this year’s awardees. TBA produced the hit historical epic, Jerrold Tarog’s “Heneral Luna,” and this year’s Indie Bravo! awardee, Sheron Dayoc’s “Women of the Weeping River.”
He was glad that screenings of indie movies “are no longer limited during local festival runs.” Nebrida then cited similar movie theaters like Cinema Centenario on Maginhawa street in Quezon City, and Black Maria Cinema in Mandaluyong City.
After all, dreamers are rebels, too.
Honoree Paolo Villaluna, whose film “Pauwi Na” won the top prize at the A-list Shanghai fest, asserted: “It is invigorating to witness the community’s growth … In an era, when people can’t tell right from wrong, when fake [news] can be easily sold as truth, the voice of the filmmaker is all the more important.”
Awardee Atom Magadia, whose film “Dagsin” was cited, noted: “Like the Indios Bravos (after whom the Indie Bravo! Awards was named), I believe today’s filmmakers are rebels, as well. We are fighting not only for recognition for our individual films, but also collectively for our country’s brand-new cinema.” —ALLAN POLICARPIO
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