Brunei fest pays tribute to Filipino cinema
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN—Our hectic schedule prevents us from accepting a lot of requests to speak at entertainment-related lectures and fora. But the invitation last December to grace the Brunei Film Blitz extended to us by Consul Pete Raymond Delfin, chargé d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Brunei, and Sentro Rizal, the cultural arm of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, was too tempting to pass up.
The timing was perfect. It was scheduled on Dec. 16 (our day-off), and took place after we wrapped up months of extensive and exhausting preparations for the annual Inquirer Indie Bravo! Awards, which marked its ninth year last Dec. 13, as well as the “Loving the N.U.T.” concert last Dec. 4 that we directed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The Philippine segment of the Brunei event intended to commemorate 100 Years of Philippine cinema, held in conjunction with the second edition of the Brunei Film Blitz (BFB) led by the formidable team of festival director Siti Kamaluddin, logistical coordinator-producer Munji Athirah, programming director Dr. Alex Fischer and the movers and shakers of the Mahakarya Institute of the Arts Asia.
Aside from the Philippines, the other countries that took part in the festival also included France, Australia, Japan, Korea, India, Pakistan and the United States.
Among the films screened in the 12-day fest were Bikas Neupane’s “Lachhamaniya” (2017, Nepal), Francois Truffaut’s “100 Blows” (1959, France), Bobby Sharma Barua’s “The Golden Wing” (2016, India), Nabeel Qureshi’s “Na Maloom Afraad” (2014, Pakistan), Garin Nugroho’s “Nyai” (2016, Indonesia), Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” (2006, South Korea), Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes’ “Sonata” (2013, Philippines), and Akira Kurosawa’s “The Hidden Fortress” (1958, Japan).
Other than “Sonata,” two other Pinoy films that were showcased on Dec. 16 were Mike de Leon’s 1980 film classic “Kakabakaba Ka Ba?” and Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s blockbuster rom-com “Kita Kita,” which had two full-house screenings curated by the film’s irrepressible director herself. (We urged Bernardo, an exceptional comedienne whom we’ve acted with in the Dulaang UP play “The Butterfly’s Evil Spell” many years ago, not to turn her back on acting.)
We were pleased that the open forum we facilitated with eloquent film critic Rolando Tolentino, a member of Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, came right after the screening of Mike de Leon’s “Kakabakaba Ka Ba?”—a film that was first released when we were still in grade school!
It was as much a thrill to watch De Leon’s comedic romp on the big screen as it was to see the lovely Charo Santos gamely hamming it up with Jay Ilagan, Sandy Andolong, Boboy Garovillo and Christopher de Leon, whose “unaffected” portrayal reminded us what a major acting find he was during the second Golden Age of Philippine cinema in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
When we asked Consul Delfin how the embassy ended up choosing “Kakabakaba Ka Ba?,” “Sonata” and “Kita Kita,” he explained that they wanted Bruneian audiences, who included a lot of overseas Filipino workers and expats, to see a slice of the rich Filipino experience.
Delfin said that the trio of acclaimed but very diverse Pinoy films was “a reflection of the Filipino identity that is constantly reshaped by foreign interactions.”
For his part, Tolentino explained how films reflected a country’s artistry, legacy and identity.
We also had the pleasure of shooting the breeze with the spunky Siti Kamaluddin, who is Brunei’s first international (female) director.
Her debut film “Yasmine,” an accessible and urgently paced coming-of-age action-drama starring Liyana Yus, Reza Rahadian and Carmen Soo (yes, Jericho Rosales’ leading lady in the popular Pinoy TV soap “Kahit Isang Saglit”), was one of the featured entries in the second edition of the Tingin Asean Film Festival in Manila last year—and we’re glad we were finally able to watch it. (More about this in another article.)
Kalamuddin’s second film, “Hari Minggu Yang Ke-Empat,” starring social media influencer Kai Anwar and produced with the intention of “paving the way for more sustainable filmmaking in Brunei Darussalam,” found itself in hot water when it was inexplicably banned after its premiere in June—reportedly because of a scene that shows a swishy character with a towel wrapped around his head!
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