Last Saturday, August 15, 2015, the Cinemalaya Foundation finally announced the 10 lucky finalist for its 2016 Main Competition on Full-length Features, during the 2015 Festival Awards Night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Cinemalaya is considered to be the most prestigious Independent Film Festival in the Philippines, so film fans from all over the country as well as the Press enthusiastically welcomed the 10 projects that were chosen from an original pool of more than 150 submissions. I am ecstatic to announce that "Dagsin" (Gravity), my first Full-length Feature project, is among the lucky ten.
The finalist with Foundation Pres. Laurice Guillen and Festival Head Mel Chionglo
With its goal to promote and develop the Independent Film Industry of the Philippines, the Cinemalaya Film Festival is arguably the most anticipated yearly independent film competition (our version of Sundance or Cannes) in the Philippines. In the last ten years of its existence, the festival has given birth to most of the country's up-and-coming filmmakers, ushering forth the digital age of Philippine Cinema widely known as "The Philippine New Wave." The festival aims to encourage "works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity," and Cinemalaya has consistently delivered on this promise by having 5 films, from its ten year roster, be nominated by the Film Academy of the Philippines to represent the country for the annual Academy Awards' (Oscars) Best Foreign-Language film category.
The directors (and some writers) of the 10 Feature Films for 2016
Next year's festival line-up is no exception. For 2015, the Foundation decided to revamp the Festival by delaying the Main Competition for Full-length Features by one year and limiting the finalists to just 10 in only one category. For the past several years, Cinemalaya hosted two distinct categories for its full-length films: the "New Breed" category, open to ten new filmmakers with less than three Commercial Features; and the "Director's Showcase," for five veteran Directors. According to Cinemalaya Foundation President (Actress/Director) Laurice Guillen, the decision to pit the veterans against the newbies is because experience does not necessarily guarantee quality nor originality. According to her, the selection committee decides blindly, without knowing the identity or the names of the filmmakers who submitted the entries. This bold move assures that only the best projects get chosen, without bias. The decision initially met with resistance and protests, but the Foundation remains firm and considers it a non-issue, because it is merely realigning itself back to its original vision and charter.
"Dagsin" (Gravity) being introduced to the Press and public for the first time.
I am proud and happy to finally be a member of this prestigious clique of filmmakers, testing and stretching the boundaries of our nation's cinematic sensibilities. It is a privilege and an honor to be a part of Cinemalaya's Class of 2016. I promise to do my best to uphold the standards of the Festival and to do my share in promoting quality Philippine Cinema.
--Video courtesy of Aria Magadia. Photos courtesy of Anne Prado-Magadia and Cinemalaya.