By JESSICA PAG-IWAYAN
For local film enthusiasts, the annual Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is a much-awaited show. For 15 years now, every August, people from all walks of life—from students to professionals, directors, actors, producers, and talent scouts—gather together to watch thought-provoking, culturally sensitive movies created by independent Filipino filmmakers.
But just like much of the arts and entertainment industries, Cinemalaya has also been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. In an announcement released on March 21, the festival organizers revealed that this year’s show will be postponed until further notice.
It was sad news for its patrons, but their sadness was soon replaced with joy as the organizers dropped news that the festival would be happening online. Teresa Rances, Cinemalaya deputy director, shares with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle important details about the competition.
Still on but…
Despite the backlog and challenges brought by the pandemic, Teresa says that the festival is happening online from Aug. 7 to 16.
“In March, we weren’t sure what was going to happen. When are we going back to normal?” she admits. “So we came up with the statement [of postponement], knowing that the full-length competition filmmakers were in the middle of their shoot. Some were supposed to be out of town.”
It was a sensitive decision for the filmmakers but it gave them more time to finalize their outputs. Annually, there are 10 filmmakers who compete in Cinemalaya’s full-length division and another 10 in the short film category.
After a series of meetings to assess the situation, the committee acknowledged that even if they were to reschedule at a later time of the year, the full-length participants might still not be able to meet the deadlines. This year’s Cinemalya, therefore, won’t have any full-length entries.
Keeping it short
According to Teresa, full-length and short film have different deadlines. Before the lockdowns happened, entries for the short film category had been submitted. They were, in fact, already in the middle of screening the shorts for the festival.
“The submission for the short film happens every February of the year and then the entries are shortlisted toward April,” she says. “We can have a festival with just the shorts.”
She adds that this is not the first time that Cinemalaya will only show shorts. It was also the case five years ago.
Aside from the 10 shorts, the committee is also planning to include 20 curated films, a retrospective of the best films since 2005, and a tribute to director Peque Gallaga.
First-ever online show
It might be a challenging time for the festival, but this also brought out the best of them, paving the way for Cinemalaya’s first-ever online exhibition. “This is the first time and, who knows, it might just be the start of something new,” she says. “Who knows? Soon maybe we can have the festival at the CCP and continue it online.”
But Teresa clarifies that the committee is also aware of the repercussions of holding an online festival, which include the potential for film piracy. With this in mind, they are working with different providers to protect the films they will be screening online.
“We are working on what platform we are using for people to be able to connect,” Teresa adds. When asked if it will require some form of subscription, she says that they are still studying the possibilities, but should subscription be necessary, she says it will be affordable.
Apart from the online screening of the films, Teresa says that the jury discussion and the awarding of winners will also be done virtually.
Full-length films for 2021
With this year’s full-length film competition on hold, the eight films that should have been included will be added to Cinemalaya 2021. This means that, next year, there will be a total of 18 full features.
Terese says that the committee is still finalizing all details for next year’s competition. On the 2020 online Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, more will be announced on July 15.
“Cinemalaya is always ablaze when it comes to content,” Teresa says. “We look forward to having you. Join us in this online festival to see more exciting films.”