For the Love of Indie: The Cinemalaya Special
Words and Illustration by Jansen Musico (with apologies to Rob Cham)
Seven years ago, I was asked by a professor to see a film that was screening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. I was taking up Gender Studies at that time, and the movie I was made to watch was a short called Babae by Sigrid Bernardo. It was a surprisingly funny thesis tackling all aspects of womanhood. Fittingly, it was paired up with Aloy Adlawan’s Roomboy, a tale of love, poverty, and sexuality contained in a vacuum of hopelessness spawned by the lonely streets of Manila. Back then, there were no separate screenings for shorts, just double-features.
It was only after my viewing that I found out that the films were a part of a festival. It was the first of its kind in the country, or so I was informed. It was Cinemalaya—a title which fused the words “cine” or film and “malaya” or freedom. It was, at that time, an answer to a problem.
In the early 2000s, the local movie industry was already entering a new phase which was mostly populated by movies and sequels based on old worn-out love songs and flicks purposely crafted to launch the careers of the reality show winners from both ABS-CBN and GMA, the big studio behemoths. During that period, it seemed as though our already weakening film industry was already waving the white flag against Hollywood in terms of creativity, novelty, and culture. Though a few noticeable blips such as Mark Meily’s Crying Ladies and Rory Quinto’s Anak hit the screens, it still seemed that Filipino film was doomed to flat line. It needed a jolt, and fast.
The emergence of Cinemalaya was a slow one. I remember a time where I didn’t even have to queue for tickets, and I always had to force someone to accompany me to see a film. It was a hard sell. Why would people flock to see a low-budget movie by a no-name director? Harry Potter was out, and so were the new Batman and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Why would people risk their time and money on a local indie?
A lot has definitely changed since then. I would like to believe that the once-small festival was able to create an audience which continues to grow each year. It has become a tradition. Cinemalaya has become a home for those who love homegrown films, be they aspiring auteurs, frustrated storytellers stuck in the wrong job, or the masses of moviegoers who have gotten tired of the norm. Cinemalaya has opened doors to many great talents, most of whom have been recognized from all over the world. But most importantly, the festival has opened the eyes of so many people through the many brilliant stories, which have thankfully been told because they’ve been given a chance to see the light of day.
For the love of indie, we at Pelikula will be having a Cinemalaya special, with posts and reviews that will come out during the next few days. If you haven’t had the chance of experiencing Cinemalaya first hand, the screening days are from July 15 to 24 at the CCP and Greenbelt theaters. Ticket prices range from P75 for students to P150. Make sure to buy them now, because they’re selling fast. Support independent Filipino films.