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Distribution is weak link, Indie filmmakers say

Erich Gonzales in 'Mariposa'. Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Publication Date : 23-11-2012


Filipino independent filmmakers are urging festival organisers to work more closely with government and TV networks in helping beef up film distribution, “if they’re serious about changing the industry”.

Independent filmmaking is undeniably thriving at the moment, director Emmanuel dela Cruz said at a recent press con for the coming 2012 Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival.

“We have an abundance of emerging talents, but most of them are stuck in the festivals,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Their films should be seen by a wider audience.”

Dela Cruz said filmmakers shared the sentiment that there were more than enough film festivals, but that “the weak link is distribution.” This was what the higher-ups should focus on, he said.

He said Cinema One could help address this issue by awarding distribution as a prize for worthy films.

“We did Zombadings on our own, and we know the hurdles of screening in the same week as mainstream films,” said Dela Cruz, whose latest work, Slumber Party, is one of 13 entries in this year’s Cinema One Originals.

A member of the artist-run filmmaking company Origin8, Dela Cruz was one of the creative minds behind the successful Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington. He also wrote and directed the 2006 film Sarong Banggi.

Ronald Arguelles, Cinema One Originals channel head and festival director, noted that they do release some of the films, or present them to SM and Ayala theatres for possible screenings or distribution.

Arguelles explained: “But it all depends on our budget. It’s not easy to release one film because marketing expense is high. We need money for placement fees, print ads, etc. which could come up to 700,000 pesos (US$17,000) per film. If you get to book only four theatres… you can’t recoup expenses just like that).”

He said awarding distribution funds, as Dela Cruz suggested, was a good idea, but would be “tough, considering the perennially limited budget.”


Entries in this year’s competition were divided into two groups: Cinema One Plus, Category A, includes feature films that got 2-million peso ($48,600) production grants each; Cinema One Currents, Category B, those that received 1 million pesos each.

Category A is for movies that the selection committee thinks are commercially viable. Of 13 entries, three made it to this category—Auraeus Solito’s Baybayin, Adolfo Alix, Jr.’s Mater Dolorosa, and Richard Somes’ Mariposa sa Hawla ng Gabi.

Starring Assunta de Rossi, Alessandra de Rossi and Adrian Sebastian, Baybayin is Solito’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed Busong, second in his Palawan trilogy project. Set in the picturesque islands of El Nido, the film is about two half- sisters who learn an ancient Palawanon script to communicate to the deaf-mute man they both fall in love with.

In Mater Dolorosa, Gina Alajar is the matriarch of a family in an old district in Manila who runs illegal businesses, from jueteng to drug-peddling. Also in the film are Cogie Domingo, Alessandra de Rossi, Carlo Aquino, Mercedes Cabral and Joem Bascon.

With Erich Gonzales in the lead role, the dark and gritty Mariposa follows a girl who embarks on a journey into Manila’s bizarre side to find her long-lost sister. The cast is composed of Alfred Vargas, Mark Gil, Joel Torre, Maria Isabel Lopez, Rez Cortez and John “Sweet” Lapus.

Selection process

Arguelles explained how the selection committee picked the three: “We looked at the casting, and story should hook the audience. We also considered the fact that Solito, Alix and Somes are now masters of digital filmmaking. They already know what they’re doing.”

Category B is a “playground” of sorts for neophyte directors—six of 10 finalists are presenting their debut features: Christian Linaban (Aberya), Kevin Dayrit (Catnip), Ma. Isabel Legarda (Melodrama Negra), Pam Miras (Pascalina), Gym Lumbera (Anak Araw) and Dwein Baltazar (Mamay Umeng).

The others in Category B are: Arnel Mardoquio’s Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Khavn dela Cruz’ Edsa XXX, Ato Bautista’s Palitan and Emmanuel del Cruz’ Slumber Party.

Arguelles said he was pleased with the diversity of genres in this year’s festival: “The roster has drama, comedy, love story, action, arthouse, erotica, and many more.”

The 2012 Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival runs from November 28 to December 9 at Robinsons Galleria Movie World, and from November 29 to December 4 at the Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex in Metro Manila.

Restored classics

Aside from the competing entries, the festival will also pay tribute to Philippine cinema by screening three recently restored classics—Ishmael Bernal’s Himala, Peque Gallaga’s Oro, Plata, Mata, and Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan.

The 1982 masterpiece Oro, restored through a partnership between ABS-CBN Film Archives and Central Digital Lab, opens the festival on November 28. The restored high-definition version of  Himala will be screened December 4 at the Shangri-La Plaza Cineplex. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Bernal’s opus, filmmaker Sari Dalena and writer Keith Sicat’s documentary, Himala Ngayon, will be shown prior to the film.


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