Sine Marathon: The Ilonggos’ Primer for CineKasimanwa 2015

By xtian lozañes

CineKasimanwa: The Western Visayas Film Festival is just on its third year, but it has arguably grown bigger and better than before. With an official festival theme boasting “Lokal is International”, Iloilo’s last month of 2015 comes with a promising line-up of locally-made films (most of which were produced just this year) and a few nationally renowned movies.

For modern Ilonggo cinema to thrive from its fading glory years, festivals like these are absolutely essential. Of course, if you’re a casual Ilonggo filmgoer who has no idea what to expect from this year’s CineKasimanwa, you’ll surely ask yourself, “Why should this matter to me?” Well, like your barkada who encourages you to experience new and exciting stuff with him or her, this is our way of “gently” nudging you on why you should check out CineKasimanwa Tr3s (see, even the name is cool!). From what we can tell, these are the reasons why you should check out CineKasimanwa 2015!

CineKasimanwa is BIG. Seriously.

When we said “bigger” above, we’re not treating as hyperbole: CineKasimanwa’s film festival programming looks to screen more than 100 short films from about 144 film submissions, most of which were curated from all over Panay. By sheer scale alone, CK 2015 should offer the biggest number of programmed short films yet for ANY local film festival–and that’s including its other glitzier counterparts like CineMalaya and the Metro Manila Film Festival, just to name a few.

If all of these seem a bit too much for you, then you can breathe a sigh of relief to know that festival director & programmer Elvert Bañares has set specific programs in CK 2015 that are each anchored by a theme.

For instance, the opening night of CK 2015 sees three short films opening under the “Ginhawa” (“Breath”) banner,  and is also supposed to represent three years of “good harvest” for Western Visayan cinema.  The three opening films–‘TNT’, ‘Kagat‘, and ‘One Week Earlier’–were chosen by Bañares on the belief that these represent Western Visayas in all its diversity. With subjects ranging from the Ilonggo diaspora (‘TNT’), suicide (‘One Week Earlier’), and, we kid you not, a zombie apocalypse thriller with characters speaking in Karay-a (‘Kagat‘), this year’s fest should prove that there is something for every Ilonggo’s filmic preference.

Of course, not every Panayanon with a camera would just jump at the chance to shoot and submit a film for CK 2015. For this purpose, the organizers had decided to use the one element that other city-wide “art” projects like this year’s ‘Arte sa Kalye’ did to ensure its success: tourism. And really, who can fault them? This is where the money comes in after all and, as it turns out, they have found a way to incentivize the local filmmaking talent of the region through the next item below.

The Western Visayas Film Grants Program

Arguably the centerpiece of this year’s CineKasimanwa, “Ani” (“Harvest”), the banner of the Western Visayas Film Grants Program, has an easily graspable concept: a jury of three Ilonggo filmmakers were to choose four worthy directors, each one representing a province of Western Visayas, and award each filmmaker ₱100,000.00 to shoot their projects.

But of course, there’s a caveat: in a press conference last September, Department of Tourism-Region VI Regional Director Atty. Helen J. Catalbas, one of the co-conceptualizers of the Western Visayas Film Grants Program, said that the short films they were yet to choose back then should be rooted in the province’s culture and should also show the best locations in said region. “Region 6 has always been known for its beautiful culture and spots like Boracay, Miag-ao Church, Guimaras Islands, etc,” she explained, “but there is more to see and we hope to see the other spots and locations through the films which would also tell the stories of the people of Western Visayas.”

The eventual winners of the program were local filmmakers who, it could be said, were worthy of the grants in their own right: ‘Ang Katapusan Nga Handum‘ (Director: Aimee Apostol-Escasa), the Iloilo entry which would feature shots of the Igbaras Waterfalls and Mountain Biking area in Igbaras, Miag-ao Church, San Joaquin Church, and the Coral Gardens of San Joaquin; ‘Sa Dapadapa Sang Balaan Bukid‘ (Director: Noel G. Galon, last profiled here in this piece about Ilonggo books),  the Guimaras entry shot at popular spots like the Old Trappist Monastery, Alubihod Beach, Roca Encantada, Suba Malawig, and would also reportedly feature the infamous Pagtaltal’ ceremony at Bala-an; ‘ Sa Pagtunod It Adlaw‘ (Director: Romart Malapad Martesano), the Aklanon entry which would feature sequences from Aklan Sampaguita Garden, Basura Garden, Jawili Falls, and Ariel’s Point and in Boracay Island; and ‘Ang Panglakaton’ (Director: Ethel Mae Reyes), the Antique entry which would feature shots of Malalison Island in Culasi, Nogas Island in Anini-y, Tibiao Eco-Adventure Park, Bugang River and Malumpati Cold Springs, and Igpasungaw Falls.    

From these ‘Ani‘ shorts, three winners will be chosen by a different set of jurors on the final day of CineKasimanwa.  Sure, all of it sounds so serious–and really, that’s the point of having the fest in the first place–but if you think there’s nothing here that would appeal to you, then maybe the wide array of programs that will be featured on the rest of this week is more up your alley.

Something for Every Ilonggo

“Modern Iloilo”, for all its current glories, remains an anachronism; all you have to do is to look at the city’s Spanish-influenced street names to know that our link to the past remains as strong as it was. In effect, this serves a good example of the kind of diversity we notice, but rarely acknowledge, in Ilonggo culture.

Sure enough, this kind of diversity is one that CineKasimanwa is trying to channel this year. Other than ‘Ginhawa‘ and ‘Ani‘, the film festival is screening other themed programs that, though differing in tone, aim to reflect the Panayanon experience as many of us know it.

For instance, ‘Hinanakit‘ (‘Pain’–go figure what this signifies) is the lone program in CK 2015 that is only featuring full-length films. Out of the entire lineup that consists of recognizable films like the ubiquitous ‘Heneral Luna’ (Director: Jerrold Tarog) and ‘Flotsam’ (Director: Jay Abello), one Ilonggo film makes its world premiere here: ‘Ugayong‘ (Director: Reymundo Salao), a movie that looks to channel the spirit of the slasher films of the ’80s and ’90s.

Ulikid‘ (‘Look back’), on the other hand, couldn’t be any more different. It is marketed as the “Short Films for and by Children Program” and is predictably screening films that, according to its blurb,  feature themes of “care, gratitude, remembrance and inheritance of values”. So, it’s basically as PG as you can get on a filmfest like this, though one film, ‘Sta. Barbara’ (Director: Junel Francis P. Laguna), should prove to be a standout if only for the novelty of seeing the output of an 11-year old filmmaker shown on the big screen.

For the inner #HUGOT in all of us, ‘Ipautwas‘ (‘To Vent’) and ‘Gugma Bala?’ (‘Is It Love?’) should offer the kind of  emotionally-charged and melodramatic films that are staples of modern Pinoy cinema. If you’re looking for a “purer” expression of those feelings, then the ‘Pagbugtaw‘ (‘Awakening’) program contains shorts tackling everyday teenage issues like peer pressure, suicide, delinquency, and many more; if this sounds like a Panayanon version of those ubiquitous teen network TV shows, then it won’t surprise you one bit that the program is co-presented by the Provincial Population Office.

There’s also ‘Pin-ot‘ (‘Cramped’), which is described by its blurb as stories that will examine “the minds and hearts of individuals when they get swamped by the chaos of urban life and the effects of troubled pasts”, and  ‘Dumot‘ (‘Resentment’), which–while not exactly as violent as what its program title may suggest, considering the tourism-centric bent that CK 2015 adopted at this juncture–is the kind of theme that should remind Ilonggos that, yes, it is okay to express anger–or just about anything, really–if we can be all civil about it.

However, what should prove to be this festival’s crowd-pleaser is the ‘Moo-Moo-an kag Fantasmagoria tr3s‘ programs, which is billed as the “Annual Horror, Sci-fi, Fantasy, Thriller and Far-out Shorts”. Divided into two programs, this part of the fest has always impressed local filmgoers from year one of CK since this usually serves as a technical showcase for the local filmmakers’ ingenuity. If you need further proof, then just watch the trailer from last year’s Bantayan Indie Film Festival ‘Wowa‘ (Director: Joebert A. Casas) and tell us how it’s not chillingly familiar to anyone who’s ever been weaned on the ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’ series.

Of course, CK 2015 won’t be the diverse festival that it aims to be if they won’t infuse a more general Visayan vibe here. That’s why these programs, ‘Hulag‘ (‘Move’) and ‘Sila Nga Mga Nagahatag Duag‘ (‘Those Giving Dreams’), were made specifically to accommodate the filmmaking talents of Bacolod. ‘Hulag‘, in particular, looks to have an interesting concept behind it since the four directors who participated in said program took the best poems of legendary Negrense poet Ismael “Maeng” Java as inspiration for their outputs. Pretty cool, we must say.

So, think any of the selections in CineKasimanwa 2015 enough to scratch your cinematic itch? With a wide and assorted line-up of local films appealing to both the broadest and  most niche of tastes possible, CineKasimanwa Tr3s : The Western Visayas Film Festival 2015 should be something that any Ilonggo–nay, ANYONE–would not  dare miss.

So, do you have any film that you’re eagerly looking forward in this year’s CineKasimanwa? Do share it with us in the comments section below!

CineKasimanwa: The Western Visayas Film Festival starts today, December 8 and will run on December 13. The venues hosting the fest are UPV Cinematheque, FDCP Cinematheque Iloilo, and SM City Iloilo Cinema 1.For complete film schedules, visit the official CineKasimanwa Facebook pagehere.

Photos, posters, and stills provided by the CineKasimanwa organization.

Xtian Lozañes is a multimedia artist and a photographer. His photos can be viewed on his Instagram page.