Free film festival in Vancouver to shine spotlight on 100 years of Philippine cinema

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Predated by Bollywood by a few years, Philippine cinema is one of the oldest in Asia.

This year, the country’s film industry is marking its centennial after the September 1919 premiere of Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden).

Megged by José Nepomuceno, Dalagang Bukid is the first Filipino-produced and –directed movie.

In Vancouver, the local Filipino community is organizing a free film festival to celebrate the centenary of Philippine cinema.

Three movies with English sub-titles were chosen for exhibition in August this year in the festival dubbed as A Century of Filipino Films.

The films were curated the Anyone Can Act Theatre (ACAT) group, one of the organizers of the festival.

Speaking for ACAT, Susan De Guzman said that the films were picked to showcase the first-rate quality of Philippine movies.

“We can really be world class,” De Guzman told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview.

The festival opens with Tanging Yaman (Cherished Treasure), a 2000 movie that tells the story of three estranged siblings and their aging mother who has dementia.

Tanging Yaman shows on August 6 at the Cinematheque (1131 Howe Street) starting at 5:30 p.m. There will be a reception before the show.

The second movie is Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit (I Will Wait for You in Heaven), a 1991 Filipino adaptation of the novel Wuthering Heights, revolving around a tempestuous romance.

Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit will be exhibited on August 15 at the SFU Goldcorp Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema (149 West Hastings Street) starting at 5:30 p.m.

The third movie is Anak (Child), whose theme is familiar to many. It’s the story of a woman who works abroad, and comes home a stranger to her own family.

Anak will be shown on August 26 at the SFU Goldcorp Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema starting at 5:30 p.m. A panel discussion follows the show.

According to ACAT’s De Guzman, Philippine movies have been recognized internationally.

“We can really be up there with other countries,” De Guzman said.

Philippine cinema is a mix of crowd pleasers and critically acclaimed films.

In 2016, Ma’ Rosa, a film directed by Brillante Mendoza, garnered the title of best actress for Jaclyn Jose at the Cannes Film Festival. Ma’Rosa tells the story of a struggling mother forced into petty crime.

Years earlier, Mendoza won the best director award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, besting renowned filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), and Ang Lee (Taking Woodstock). Mendoza’s entry that year was Kinatay (The Execution of P), a crime movie.

In 2018, global streaming giant Netflix picked Brillante’s Amo (Boss) as its first series from the Philippines. Amo takes a look at the ongoing drug war being waged by the Philippine government.

Vancouver resident Dodie Lucas is intimately connected with the three films as well as the festival.

His Manila company did post-production work on Tanging Yaman, Hihintayin Kita Sa Langit, and Anak.

Lucas and his film company had also advocated for the restoration and preservation of Philippine movies, an idea that was later adopted by ABS-CBN, a major media network in the Philippines.

In June 2019, ABS-CBN’s Sagip Pelikula (Save Our Film) program was recognized with a Gold Quill Award by the International Association of Business Communicators during its world conference in Vancouver.

Lucas holds a license from ABS-CBN to exhibit the three films.

“We’re talking about a profile of our culture, so we want to show that,” Lucas told the Straight by phone about the film festival.

Lucas also credited the late Mel Tobias for inspiring events like A Century of Filipino Films.

Lucas recalled that Tobias, author of the 1998 book 100 Acclaimed Tagalog Movies, started exhibiting Filipino films in Vancouver years ago.

“It’s a continuation of Mel’s [Tobias’] work,” Lucas said about the festival.

Tobias also inspired the 100 Filipino Films Series project, now being carried on by Leo Cunanan Jr. The project is also involved in the organizing of A Century of Filipino Films.

A media release for the festival recalls a quote from Tobias: “Films mirror the many and varied aspects of Philippine life; they are a window to my country, its people and myself.”

The Philippine Consulate General is instrumental in making the film festival possible for Vancouver audiences. The consulate’s assistance secured the venues for the exhibition.

Philippine Consul General Maria Austria said in the news release: “There is so much of our culture that we want to showcase in Canada—our shared values, our tradition, our scenic location, and the artistry and technical skills of Filipinos.”

“We hope to be able to raise the profile of the Filipinos, as well as remind Filipinos living in Canada of their heritage,” Austria also said.