Thursday July 19, 2018

Velez: Of confetti, bombs and a film about Lumads amidst war

CONFETTI rained on stage as we received an unexpected award for Best Picture in Sinag Maynila Film Festival 2017 for our film Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill), a story of a Lumad couple facing a nightmarish ordeal from the military that tore their family apart.

Those splashes of red and other hues showered us, director Arbi Barbarona, cast and crew members including me, and overwhelmed us for how this film has brought us to this point.

Here we are, facing the applause of other filmmakers, actors and crew in this festival, approving members of the jury like film critic Max Tessier, film blogger Ogs Cruz and FDCP Chair Liza Diño-Seguerra and the festival founders director Brillante Mendoza and Solar Entertainment's Wilson Tieng.

This movie started with Arbi, who was inspired after meeting Ubonay, a Manobo from Talaingod who told of her plight of being held captive by soldiers, humiliated and stripped and forced to guide soldiers in their operations against guerrillas. That narration struck Arbi to make a movie based on that experience, and wove it with other experiences of the Lumad like their land stripped by mining and soldiers preying on the Lumads.

The film was shot in the middle of last year in the outskirts in Buda, and took us awhile for post-production, but we were able to make it into Sinag Maynila as the final entry.

Prior to that, we premiered the film at Cinematheque Davao on March 7 and 8, in time for International Women's Day and the commemoration of the Philippine Mining Act (March 3), and we received praise from the audience of religious leaders, environment advocates and Davao film community.

That was an uplifting moment for us as we headed to Sinag Maynila, like Lumads and Mindanao folks lost in the big city of bright lights and traffic. But we found our way to audiences and the film community there.

We are more surprised to receive recognition for best director and best cinematography (with Brian Jimenez) and best music for Arbi, for first-time actress Malona Sulatan as Best Actress, and for best screenplay for award-winning Arnel Mardoquio.

This movie Tu Pug Imatuy is, as one film blogger Stephanie Mayo describes as, a raw beauty in which the mountains speak of the beauty and tragedy in our lands in Mindanao.

This is a movie, as Arbi said, would make people see the story of Mindanao. A story of how Lumads are being treated as second-rate citizens and the effects of a war that steals their land and destroys their culture and future. We have to see Lumads as protectors of our remaining forests and rivers, and pride of our culture and heritage that describes who we are as Filipinos.

We received these awards amidst news of danger in Mindanao. Datu Mintroso Malibato, who played the role of the Ddatu in the movie, still remains in the evacuation sanctuary with his community in UCCP Haran. We hear news of lumad, Moro and farmer communities in Asuncion, Mabiini and Datu Saudi being bombed by the Armed Forces that is displacing thousands.

The hail of bombs in the Lumad areas may drown the rain of confetti. But we know that movies and art speak of the voice of the Lumads and the people in Mindanao, and may this and our movements silence the guns and bombs and make our voice for peace ring true.