AGRICULTURE gives life to the country. Honoring this reality involves a festival where passionate individuals can share their exceptional skills in filmmaking.
But just like narratives on a silver screen, ways of presenting issues related to agriculture and the communities that practice it (whether traditional or modern) are as diverse as the crops that can grow and bear abundant harvest on a fertile field.
This year’s ToFarm Film Festival features seven full-length feature films that “showcase the lives, journeys, trials and triumphs of the Filipino farmer.” These will be shown in selected cinemas across the country from September 12 to 18.
With the theme, “A Tribute to Life: Parating Na”, ToFarm is among the many film festivals in the Philippines that bears advocacy, and one of the handful that magnifies issues about agriculture.
For Julienne Anne Ilagan, a filmmaker who hails from Cagayan de Oro City, agriculture takes its root from the indigenous communities.
Way of Life
Ilagan’s first full-length feature, entitled “Kauyagan,” is one of this year’s finalists for the film festival. Regarded as a tribal drama, the film centers on the narrative of a Talaandig datu-presumptive, his ordeal to achieve his place in life, and his destiny of leading his people.
Talaandig is one of the many original tribes nestled on the verdant landscape of Bukidnon. Just like many indigenous communities in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, they struggle to keep their identity in modern times and their sovereignty over their ancestral domains amidst the villainy of corporate land-grabbing.
“The story of Kauyagan is about our Mindanao tribes and their struggle not just for justice and education, but most importantly for food security,” Ilagan shared. Kauyagan means “way of life” in the Talaandig language.
Ilagan, whose previous short films were recipients to the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts’ Cinemagis: Digital Short Film Festival in Northern Mindanao, admitted that she had been inspired to craft this narrative after collaborating with XCCA director Hobar Savior last year for a music video featuring the legacy, realities, and aspirations of the IPs.
“I was fortunate enough to be part of an [advocacy] music video project directed by Hobart Savior,” she said. “The story of Kauyagan is the story of our IP brothers and sisters as I saw their humanity beyond the colorful tribal attires or their artworks.”
From that project, she learned about the injustices imposed against the IPs and how they continue to struggle to preserve their culture and traditions.
This ideal encouraged her to craft the narrative centered on their communities and reflect their plight. She decided to submit the screenplay to the ToFarm selection committee earlier this year, and once she received the news about her entry’s inclusion, she eventually began directing the film, conducting principal photography in Bukidnon and CDO. The film festival provided the funds.
Kauyagan was completed in August, and, like the rest of the entries in this year’s ToFarm, will be shown in Trinoma, Greenbelt 1, Gateway, SM Megamall, SM Manila, Robinsons Galleria, Gaisano Davao, and Ayala Mall Legazpi, among other theatrical venues.
Although based in CDO, the filmmaker expressed the importance of solidarity with the marginalized. “I strongly believe that the indigenous people of our country are the real Filipinos who have remained steadfast in keeping their identity as a people,” she opined. “We as outsiders should learn from them.”
First female filmmaker from Mindanao
In ToFarm Film Festival’s three-year history, Ilagan is the first female filmmaker from Mindanao whose entry was chosen as the finalist, as well as the only filmmaker from CDO to participate this year.
Having been mentored by previous finalist, Camiguin-based filmmaker Vic Acedillo, Ilagan considers this film her most challenging and memorable as of present.
“Kauyagan showed me the realities of how it is to really be a filmmaker,” she shared. “It’s about a whole lot of hard work.”
As the film represents the IP identity and narrative, she collaborated with music artists Bayang Barrios, Jeff Bringas, and Waway Saway among the cast members who trace their roots in Mindanao and Lumad heritage.
The film is also intended as a musical, with stellar musicians depicting empowering roles.
Looking forward to her film’s nationwide release and the response it would receive from viewers all over the Philippines, Ilagan hopes that her craft will help people understand the issues concerning the IPs and how these should be addressed collectively.
Dedicated to her passion in filmmaking, Ilagan implied, “This is a calling.”
Just as IP’s in many heritage sites in the country retain their culture and traditions, agriculture remains a way of life for many communities - a reality which feeds many. (By Angelo Lorenzo)