THE ToFarm Film Festival now on its third year is perhaps the country’s only advocacy-driven film festival.

A brainchild of Dr. Milagros O. How, president and CEO of Universal Harvester Inc., ToFarm’s entries show the lives and journeys of Filipino farmers and their families living in the agricultural countryside.

This year’s ToFarm has six entries; one of these films is an entry by Cagayan de Oro filmmaker Julienne Ilagan.

Her film “Kauyagan” (Way of Life) is a story about a reluctant future leader of a Talaandig indigenous community. The film stars performer Bayang Barrios and Jeff Bringas. The film’s crew includes Chris Duco, a Davao City filmmaker, Kauyagan’s Director of Photography (DOP).

We caught up with Julienne and asked her about Kauyagan and her journey to the craft of filmmaking.

Durian Central: "Kauyagan" is your first full-length film, how did you start with filmmaking?

Julienne: I started filmmaking roughly three years ago. I’ve been writing stories and poetry ever since I learned how to read and write. When I was 4 to 5 years old I would just draw stick figures on paper and create stories, other times my dolls would be victims of my imagination. My mom always knew from Day 1 that I would become a writer. I was just shy to share my stories and poetry because I was afraid to be labeled as weird.

Then I met Joe Bacus and Rusty Quintana, I took the opportunity to apply in their film production. Thru Joe I met Teng Mangansakan, They encouraged me to apply for a scholarship in the first Mindanao Screen Lab of Salamindanaw Film Festival. Then one thing led to another. I made my first short film Balot, Penoy, Asin and submitted it to Cinemagis Film Festival in Cagyan de Oro where it won several awards last year.

DC: Tell me how was the process in creating the story of Kauyagan?

Julienne: Kauyagan took me a year to conceptualize. I was fortunate enough to make friends with different tribes in Mindanao. I gathered what I experienced with them and created a story in time for ToFarm. I was shortlisted but didn’t make the cut but when a finalist backed out, I was able to make the cut. It was a month more or less after the finalists were announced so time was against me.

Afterwards it was a series of consultations with the Talaandig community through Datu Migketay Saway and Datu Saway Saway, I had to revise the story so it would be according to the culture of the community. I had to go through several rituals asking the spirits of their ancestors to give me the inspiration and thankfully they did.

DC: How was working with the crew made up of film people from across Mindanao?

Julienne: Working with a young crew was a challenge. We not only had to deal with inexperienced but also had to respect the beliefs of the community, it was an unconventional set-up. There were lots of challenges luckily I had a lot of help from Mindanaoan filmmakers like Arbi Barbarona and Sir Perry Dizon.

DC: What do you want people to see in your film Kauyagan?

Julienne: I am hoping that people will see how Indigenous Peoples are more than just colorful costumes or beautiful artworks. They are a big family who are struggling to survive and that their leadership is appointed to help the community. They are a people who only want to preserve their way of life and their land. They are farmers who cultivate and protect the land not to become rich but to survive. Many of the tribes in Mindanao are hungry. Their plight needs to be addressed.

Julienne’s film “Kauyagan” (Way of Life) and the five other entries in the ToFarm Film Festival were shown nationwide from September 12 to 18. The Davao ToFarm screening is at the Cinema 6 Gaisano Mall of Davao.