WHENEVER we hear the term "film festivals," what comes to mind is the instant visual of the Sundance or Tribeca film fests. Or Cinemalaya films which recently opened into helping independent filmmakers in the Philippines in 2005.

In a country where a brood of potential, growing artists are making themselves known, independent films have become an apparent reason why a lot of Filipinos have somehow digressed from the commercial films today.

Driving into the local scene, 13 filmmakers from Northern Mindanao came into refuge under the 6th Cinemagis Digital Short Film Festival which brought the house down with their recent event-ender last January 25 at the SM Event Center.

For six years, Cinemagis has been changing concepts year by year to achieve one unparalleled festival.

Hobart Savior, the director of Xavier Center for Culture and Arts (XCCA) and who spearheaded the film festival, said, “What makes it different this year from the previous years is that there has been a growing number of participants and entries.”

The short film festival had two categories – the student category with eight entries and five for the professional category.

All films were aired both at the Xavier University Little Theater (XULT) and SM Cinema 3 from January 24 to 25.

Through the aperture

Most indie films have always been a realistic reflection of the social issues emerging today such as rape, violence, religious differences, abduction, corruption among others.

Entries of the film festival have never failed to inculcate such issues into the viewers' mind.

Add up the dope twist of plots, thrilling character developments and artistic camera angles, the public who watched them were fueled with adrenaline.

Belonging to the student category were ‘Binibining Kanser’ by JS Legara; ‘Kaon Ta’ by Richard Caberte; ‘Lugos’ by Christine Pulgo; ‘The Perfect Girl’ by Janine Banday; ‘Perla’ by Angel Borres; ‘Unawa’ by Krystell Magallanes; ‘Wa Na’ko Nakita’ by Eastine Taneo; and ‘Ceasefire’ by Jamela Bato.

‘Estrella’ by Mark Amoguis; ‘Hello’ by Kevin Surposa; ‘Ika III Putahi’ by Joe Bacus; ‘Panamilit’ by Tat Soriano; and ‘Lugdang’ by Grey-Em Erezo competed under the professional category.

Three films were also featured with special citation, ‘Backwash’ by Jose Sendaydiego; ‘Walang Katapusang Adlaw’ by Glenn Doromal and ‘Street Vendors’ by Joi Gacayan.

Trailers of the film entries were seen at the opening of the film festival at the XULT on January 23.

‘Crossfire,’ a film on civilians dealing with the conflict in Claveria, Misamis Oriental was directed by two-time Grand Prize Palanca awardee, Arnel Mordoquio. It was premiered at the end of the program.

For film enthusiasts, amateur filmmakers and the like, Cinemagis offered a free Guerilla Film Making Crash Course at XULT on January 24 – 25 which was attended by different people not only from the venue host’s students.

Hailing the bests

Just like any other competition, one will always stand out among the nominees.

‘Ika III Putahi,’ a psycho-thriller focused on what one is capable of doing for an unrequited love, under the professional category bagged seven awards: Best Short Film, Best Art Direction, Best Story, Best Editing, Best Sound Scoring, Best Director for Joe Bacus and Best Actor for Rusty Quintana.

‘Lugdang’ garnered the 2nd Best Short Film award, Best Cinematography and Best Actress for Kris Gebe. The film also received the Special Jury Award for Social Responsibility on Climate Change for the story revolved on the Sendong’s aftermath.

‘Hello’ landed on the 3rd spot. The film was about how the protagonist deals with the past.

‘Panamilit’ won the Best Poster.

As for the Student Category, ‘Wa Na’Ko Nakita’ won the Best Student Short Film, Best Story, Best Director for Eastine Taneo and Best Actor for Ray Anthony Vaclares.

‘Kaon Ta,’ a story that revolves around cannibalism, won the 2nd Best Student Short Film, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Editing.

The musical, ‘The Perfect Girl,’ landed on a 3rd place for the Best Student Short Film.

Wearing all-red, Jocell Sedigo won the Best Actress award in ‘Binibining Kanser.’

Abnkkbsnplako?-like trailer of Angel Borres’s ‘Perla’ won the Best Trailer.

Cinemagis also awarded to three Stars of the Night, Tracy Dy of ‘Perfect Girl,’ Rhea Arroyo of ‘Panamilit’ and Alger Macud of ‘Lugos.’

In an interview with Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro, Joe Bacus, hailed as the Best Director for ‘Ika III Putahi,’ said, “Keep on watch of quality films sa mga masters and study them. If naa sila cameras practice na gyud sila ug shoot. That’s a cheaper form of film schooling. And try to be original as much as possible kay daghan pa stories na wala pa ma share.”

Next frame

After the regional film festival is the national competition called Cinema Rehiyon 6 where different filmmakers all over the Philippines will gather.

Next stop of the national film festival is in Cagayan de Oro in February in time for the National Arts Month (NAM).

XCCA will host the event and is organized by the National Commission for Cultural and Arts.

Winners of the 6th Cinemagis Digital Short Film Festival like ‘Wa Na’Ko Nakita,’ ‘Unawa,’ ‘The Perfect Girl,’ ‘Kaon Ta,’ ‘Lugdang,’ ‘Ika III Putahi’ with ‘Diskonek’ from Butuan and ‘Ang Walay Kahumanang Adlaw’ will represent Northern Mindanao in the nationals.

“We are so excited to finally join the regional filmmakers all over sa Pinas. Excited na sad mi to see other works from Luzon and Visayas and ma-meet sila tanan diri sa Cagayan de Oro,” Bacus said.

XCCA is not only preparing for the Cinema Rehiyon 6 but also for the summer workshop on film production and screenplay writing that will be held at Xavier University.

The workshop is aimed at tapping the undiscovered talents of the local artists in the region. (Alyssa Rikka C. Clenuar/MUST Intern)