By: Reymundo Salao
For eleven years, the Cinema Rehiyon has become the Philippines’ most significant film festival. Spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Cinema Rehiyon is the film festival that celebrates, promotes, and elevates regional cinema. It removes the old way of thinking that Philippine Cinema is Manila-centric. The festival, as a whole, is Philippine cinema in its purest form; reflective of the diversity of cultures that our country is made of. And because of this, Cinema Rehiyon is where many new amazing filmmakers have come from. It seems that Commissioner for the Arts, and Chairman of the NCCA Cinema Committee and the founder of Cinema Rehiyon Teddy Co and the other pioneers who have, over time, built Cinema Rehiyon as it is right now, was correct in seeing the future of Philippine Cinema; One that is shaped and molded by Regional Cinema.
Because of Cinema Rehiyon, a filmmaker from the farthest regions of the Philippines, who may have felt neglected because of distance or lack of support, has now been given an opportunity to be recognized and be acknowledged in a national level. Cinema Rehiyon has empowered regional filmmakers, elevated his/her art, and given them the honor to represent Philippine Cinema as a whole.
Cinema Rehiyon 11 was held at beautiful Dumaguete City from February 25 to March 1, 2019. Juliet Cuizon was Festival Director for Cinema Rehiyon 11. Cuizon, along with the other filmmakers and supporters of Dumaguete’s Lutas Film Festival successfully pulled off what many agreed as one of the best editions of Cinema Rehiyon. Well-organized, impressive, and had that warmth of Visayan hospitality, Cinema Rehiyon 11 was positively remarkable and undeniably an enjoyable experience.
Region 6 Western Visayas is proudly represented by its delegates from the CineKasimanwa: The Western Visayas Film Festival and Sine Negrense: Negros Island Film Festival. On attendance is CineKasimanwa Festival directors Noel De Leon and I, Sine Negrense Festival Director Dr. Adrian Torres, and filmmaker delegates: Kyle Fermindoza (who directed “Babayi sa Bahura”), Kurt Soberano (who directed “Jameson”), Dennis Hubag ( who directed “Hila(u)was”), Mark Joseph Perez (“Guna”), Julius Dela Peña (“Sound Bytes”), Rovic Lopez (“Hagas sa Katalagman”), and Kat Sumagaysay and Richard Salvadico (“Katungdanan”). The delegates were warmly welcomed on Day One by NCCA Independent Cinema Sector Assistant Secretary and CineKasimanwa Festival founder Elvert Bañares. And the whole festival week they had the chance to meet peers and big names in the film industry as well.
The festivities kicked off with a parade of the Cinema Rehiyon delegates around the city, followed by Opening ceremonies at the Siliman University, with speeches from key officials, and fabulous dance performances. The opening film was “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” directed by Khavn De la Cruz, who graced the event as well. The festival proper which consists of workshops and screenings, kicked off with Direk Elvert Bañares who gave a very eye-opening and heartfelt talk about the works of Dumaguete’s pride, Filmmaker and National Artist Eddie Romero. CineKasimanwa co-festival Director Noel De Leon was one of the resource persons on the book launching about cultural economy of distribution in the Philippines, along with Teddy Co, Arbi Barbarona, Baby Ruth Villarama, and Michael Kho Lim. The entire festival consisted of several screenings of the delegate films, workshops, conferences and film talks. All effectively enriching the art and industry of Philippine Cinema, both educating and inspiring filmmakers across the regions. All the educational and scholastic stuff is further enhanced with the afterhours parties and get-togethers which also became venues to get to know colleagues, producers, film promoters, programmers, officials and teachers of cinema as well. No beer was wasted on ignorant conversations. It was all, in some way, for the love of cinema.
Along with the main lectures and workshops of Cinema Rehiyon, there was also the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ Film Industry Conference which consisted of several lectures as well. The workshop for Festival Directors held days ahead, the lectures on bridging regional filmmakers with the international market, and a lecture on film production and making a pitch. These events also paved the perfect opportunity to announce the various upcoming film labs that will further inspire regional filmmakers to bloom on. FDCP Chair Liza Diño’s nurturing support for regional cinema is indeed heartfelt and inspiring, especially for those who yearn to expand outside their regional comfort zones. There was also Dakila and Active Vista’s Pitching Workshop and Pitching Sessions which creates a bridge of opportunities between regional filmmakers and the country’s biggest and most active film production companies. Over the course of the session, major production companies have made production pledges worth millions to deserving and promising pitched projects.
The festival had a grand closing ceremony at Foundation University as it screened its closing film “The Passionate Strangers” by Eddie Romero, and the dinner and formal closing ceremonies that followed. And then came the literal passing of the torch, the announcement for the venue of the Cinema Rehiyon 12 which will be in Naga City on 2020. Hope to see you there!