VOX POPS: Relishing the old-world charm of the movies

Yakā, the venue of the recent Pasalidahay in Malaybalay, on normal nights. (Photo credit: Levi Manzano)

By April Rose Torion

 

MALAYBALAY CITY (BukidnonNews.net/ 20 February 2019)—No matter how the movies have evolved, especially with the rise of online streaming, the cinema will always have a certain charm.

But the Pasalidahay film showing on Saturday, Feb. 16, trumped that by bringing an old-world charm to the whole movie experience.

Missing the plush seats of movie theaters in nearby towns, the venue—a nipa hut restobar in the city—only has the bamboo floor. (True to its name Yakā which means “to sit on the ground.”) The diners-turned-audience assembled around low-lying tables and sat on straw mats, a couple of bean bags and a hanging rattan chair. As the night fell, the indie films projected on a portable screen illuminated the room.

While the films were played, there were occasional disruptions from a few folks milling around, or some loud side-comments, spoilers, and random laughter. When actors started smoking onscreen, there was also a waft of actual cigarette smoke, instantly turning the nipa hut into a 4D cinema.

PASALIDAHAY SA MALAYBALAY

  • Habi (Mary Ann Mamac Gabisan)
  • Mga Bitoon Sa Siyudad (Jarell Serencio)
  • Simulacrum (Arjay Toring)
  • Hindi Mo Naman Ako Iiwan, ‘Di Ba? (Gilb Baldoza)
  • Leonora Kilat (Mariya Lim)
  • Si Astri Maka Si Tambulah (Xeph Suarez)
  • Alibungan (Matthew Piodena)
  • Ang Wa Damhang Importansya Sa Teleserye (Rodiell Veloso)

But these only enhanced the films’ organic storytelling.

It was easy to imagine that the filmmakers were there telling us “This is what happens when you’re a gay Badjao forced to marry a girl…” or “Remember the Roxas Night Market bombing?” or “Let’s discuss Baudrillard and the current state of Philippine politics. But you have to see this first…” or “You know how f*cked up teleserye-making is?”

This movie experience transported us back to a time when people sit around a fire to tell stories, some of which eventually formed part of our identity, culture, and collective memory.

As society evolved, the cinema tried to reproduce the campfire storytelling. The projector replaced the fire, and the stories were distilled into genres of action, romance, comedy, drama.

Sadly, the movies lost the organic quality of the campfire stories when it focused more on moneymaking rather than on storytelling. Production companies use formulas to ensure earnings and so year after year, we get the same repackaged narratives while the stories that badly needed telling were put to the backburner.

Sure, we now have the maindies—indie-style storytelling with big studio budget—and we now have Cinemalaya and a few regional festivals that showcase independent films. But are these enough to sustain our filmmakers?

In an online “plea for help,” Erik Matti, the director who gave us On the Job (2013) and BuyBust (2018), lamented the dire situation of the Philippine film industry.

No one gets to see the movies we make except for the sporadic mega hits,” he said.

ONSCREEN: Si Astri Maka Si Tambulah by Xeph Suarez. (Photo courtesy of Pasalidahay)

 

Many indie films don’t get nationwide screenings unless they have received international accolades. This begs the question: Do our indie films have to screen abroad in order to spark local interest?

The industry players blame the audience who pay for formulas or prefer Hollywoodesque production. Ginusto nyo yan, eh, they’d say. But are they the only ones to blame? If the stories we tell ourselves shape our identity, culture, and collective memory, why aren’t we more alarmed that we know so little?

Jay Rosas, a co-founder of Pasalidahay, the Davao-based group of filmmakers and enthusiasts who initiated last Saturday’s screening, mulled on this problem. “We keep telling people to watch indie films but we do not provide an avenue for them,” he said.

This is why Pasalidahay’s initiative, that of showing indie films around Mindanao for free, is much appreciated. Supported by NCCA’s Cinema Rehiyon, they have been going around since 2015.

Their next stop is at the MSU-IIT in Iligan on February 20 to 21. To those who are there, watch and be charmed.

 

(VOX POPS is the opinion column of April Rose Torion, the associate editor of BukidnonNews.net. Reach her via artorion@ymail.com.)