The Forgotten Films of Cinemalaya

A look back at some of the Cinemalaya films that have sadly faded from memory

by Philbert Dy, art by Andrew Panopio

 

The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival has produced a lot of films, many of which have not found much of a life outside the confines of the festival. This is just how it goes. The movies that actually go on to be screened further in other venues are actually the outliers. For all of the success of the festival itself, it’s never quite been able to provide a sustainable, long term platform for its participants.

 

Even within its own walls, the festival doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in preserving awareness of its past.

 

There is no doubt that the festival has been the place to catch plenty of remarkable works from a plethora of talented filmmakers. But there is something to be said about the lack of access to a lot of these films now, about how poorly the legacy has been managed. How many of the best picture winners, for example, do people actually still have access to? If a person wanted to see Pepot Artista, where would he or she go? How about Last Supper No. 3? Or Tribu or Bwaya or Bisperas? And let’s not even get started on films that didn’t win the big prize.

 

 

With their absence, it can become difficult to even remember that some of these films even existed. Do people still remember Chris Martinez’s 100? Or has any memory of it been washed away by the director’s subsequent work? That film showed off a different side of the writer/director that hasn’t really been seen since, and it’s a shame that it isn’t really being seen anymore. There’s Dan Villegas’ directorial debut Mayohan, which shows off the filmmaker’s romantic instincts well before he scored his first mainstream hit. And let’s not forget that Mario O’Hara made his last film in Cinemalaya. Post-Heneral Luna, there’s a strong case to be made for revisiting his Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio. But its presence has hardly been felt since it was first screened all those years ago. And whatever discourse might have resulted from this renewed interest in our history just hasn’t happened.

 

 

This all points, of course, to a greater problem that involves all of our cinema. We are, after all, a cinema culture that really seemed to value the past. It isn’t just these old Cinemalaya films that we’re missing, but an entire history of films from a golden age. We left the treasures of our cinemas to rot away in bathrooms, never giving new generations of film enthusiasts even a chance to experience what made some of our national artists for film worthy of such honors.

 

But Cinemalaya began in a much better place to preserve its history. It is, after all, a festival built entirely on digital technology. It was always in a position to create something that could have kept its entire catalog relevant for much longer than the ten or so days that they take the CCP and a handful of cinemas around Metro Manila. But it’s never really seemed like much of a priority. It’s always about what’s new and what’s fresh. The festival’s “Retrospective” section this year is only screening Eduardo Roy, Jr.’s Pamilya Ordinaryo, Roderick Cabrido’s Tuos, and a handful of shorts from last year. Even within its own walls, the festival doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in preserving awareness of its past.

 

In all that, films slowly fade from memory. Do these films still sound familiar?: Brutus, Debosyon, Ang Nerseri, Aparisyon, Limbunan. They’re all Cinemalaya projects that merited some conversation back when they were first released. And now it doesn’t feel like they factor at all in the conversation about our cinema. In a nation seemingly so eager to forget, it might be good to try and hold on to some of our memories.