Indie Filmmakers Counter the Flow in Festival

Notwithstanding “X” ratings, organizers of the Kontra-Agos Resistance Film Festival struggled and won the fight for bringing films that dare to make a difference in this country full of indifference.

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 44, December 9-15, 2007

Notwithstanding “X” ratings, organizers of the Kontra-Agos Resistance Film Festival struggled and won the fight for bringing films that dare to make a difference in this country full of indifference.

MANDALUYONG CITY, PHILIPPINES—It is not easy for them to fight the status quo outright, and, they say, neither do they want their “propaganda” against government’s impunity on gross human rights violations to sound like “ordinary propaganda.”

That is why Sunshine Matutina and Kiri Dalena, the main organizers of Kontra-Agos Resistance Film Festival 2007 showed resistance against injustices and oppression perpetrated by the government through films that are “radical,” in one way or another.

“We initially thought of putting up a human rights film festival but we want it to be really different, this time. I guess, the other factor is because of the escalating human rights violations, you don’t want [to simply condemn] but to convey the message “Resist!”, that there is a resistance, that there is action talaga (really) from the masses,” explains Sunshine Matutina, one of the organizers of the festival which run from December 5 to 11 at the Robinson’s Galleria Indie-Sine, about the concept of Kontra-Agos.

Matutina once tasted the bitter pill of censorship by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) when Rights, a compilation of public service announcements that show the real human rights situation in the Philippines, was given an “X” rating by the board for allegedly sowing distrust in the government a few months ago.

“You want to break the rules, you want to break the status quo, to change the government, something like that. So, we wanted to showcase films that highlight human rights violations. Aside from that, we want also to show those [films] that are critical with the government,” Matutina said.

Subversive enough

Some full-length films (local and foreign), a couple of shorts, and the a film slide produced by Desaparecidos and the Free Jonas Burgos Movement (FJBM) were shown and true to what the flyers and teasers of the festival said, the films that were showcased in Kontra-Agos are subversive enough to really shake the government.

It is because of their explicitly anti-Arroyo content, it is believed, that the films A Day in the Life of Gloria Arrovo and Mendiola were totally banned from the screening. The two films were appealed for before the MTRCB, on Dec. 3 or two days before the opening of the festival, but the MTRCB stood firm on its first decision to ban the films.

Meanwhile, the 16-minute documentary film Bingo by Noriel Jarito was given an “X” rating at first, but the MTRCB later lowered the rating to “PG-13.”

A do-it-yourself film festival, a meeting of “North and South”

According to Matutina, the festival is really a do-it-yourself festival—from soliciting the films from film-maker friends, setting up the venue, and even asking for donations just to make the whole event possible.

“The film-makers even shared money coming from their own pockets. Just like me, I have already spent an amount (equivalent to what) I am expecting (to) receive this Christmas,” she said with a hearty laugh.

Besides this, the organizers have decided to move away from the “center” (Metro-Manila) and gave way to films that were made by Visayan and Mindanaoan artists and film-makers.

Two of the Mindanaoan films shown in the festival were Adjani Guerrero Arumpac’s Walai (Home), Teng Mangasakan’s The Jihadist, and Herbert Docena and Matutina’s Unconventional Warfare.

Arumpac’s Walai is an intimate film, showing the lives of four Muslim women and how their lives evolve in the legendary “White House” owned by a formerly powerful man; while Unconventional Warfare narrates the alleged involvement of U.S. troops in the war happening in Mindanao.

The Jihadist is an authobiographical documentary of Mangansakan that tackles his being Moro and at the same time a homosexual. Homosexuality is a taboo in Islam.

On the other hand, Standing Up by Waise Azimi showed the course of training undergone by Afghan men in order to become members of the Afghan National Army. It exploited the reality about the U.S. war of terror, which started after the tragic Sept.11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center Tower in New York City.

Papa 2 and Naga Story: The Other Side of Silence, documentaries from India, depict the realities happening in modern India like human rights abuses, the struggle of its people for the preservation of identity, and the story of the quest for justice and peace, especially for those victims of enforced disappearances and torture.

A festival of hopes

Matutina, having her fingers crossed, hopes that the festival will eventually be a yearly event.

“We hope that next year, we will have more sponsors so that we could continuously counter the flow,” she said smiling.

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