The independent women of Cinemalaya

The Manila Bulletin
CCP press release
July 5, 2005

“The good thing about indepedent cinema is that it’s not a business. We don’t consider what we can get in return. Para siyang bisyo – napakamahal na bisyo. (It’s like a vice – a very expensive vice).”

This statement encapsulates the passion and commitment for filmmaking of six women who were hailed as finalists for the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition, slated July 12-17, at the CCP.

The six finalists — Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, Anna Isabelle “Sunshine” Matutina and Pamela Ann Miras (short film category), Rica Arevalo, Coreen “Monster” Jimenez and Michiko Yamamoto (full-length film category) — are an interesting combination of filmmakers comprised of both novices and experienced film connoisseurs.

Except for Pamela Ann Miras (Blood Bank) who took up film & audio visual communication in UP Diliman and Rica Arevalo (ICU Bed #7) who is a communication arts graduate from De La Salle University Manila, the other finalists don’t have any formal education on film-making.

Michiko Yamamoto (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros) is a mathematics major in computer science from the University of Santo Tomas, Sigrid Bernardo (Babae) holds a certificate in theater arts from UP Diliman and Anna Isabelle Matutina (Panaginipan), also from UP, has a degree in broadcast communication.

Each filmmaker tackled different issues that are sure to whet every filmbuff’s appetite – from family and marital problems, teen angst, to underground trade and homosexuality.

When asked how they came up with such concepts, most of them agreed that they want to create something that reflects Filipino culture.

For instance, Pamela considers the concept of selling blood for a living “very Pinoy.”

“It’s not something that is done in first-world countries. Blood is donated, it’s not something you sell,” Pamela notes.

Coreen Jimenez has the same “Pinoy” rationale behind the concept of “Bigtime,” a film collaboration with Mario Cornejo.

“It’s about hitting it big, and everyone, especially in the Philippines, wants to hit the big time. It’s very Pinoy, too!,” Coreen confirms. “Since its hard to climb that ladder (of success), you just want to make a quick buck,” she adds.

“I want to show the different faces of women, all about women and men who like to be women,” says Sigrid, the director of “Babae,” while Anna’s Panaginipan deals with teen problems, and Rica’s “ICU Bed #7” (her third script to win an award) are part and parcel of the Filipino psyche.

Such themes, which delve into the intricacies of modern-day Filipino culture, are rarely seen in mainstream movies nowadays.

Rica observes, “It [movie industry] has been dead for a long time, but there are always filmmakers na gagawa at gagawa ng pelikula.”

Even the film industry’s long dormancy period may have caused it some good. “Kailangan niya kasing mamatay para mabuhay ulit. Tingnan mo ngayon, ang dami nang lumalabas na bagong mas malalakas ang loob,” Anna explains.

“That’s why in Cinemalaya, we could write whatever we want to write without thinking who’s going to watch it,” Coreen adds.

This emergence of new filmmakers may also be attributed to new technology. With the availability of HD cams and digital video cameras, anyone can practically make his/her own film.

However, with easy access to new technology, there is a big possibility that independent film-making might graduate to a mere “trend.”

“Since a lot of people are doing that right now, sana hindi lang siya uso. Of course at the end of the day, it’s still your story, and that’s why independent cinema is what it is,” Pamela relates.

Having been given the chance to show their works to the public through the film festival, all of them hope that festivals such as this will continue to propagate indie filmmaking awareness and bring indie films closer to the grass roots.

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