Mindanao Filmmaking: Beyond the Horizon

Pasuon (short film, Nabunturan)

The growth particularly the increase in the number of films and film festivals in Mindanao is a no longer an ominous sign but rather a stamp that the artistic movement has established a firm foothold and hopefully it would realize into a full-blown film industry.

Take for example the Mindanao Film Festival which I had headed since 2012. Three years back in my first foray as festival director we had 34 short films featured as entries, the following year we had 55 films then last year MFF screened about 70 films.

Most of the films are coming from other provinces and regions, for example Nabunturan, Socksargen (South Cotabato, Koronadal, Sarangani and General Santos), Northern Mindanao and Zamboanga filmmakers have made it a point to have their annual December pilgrimage to Davao City to have their films featured at the mecca of Mindanao filmmaking -Gaisano Mall Cinema 6.

Apasol (short film, Zamboanga City)

Aside from MFF we had a number of younger film festivals organized in the regions. We had Cinemagis in Cagayan de Oro, CineMo in Iligan City, Nabunturan Independent Film Exhibition or Nabifilmex in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley Province, Salamindanaw International Film Festival  and the Lantawan Socksargen  Film Festival in Socksargen.  I am hoping that Zamboanga or Western Mindanao who also have an active filmmaking movement could organize their own film festival in that part of Mindanao.

The presence of these film festivals augurs well for these filmmakers as it provides more venues for them to show their films and expand their audience. For example Joe Bacus from Cagayan de Oro has entered his short film The End of War in the Mindanao Film Festival, The Nabifilmex, and Salamindanaw where it won the Gold Durian Prize for Best Mindanao Short Film.

BTS "The End of War" (short film, Cagayan de Oro)

Same with films from Nabunturan like Nilusak which are also entered in the MFF and the Lantawan film festival.

In 2014, we were tapped by the Mindanao Development Authority to create an international film festival focusing on the BIMP-EAGA countries (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area), it was to be timed for the BIMP-EAGA  IMT-GT (Indonesia Malaysia Thailand Growth Triangle) Trade Fair and Business Leaders Conference held in Davao City.

We came up with the first East Asean Film Festival (EAFF) held at the Cinematheque Davao, the small film festival was participated by films from Mindanao, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei,  border regions which also had a thriving regional filmmaking movements. There are plans of holding the second EAFF in Kota Kinabalu with our Sabahan counterparts initiating the move.

Salamindanaw International Film Festival also featured 11 Asian short films in its Asian Shorts Competition. With the exception of a short film from India most of the films entered are from Southeast Asia. The city of Makkasar in Sulawesi was represented in the film festival held in General Santos City.

Singapore based online-based film portal Viddsee has also shown interest in partnering with Mindanaoan filmmakers it recently featured the MFF Best Film winner “Pasuon” in its site.

The recent initiatives of overseas linkages particularly the neighboring filmmaking movements in the fringes of Indonesia and Malaysia will definitely be a game changer, this will be a beginning of a dream for an intra-Asean cinema, Mindanao audiences will get to watch a short film from Malaysia and Indonesian audience will get to watch a film from Nabifilmex or Cinemagis.

These are indeed exciting times for the Mindanao filmmaker.


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