A Compassionate Lucidity
Student Films from Today’s Philippines
by Patrick Campos

Works by student filmmakers constitute a continuous line in Filipino film history while they also catalog the ruptures and forking trajectories of this history. They are copious and everywhere in daring forms in the archipelago and yet exist at the margins of mass imagination. Recognizing this paradox, one can appreciate how such films are seeds that bloom and transform cinema across a stretch of time.

Despite the pandemic, the past year has been no different, no less prolific, and certainly no less audacious for student filmmaking. However, as this program of eight films from 2021 and 2022 testifies, the stubbornly faithful act of calling into being a new cinema has also been a defiantly hopeful challenge to transform society itself.

From a very particular situation of untetheredness and commitment, the films experiment with varied techniques of documentation, animation, and narration and turn to allegory, mythology, and ritual to find a line that cuts through the noise of disinformation and rabid polarization and reveal what matters most urgently.

Their moving images hold up a mirror to the contemporary Filipino youth’s distress, yes. But they are no mere reflections; with the compassionate lucidity and vulnerable courage of the young, they propose to reconstitute the real of history. By unveiling and then reshaping images received from their elders, opaque but purporting to be transparent, they design to reshape their immediate world.

Though anguished and mournful, these student filmmakers, one quickly realizes, are not weary. While history is brazenly distorted by the power structure exploiting cinema, they utilize film outside the trite and tired as an artistic and political engine for change, recovering lost time, marking the passing of time, and biding time for tomorrow.

The films will be available to watch from 1–3 September 2022 via online platform Eventive. Click the button below to register, then you'll get a confirmation email. Also join the discussion session with the guest programmer Patrick Campos and some of the filmmakers on Thursday, September 1st at 6.30 pm (GMT +7) via ZOOM, moderated by Gayatri Nadya.

Shayla Perales & Mae Tanagon / 2021 / Experimental Animation / RT: 5:17

Bright tropical fruits offer a vivid picture of how a virus spreads, symptoms of internal rotting spiral into disease when left unattended, inoculation works, and cures that may appear threatening heal. A stop-motion animation of when the rambutan realizes its power, the dance of nature, an allegory for our times.

LUMALABAS (Going Out Inside)
Mico Tagulalac / 2022 / Experimental / RT: 6:44

Capturing the anxiety of cabin fever during the pandemic lockdown and expressing our innate desire for freedom, the film projects a shadow exploring the outdoors via photographs while indoors. As images of mobility and openness are cast in a negative light by an inutile government, the shadow’s interaction with the screen triggers an internal doubt about external reality. The film experiments with and documents two spaces, one’s interior and social exteriors, to present a journey of recollection and reconnection amid difficult times.

SI BIBOY KAG ANG SIGBIN SA SIUDAD (Biboy and the Sigbin in the City)
Hannah Britanico / 2022 / Animated Narrative / RT: 9:14

Biboy’s innocent world turns upside down when his father disappears. According to his mother, a sigbin, a blood-sucking goat-like mythological creature, abducted his father, compelling his young son to search for him. In his rescue mission, he meets other kids whose family members were also taken by the sigbin. Despite the dangers, the boy perseveres until he uncovers the sinister identity of the creature and the horrors during Duterte’s presidency that engulf the city at night.

Maricon Montajes / 2021 / Documentary / RT: 26:12

Activist Reina Mae Nasino was a month pregnant when Manila’s police arrested her on trumped-up charges. She endured in one of the world’s most crowded prisons and gave birth to Baby River Emmanuel while in detention. With the government denying the infant care from her mother, Baby River died at three months old. The film reactivates social media as a repository and expression of outrage and resistance and culls from the film collective Kodao’s Facebook Live coverage of Baby River’s wake and burial. Amid the pandemic, a dead infant becomes a symbol of political oppression by the Duterte regime, denounced worldwide for its human rights crimes.

HINDI KA MALAYA, MAHABA LANG ANG TANIKALA (You’re Not Free, The Chains Are Just Long)
Nic Garon & Lica Oreiro / 2021 / Experimental Documentary / RT: 3:06

Assembling archival travelogue and found news footage, this documentary juxtaposes how the privileged and the outsiders looking in peddle a postcard-perfect Philippines while the underclass and people from the grassroots experience the grim reality of everyday violence. The montage of images from different periods evokes the feeling of being trapped in a vicious cycle, the country itself a victim of endless historical repetition, and the desire to break free of one’s chains.

LINGKIS (Coiling)
Yvonne Salazar & Sita Valenzuela / 2021 / Experimental Documentary / RT: 14:48

Once upon a time, the mythological moon-eating Bakunawa, a serpent-like creature, which in the film symbolizes the tyrannous state and power-hungry politicians, poisoned Philippine society, ravaging the country with wanton killings and wretched corruption. A mother narrates how the people took their torches and decided to fight back and drive the Bakunawa away—but warns that the monster can return in different guises. In this hybrid documentary, we follow the stories of two activists: Tina Montiel, a Martial Law activist whose husband fought against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and was arrested, and Lean Porquia, an activist whose father was killed at the hands of the Duterte administration.

PANUBADTUBAD (The Sunrise Ritual)
Alexis Noelle Obedencio / 2022 / Animated Documentary / RT: 8:11

The Lumad, or Indigenous Peoples, have long faced oppression by state forces in collusion with predatory capitalists, who displace the natives by militarizing their ancestral domains, closing down the schools that teach them not only to read but to fight for their land, dispossessing them of their natural and sacred resources, and threatening to exterminate them. This animated documentary is centered on a Catholic Manobo teacher from Surigao del Sur, who remembers the darkest night of her life at the brutal hands of the military and recalls her fondest memories and dreams for the future of her Lumad school and her students, struggling to make their way back home.

ANG MGA SISIW SA KAGUBATAN (The Chicks in the Forest)
Vahn Pascual / 2021 / Animated Narrative / RT: 4:06

A children’s tale of a town under siege by a hungry monster who is never satisfied and a little chick who will no longer be cowed. This animated short is a reminder that when we forget as children, we fail to remember as adults. But when the young plant seeds of remembrance, they transform the future of their community.

About the Guest Programmer

Patrick F. Campos is a Filipino film scholar, programmer, and associate professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute and a member of NETPAC. Author of books and essays on Philippine and regional cinemas, he wrote The End of National Cinema: Filipino Film at the Turn of the Century (2016), co-wrote Scenes Reclaimed (2020), and edited and contributed to the special issues “Southeast Asian Horror Cinemas” for Plaridel, “The Politics of Religion in Southeast Asian Cinemas” for Situations, and “Contemporary Philippine Cinema” for Art Archive.

Along with regional cinema scholars, he co-organizes the itinerant biennial Association of Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference, for which he curated Cinematic Counter-Cartographies. He has programmed, juried, or served as a selection committee member for Guanajuato International Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, QCinema International Film Festival, Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, Cinema One Originals, Image Forum, Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, Asian Film Archive, Minikino, SeaShorts, Cinema Rehiyon, and Gawad Urian.

Currently, he edits Pelikula: A Journal of Philippine Cinema and curates the annual TINGIN Southeast Asian Film Festival in Manila.