November 2, 2015

we're three years old.

It's that time of year once again. 

SalaMindanaw International Film Festival is on its third year. It will be organized from November 18 to December 2, 2015 in the cities of General Santos and Cotabato, Southern Philippines.

The Festival will open with an exhibit at SM City Gensan on November 18 called Fluid Boundaries – Bridging Central Mindanao and Southeast Asia Through Cinema which shall feature a photo exhibit of films made in Central Mindanao in the last ten years as well as in neighboring Southeast Asian countries that share common images and issues forming a unique film iconography and discourse. The exhibit is co-presented by the Department of Tourism XII.

Six films will vie in the Festival’s Asian full-length competition. These are Chasing Waves (Charliebebs Gohetia, Philippines), Under Construction (Rubaiyat Hossain, Bangladesh), Jalanan (Daniel Ziv, Indonesia), Snakeskin (Daniel Hui, Singapore), River of Exploding Durians (Edmund Yeo, Malaysia) and Crescent Moon (Ismail Basbeth, Indonesia).

Meanwhile, seven films will compete in the Asian short film section. These are Elegy (Yousef Kargar, Iran), When The Boats Come In (Khin Maung Kyaw, Myanmar), Man in The Cinema House (Bernard Jay Mercado, Philippines), The Cat and The Orange Seeds (Nguyen Le Hoang Viet, Vietnam),  November (Shane Lim, Singapore), Following Diana (Kamila Andini, Indonesia) and The Young Man Who Came From The Chee River (Wichanon Somumjarn, Thailand).

With the exception of Bangladesh and Iran, all films in the line up are from Southeast Asia.

On our third year, the Festival’s programming is closer the vision of SalaMindanaw, which is to make the Festival a platform for Southeast Asian cinema.

This year (2015) marks the start of ASEAN Integration. General Santos and Cotabato are strategic locations for regional cinemas across the east ASEAN region due to its proximity to other regional film hubs such as Davao and Zamboanga in the Philippines, and Palu and Makassar in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Cotabato is also the seat of the regional government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Cinema can bridge Southeast Asia and bring its people closer.

SalaMindanaw is also organizing the inaugural Mindanao Screen Lab this year. In partnership with forumZFD, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Mindanao State University Gensan – Graduate School, the Screen Lab is designed as an intensive learning program that provides emerging Mindanao filmmakers hands on training as well as project development sessions that will transform ideas into films. Aside from skills development, the Screen Lab is also aimed at developing young filmmakers who can serve as ambassadors of peace and cultural diversity by instilling a critical appreciation of the issues and challenges to peace in Mindanao. Mentors include award winning Filipino filmmakers John Torres and Sherad Anthony Sanchez and Singaporean auteur Kan Lume.

SalaMindanaw is the first and only international film festival in Mindanao. It is organized by the Mindanao Center for the Cinematographic Arts (Mindanao Cinematografica).

September 13, 2015

remembering david foster wallace

Photo grabbed from Brain Pickings.
David Foster Wallace died seven years ago. I was in Iowa when he died. I attended a memorial reading organized by writers. I wrote of the event:

"I just got back from a reading which should have been sponsored by Prozac or Remeron. It was so gloomy. A tribute for writer David Foster Wallace who committed suicide recently. It got me thinking. Shouldn't a tribute be a celebration of one's achievements? Foster flouted a lot of writing conventions. He inspired an army of young writers. He will be remembered for his rich contribution to contemporary literature.

I don't know if I should put the blame on the full moon but the reading turned out to be a convention on suicide. Romanticizing how to end one's life, mapping out the infinite possibilities of the afterlife, and in really practical terms, the different ways to kill oneself painlessly. The writers canonized Wallace the patron saint of 00's melancholia. Kurt Cobain had his glory days in the 1990's.

Honestly I was expecting a giant fishbowl of antidepressants to be passed around. But I left early. I just couldn't bear it. If they did pass around the blue and white capsules, I was just not there to get my share." 


September 4, 2015

new book

After eight long years, my new book will be out September 15.

Rays of the Invisible Light - Collected Works by Young Moro Writers features the works Mohammad Nassefh Macla, Sahara Alia Silongan, Kristine Ong Muslim, Arifah Macacua Jamil, Diandra-Ditma Macarambon, Reinna Bermudez, Loren Hallilah Lao, Datu Shariff Pendatun III, Iyyah Sinarimbo, Pearlsha Abubakar, Janesa Mariam G. Ladjiman and myself.

In the Preface, I wrote: "The voices of young Moro writers in this anthology are like rays of an invisible light passing through a prism forged from memory and struggle, longing and conviction, refracting a kaleidoscope of dazzling colors, sensations and experiences. Each word written is an expression of identity, home, culture, faith as well as skepticism, resonating from the depths of the Moro soul." 

You are all invited to the book launch on September 15, Tuesday, 4:00PM at the ARMM Regional Library in Cotabato City. 

August 5, 2015

new film

"This film is made possible through crowdfunding. Thank you so much for your support." This is the opening text of my new film, moro2mrw, which was shot last March around Mindanao. I never thought that we would be able to make it considering one of our biggest funders thought that making a film on the Bangsamoro was a huge gamble after the Mamasapano incident that killed 44 SAF men and Moro nationalists. With the help of friends, family and the leadership of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, we managed. We're now on post-production. 

First scene. Day 1. Somewhere in General Santos City. 
Preparing to shoot the opening sequence in Barangay Silway 8, Polomolok, South Cotabato.
Deciding on a scene with line producer Liryc dela Cruz, soundman Arbi Barbarona and assistant director Joe Bacus.
Art Director TJ Baud prepares actress Mayka Lintongan in a crucial scene.
Magic hour. Waiting for the right moment (or was it waiting for the actors in an unplanned scene).

August 4, 2015

my august read

In celebration of National Language Month, writer Edgar Calabria Samar has launched a Facebook campaign to popularize Filipino literature by asking people to post an answer to the question, "What book by a Filipino author have you read this August?" and use the hashtag #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy.

The reality is less than ten percent of my library is occupied by books written by Filipino authors in English and Filipino. The last time I read a book by a Filipino author was May this year, Autobiografiya ng Ibang Lady Gaga by Jack Alvarez, right after the UP National Writers Workshop. Jack and I were fellows this year. I couldn't recall when and which book by a Filipino author writing in Filipino I read before Jack's, perhaps three or five years ago. This should not be miscontrued as lack of patriotism on my part, but distribution in the regions (especially in cities with no National Bookstore branches) has been quite problematic unless you're one of those Precious Hearts Romances writers. I also have a hard time reading Filipino. So excuse me if I only have ten or a dozen books in Filipino, mostly children's books by my friend Luis Gatmaitan and Genaro Gojo Cruz. Whenever I get a chance to be in Manila, it's for film-related business usually so I don't get to check the new titles. The only time I was able to amass Filipiniana was during the Philippine Centennial in 1998. My father was undersecretary of education then and became a recipient of each book that came out to celebrate the Republic and its many heroes. Naturally the books were passed to me, including the thick anthology The Best Philippine Short Stories of the 20th Century edited by Isagani Cruz and the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo translation by Soledad Locsin. Someday I wish to make a film adapted from the story of Elias and Salome. 

Aslan with some of my books by Filipino writers.

I have a few Filipino writers that I read every now and then for pleasure and education. Being a writer of non-fiction, I am a great fan of Criselda Yabes and Marra Lanot (whose De Javu and Other Essays has been a teacher of some sort to me). No one will admit to Jessica Zafra being an influence, at least at one point, in a writer's life. But I do. In the late 1990s, her Twisted anthology showed me how to make something creative out of my angst-ridden youth. I love cats and cinema too. Since the rise (and eventual fall of blogging) other Filipino writers have become quite accessible. It became an opportunity to cultivate friendships, both real and online. 

Jessica Zafra signed my copy of Twisted V after guesting on her Sunday radio program.

So as for my August read? I'm reading Savor The Word, a compilation of winning entries (including runners-up) of the archipelago-wide Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award, not because I need to console myself with a morsel of nationalism during this time of year. I simply love food, and my cousin Shariff has an essay in the book. 

July 2, 2015

mindanao screen lab 2015

Good news to aspiring filmmakers from Mindanao.

SalaMindanaw International Film Festival is now accepting applications for the first Mindanao Screen Lab to be held in November 2015. 

The Screen Lab is designed as an intensive learning program that provides emerging Mindanao filmmakers, with special concentration on young cinephiles from the lumad and Bangsamoro communities, hands on training as well as project development sessions that will transform ideas into films. Aside from skills development, the workshop is also aimed at developing young filmmakers who can serve as ambassadors of peace and cultural diversity by instilling a critical appreciation of the issues and challenges to peace in Mindanao.


To qualify, applicants must (1) be 21 to 35 years old, (2) should be born or raised and established residency of a minimum of 3 years in any parts of Mindanao, and (3) must have written, produced, directed, edited, shot or art and sound designed a short film in the past. 


Applicants must submit (1) duly accomplished application form which can be found on the Facebook page or SalaMindanaw website, (2) an application essay, and (3) link to an online screener of short film(s). 

Only applicants who go through the complete application process will be considered for the workshop. The chosen participants must be present for the full duration of the week-long workshop.

All participants are entitled to free hotel accommodation and meals, workshop kits and transportation from the Festival Office in General Santos to the workshop venues and back. Land or air transportation from cities of origin to General Santos shall be at the expense of the participants. 

The deadline for submission is 30 August 2015.

To facilitate an open, creative and interactive learning atmosphere, the faculty of the workshop includes director John Torres (Todo Todo Teros, Lukas Nino), Singapore filmmaker Kan Lumé (Liberta, Naked DJ) and Mindanao filmmaker Teng Mangansakan (Limbunan, Qiyamah). 

For inquiries, email For more news about SalaMindanaw, follow our Facebook page

goodbye, tama

Tama, Wakayama Prefecture stationmaster since 2007, has died. She was mourned by railway company officials and fans and elevated into a goddess at a funeral on Sunday.

The calico cat was appointed stationmaster at the Kishi station in western Japan in 2007. Donning her custom-made stationmaster's cap, Tama quietly sat at the ticket gate welcoming and seeing off passengers. The cat quickly attracted tourists and became world-famous, contributing to the railway company and local economy.

According to the Associated Press, the Wakayama Electric Railway had been almost bankrupt at the time of Tama’s appointment, and the Kishi station had let go of all its staff. The president of the railway, Mitsunobu Kojima, told the news outlet that appointing Tama as stationmaster had initially just been an excuse to keep the cat at the station.

“But she was really doing her job,” he said.

In a way she became an icon of rural survivalism in Japan,” says Roland Kelts, author of the “Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the US.”

The Japanese countryside has really hollowed out over the past decade. As the population grows increasingly older, some have looked to Tama as a symbol of the aging Japanese who continue to live in the rural villages around the country.

“I think Tama became an icon of their toughness and willingness to persevere,” Kelts adds.

Since her death, Tama has been declared a Shinto deity.  She will reportedly be laid to rest at a shrine for cats near the station.

Her elevated status to a Shinto deity is no surprise to Kelts. Cats have long been seen as symbols of good fortune and luck, particularly for fisherman in Japan, says Kelts. In fact you may even have seen the lucky statuette of the cat with its beckoning arm welcoming good luck and good business in many Japanese restaurants and stores around the world. And, of course, there’s also most famous Japanese cat, Hello Kitty, who has become a symbol in her own right.

“I find that in Japanese culture, the borderline between the imaginative or the spiritual and the day-to-day, or what we think of as the naturalistic or realistic world, is much more porous,” Kelts says.

Tama died on June 22 at the age of 16 (or about 80 in human years).

May 30, 2015


This is Bruce, one of the eight cats that cohabit a two-room apartment with me and and my partner Mogley. One month ago, Bruce underwent a surgery to remove stones from his bladder. He's doing fine thanks to prayers from friends and family and a lot of TLC. But the vet told me that to remove all chances of him forming stones in the future, he must be kept on a strict diet.

Earlier this month I scoured Metro Manila's pet supply stores for Royal Canin Urinary S/O (the vet prescribed diet for Bruce) to no avail. I was so frustrated; everywhere I went it was all about dogs. "Urinary for dogs, sir?" A store attendant would ask me. "No, for cats," I would answer. They would all say, "Wala sir, para sa aso lang" or they would would shake their heads. I contacted Royal Canin's Makati office but I got no answer so I posted on my Facebook for possible leads.

Thanks to the actress Tetchie Agbayani, she almost miraculously found three bags and had them delivered to my friend Sherad Sanchez's place in QC that I was crashing. What an angel!

Now, Bruce is as makulit as ever. The only reminder of his ordeal a scar on his belly which will soon be covered by a fluffy carpet of white fur.

May 23, 2015

the reluctant fellow

After stalling for the last four years, and with the goading of three senior writers (Vim Nadera, Eugene Evasco and Ricky de Ungria who tried to convince me from August 2012 to February this year), I finally gave in to the urge and submitted an application to the annual UP National Writers Workshop. Now on its 54th year, the Workshop has evolved into a platform for midcareer writers to meet colleagues who also share the birthing pains of a new book and have their manuscripts critiqued by the country's leading literary figures. Until ten years ago, the Workshop was designed to help and cultivate young starting writers but a lot of workshops are already taking care of the beginners (Silliman, Iligan, Ateneo) so the UPNWW took care of the more experienced, published ones.

So I became a fellow, a very reluctant one. And for a week, I switched hats -from filmmaker to writer- and traveled to Baguio and spent a week breathing the cool Cordillera air with a hint of pine and hashish, inebriated in a mix of booze and poetry, and surrendered myself and my ego to the sharpened knives of writers who have walked this same path a long time ago.

November 26, 2014

8 things about salamindanaw

The second edition of SalaMindanaw International Film Festival starts tomorrow, November 27. Here are eight things you need to know about the Festival.

1. The redesigned Festival logo features the durian –an enduring cultural symbol in Southeast Asia— with eleven protruding spikes representing the countries of the region. SalaMindanaw envisions to be an important platform in the development of regional cinema in Southeast Asia.

2. For its sophomore edition, the Festival theme shall be ‘Deconstructing Cinematic Space.’ As it continues to celebrate the development of regional cinemas across Southeast Asia, the Festival attempts to veer away from the traditional space of film screening, that is the movie house, and explore alternative and non-traditional screening venues like buses, parks, markets, and barangay centers to bring films closer to the people. The Festival’s main screening venue is in a university because SalaMindanaw recognizes the educational and cultural value of cinema. 

3. The Festival will launch a film magazine, New Durian Cinema, which is devoted to the discussion of regional cinema in Southeast Asia. It is not enough that we show films, regional cinema must also become part of a critical consciousness. The magazine hopes to help in the formation of such consciousness. 

4. The Festival boasts of the quality and integrity of its film programming. This year, more than 30 films of various lengths, genres and genres will be presented in the Festival. Films will vie for the Golden Durian Award in the Asian shorts and Mindanao shorts category. A Festival prize shall be bestowed to the breakthrough film in the new Philippine Next Cinema section. 

During its inaugural run, the Singaporean film Sayang Disayang (dir. Sanif Olek) had its world premiere in the Festival. It won the jury prize in the Festival. The film is Singapore’s official entry to the Oscars in 2015. Other notable films in the Festival last year include By The River (dir. Nontawat Numbenchapol) which won a special mention at Locarno, Liberta (dir. Kan Lumé) which bagged a special mention in CINDI (Seoul) while War is a Tender Thing (dir. Adjani Arumpac) took home a special mention from Yamagata.

5. Relying on its vision and integrity, the second edition of the Festival is crowdfunded which means that much of its funding is in the form of donations from its supporters all over the world. 

6. The Festival is a cultural investment for the development of the people of Gensan and the region. The aim is expose more people to diverse cinema as well as educate and provide them the opportunity to better understand the world they inhabit. For this reason, all screenings and parallel activities are free to the public. 

7. It is helmed by one of the most important filmmakers in Southeast Asia – Teng Mangansakan. The Festival’s respectability and integrity partly come from who is running it. The vision of the Festival is built upon clear goals and objectives borne out of the Festival Director's instinct, experience and foresight, and the trust and confidence of the Festival Team.

8. The Festival is advised by some of the most distinguished personalities and brilliant minds in world cinema such as Philip Cheah, vice president of NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) and past consultant of the Dubai International Film Festival and Directors Fortnight at Cannes; Paolo Bertolin, Venice International Film Festival delegate for Southeast Asia and consultant of the Doha Film Institute; and Sherad Anthony Sanchez, creative consultant of Cinema One Originals. 

November 25, 2014

salamindanaw 2014 is here.

We present to you the second edition of SalaMindanaw International Film Festival.

November 18, 2014


I still remember, vividly. The first moments we were together. The taxi ride from Balintawak to Cubao. How you meowed and meowed, afraid of the neon lights that veiled Manila at night. How you clinged to my arms, climbed my shoulders, and then perched on my head like a ginger crown when we walked the concrete sidewalks of Cubao at rush hour. You continued to meow loudly, attracting the attention of the crowd in front of the New Frontier Theater and forcing me to buy the pet carrier at a corner store in the huge supermarket that occupied Fiesta Carnival of my growing up years. 

That night, acquainting yourself with the geography of your new home, I wracked my brain deciding on a name to call you, not because I was in a hurry but the cattery you were born into had an obligation to register your name. At midnight, I decided to call you Natarajan Beckham, after the character in Amulya Malladi's The Mango Season which I was reading that time, and my then favorite football player to commemorate the 2015 World Cup.

We were the best buddies for seven years until the affliction took you away from me.

It has been two years now, but the memory of you remains with me. You are missed every single day.

Natarajan Beckham

November 14, 2014

being maternal


I learned a new word today. It's pyometra. 

Three days ago, Basmati became lethargic, spent most of her time in bed, and the voracious eater that she is, she suddenly lost all appetite. When I picked her up, she let out a soft meow. Then last night I noticed stains in my bed. I checked myself for wounds or cuts but there was none. Basmati, sitting near my pillow, stopped grooming herself and looked at me as if wanting to say, "Don't look at me." But you see reverse psych doesn't work for me. I checked her for any injuries. I lifted her tail and was shocked to see a pinkish discharge resembling strawberry shake that has been left out in the sun, oozing from her vajeyjey. The stains in my bed. 

So I took her to the vet this afternoon. "Doctora is doing a house call," the assistant informed me.

"Will she take long?" "An hour I guess." "I'm willing to wait." Basmati was uncomfortable. She meowed. While waiting for the vet, I took a copy of Preview from the magazine stand. Holy Ganesh! It was the November 2004 issue. I grew impatient.

"While waiting for doctora, can you check my cat's temperature?" I asked the assistant.

"She has a fever. 40.9 degrees Celsius."

"Are you sure? Could you check again?" I was in denial. The assistant inserted the thermometer into Basmati's rectum again. The same reading.

The vet arrived five minutes before two. I told her about the loss of appetite, lethargy and the discharge. I even showed her photos of my stained bedsheet.

She examined Basmati. "She's pregnant!" the vet exclaimed. "Oh great! Pregnant?! She didn't even experience her menarche."

"I am going to give her vitamin shots. Antibiotics is not advisable because of the pregnancy."

I was silent.

"She is due in two weeks. But, if she doesn't give birth during that time bring her back to me. We'll do an X-ray."

I just nodded. She gave me a prescription for multivitamins and a can of special cat food.

I hand her my payment. "See you, doc."

In the cab, I texted my friend Alex in Manila to update him of this new development. I got Natarajan and Basmati from his cattery. "Can you call me?" he texted back.

I dialled his number.

November 5, 2014

salamindanaw unveils 2014 line up

SalaMindanaw International Film Festival has announced the official line up of their second edition from November 26 to 29, 2014 in General Santos City.

The Festival will open with The Sermon of the Contemplative Sinner, a dance film produced by SalaMindanaw in collaboration with Teatro Ambahanon.

Eleven films will vie in the Asian shorts competition. These are After The Winter (Jow Zhi Wei, (Singapore-Taiwan-France), Auntie Ma’am Has Never Had a Passport (Sorayos Prapapan, Thailand), Chicken Curry (Lwin Ko Ko Oo, Myanmar), Cita (Andi Burhamzah, Indonesia), Dindo (Martika Escobar Ramirez, Philippines), Geography Lessons (Petersen Vargas, Philippines), Qafas (Prateek Srivastava, India), Somewhere Only We Know (Wichanon Somumjarn, Thailand), Stopping The Rain (Aditya Ahmad, Indonesia), Talking To My Best Friend (Le Nguyen, Vietnam) and Wan An (Yandy Laurens, Indonesia). With the exception of India, all films in the line up are from Southeast Asia.

“Our programming this year reflects the vision of SalaMindanaw, which is to make the Festival a platform for Southeast Asian cinema,” festival director Teng Mangansakan revealed. SalaMindanaw is the first and only international film festival in Mindanao.

Mangansakan added that Southeast Asian cinema is particularly thrilling now because of the development of film movements outside of the capital. Indonesia is represented in the Festival by three films made in the Sulawesi city of Makassar east of Jakarta while one of the Filipino entries is a Kapampangan film. “It is an exciting time to be Southeast Asian and a regional filmmaker at the same time,” Mangansakan noted.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao shorts competition line up comprise of Abakada ni Nanay (Joni Mejico, Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay), Apasol (Ryanne Murcia, Zamboanga), Cresilda (Art Orillanida, Gensan), Dead Stars (Amaya Han, Gensan), End of War (Joe Bacus, Cagayan de Oro), Good Morning, Joey (Monalyn Labado, Davao), Inukban (Lew Avila, Davao), Jamir (Genory Vanz Alfasain, Sarangani), K’na (Anjeilee Pacuin, Gensan) and Sap’ng (Rahil Maningcara, Gensan).

A new section called Philippine Next Cinema seeks to introduce new voices and visions in the host country’s cinema. The line up is composed of Bastes, May Anne M (Bebe Go), Illustrated By (Pepper Marcelo), Magdalena (Anna Isabelle Estein), Sonata Maria (Bagane Fiola) and The Unforgetting (Carl Joseph Papa).  

The Gensan Screen Lab, an intensive workshop intended to develop and cultivate new filmmakers in Mindanao, will culminate with the screening of six short films.

In commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre and the little know Martial Law that followed, the Festival will present a special non-competitive section Cinema and Remembrance. The films include Maliw (Rob Jara), Missing (Zig Dulay), Pieta (Herwin Benedictos Cabasal) and the recipient of this year’s Golden Leopard at Locarno Mula Sa Kung Ano Ang Noon (Lav Diaz).

The four-day Festival will close with Little Azkals, a documentary by Babyruth Villarama-Gutierrez whose film Jazz in Love won the NETPAC Prize for Best Asian Film in the inaugural edition of SalaMindanaw. 

October 1, 2014

a festival in two cities

The second edition of SalaMindanaw International Film Festival (SIFF) will be held simultaneously in the cities of General Santos and Cotabato.

“SalaMindanaw is expanding this year to cater to more artists, peace advocates and film lovers in the region,” Festival Director Teng Mangansakan announced.

The opening and closing ceremonies will be held in General Santos and Cotabato respectively, in recognition of the importance of the two cities in the educational and commercial development of SOCCSKSARGEN region. 

“For its sophomore edition, the Festival theme shall be ‘Deconstructing Cinematic Space.’ As we continue to celebrate the development of regional cinemas across Asia, we also attempt to veer away from the traditional space of film screening, that is the movie house, and explore alternative and non-traditional screening venues like buses, parks, markets, and barangay centers to bring films closer to the people,” Mangansakan added. 

SIFF features competitive sections for Asian full-length films, Asian short films, and Mindanao short films, as well as exhibition sections that present the richness and diversity of form and expression in Asian cinema. Submission of entries is open to narrative, documentary and experimental films made in the last two years. Deadline of entries is on October 25.

As the first and only international film festival in Mindanao, SIFF remains strongly committed on its mission to raise awareness and promote international cinema with emphasis on strengthening the cultural ties between Mindanao and its Southeast Asian neighbors, to support the nascent film movement in SOCSKSARGEN and its neighboring regions, and to engage the public in both popular and critical discourse on art and cinema and their transformative power to shape ideas about society, thus encouraging cultural diversity and the plurality of creative expressions.

The second SalaMindanaw International Film Festival will take place from November 26 to 29, 2014. 

For updates, go to the Festival’s Facebook page.

September 26, 2014

norte is philippine bet to oscars

The Film Academy of the Philippines has chosen Lav Diaz's opus Norte: End of History to represent the country in the bid for a nomination for best foreign-language film at the Oscars next year.

Ahead of the October 1 submission deadline for countries to name their official submission, 2014's field of international Oscar hopefuls is starting to come into focus. Norte faces tough competition. Belgium, for instance, has fielded the Dardenne brothers' neorealist work, Two Day, One Night, while Canada has chosen Xavier Dolan's Mommy which won a Jury Prize in Cannes this year. Turkey has high hopes for Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter Sleep which beat Mommy in Cannes and took home the coveted Palme d'Or.

After premiering in Cannes last year, Norte enjoyed positive critical reception at nearly all the world’s major festivals including Karlovy Vary, Locarno, Toronto, New York, Busan, Tokyo, Rotterdam and Hong Kong. Whether this is enough to get a slot in the Oscars foreign language film category remains to be seen.

The Philippines has regularly submitted films for Academy Awards consideration since 1953, but none have been nominated.

September 22, 2014

10 reasons to unfriend someone on facebook

Someone unfriended me on Facebook, er, us, because it happened to about five people, because we forgot to greet her during her birthday. I took it in stride and made it an opportunity to crowd source from my Facebook friends 10 common reasons for unfriending someone on Zuckerberg's brainchild. Their response are enumerated at numbers 1 to 7, while 8 to 10 are reasons I added on the list.

1. Getting unfriended on Facebook is magical. It's like the trash took out itself.

2. Game apps invitations (which annoys me because I haven't played any game on Facebook since the Farmville hysteria five years ago. I remember setting my alarm clock at three in the morning just so that I can harvest my crops.)

3. Marcos f*ckers by The Spy Who Ate the Sandwich because strangely a lot of Marcos supporters these past few days have been quite vocal about their adulation for the late strongman-slash-dictator as the country commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

4. Too many selfies. 

5. Anti-activists. Call the student activists who protested Budget Secretary Florencio Abad's presence in UP's School of Economics 'hooligans' and you'll be unfriended. 

6. Passive aggressive status updates. Being deliberately cryptic to gain sympathy.

7. Simple rudeness.

8. Lack of sense of humor, especially the type who take self-deprecation too seriously. Loosen up, will you?

9. Whatever I say on my status updates is between me and those I deem my friends on Facebook. Pass them around to non-friends who make a big deal about it, then you're not worthy to be on my Friends' list. 

10. Do not abbreviate words or write jejemonese, omit periods and punctuation marks, and above all, respect the caps lock. 

September 20, 2014

salamindanaw returns

The second edition of SalaMindanaw International Film Festival will take place from November 25 to 29, 2014.

The call for submissions is now open for the following sections: Asian full length, Asian shorts, and Mindanao shorts. Narrative, documentary and experimental films are welcome. Films must be produced after January 1, 2013.

Deadline of entries for the Asian section is on October 20, 2014, while the Mindanao short entries must be submitted before October 25, 2014.

For info and inquiries, please go to SalaMindanaw's Facebook page.

September 19, 2014

the birth of tradition

This is a behind the scene photo of the first scene to be shot in The Obscured Histories and Silent Longings of Daguluan's Children in Matanao, Davao del Sur, in 2009.  We shot the film without a script.  We went on location with a big idea, and would just leave it to geography and atmosphere to bring out the story.  This scene, of women talking about their desire to seek greener pasture as overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait, was decided because the artesian well, locally known as poso, amidst the oversized biga leaves looked 'nice' for a rural conversation. 

But what became important about this day is that it set the tradition for my succeeding films, that is,  lunch on the first day of all my film shoots must have on the menu sinful ginataang monggo (mungbean stew in coconut) and grilled tilapia and pirit (baby tuna).  This was suggested by my assistant director Yam Palma which myself and production manager Elreen Supetran Bendisula agreed to. Dutch scientist and writer Louise Fresco wrote, "Food, in the end, in our own tradition, is something holy. It's not about nutrients and calories. It's about sharing. It's about honesty. It's about identity."

During the shoot of Limbunan, the tradition of having grilled or deep fried catfish on the first supper, and crabs on either lunch of the second or third day were added, not to mention overflowing Coca Cola round the clock because that's the preferred 'energy drink' of my cinematographer Coicoi Nacario and tech supervisor John J. Barredo. Red Horse beer being part of tradition is totally predictable. Peanuts on the other hand are not allowed. And even before the shoot commences, I would ask Elreen, a Catholic, to offer flowers and eggs in the Carmelite Church and pray for good weather and no rain. 



is a mantra you learn in film school. It’s the Om Namma Shivaya of the indie movement when a studio to bankroll your film project is hard to come by. When you’re a student filmmaker, the next best thing to a Harvey Weinstein is Mom and Dad. You suddenly become extra sweet to them. You become subservient to their every command. You wash the dishes, scrub the bathroom tiles, or take out the garbage. The maid you explain has too many errands on her hands. She can use some help around the house. Besides you have free time. Retreating to your room you suppress the urge to squeal like a pig. You maintain your calm. You assure yourself that patience is a virtue. Later you can throw tantrums at your production team and make an awful excuse for this behavior by saying, “I am an artist. I am entitled to my fits.”

After school your parents expect you to PA for, or if you’re truly lucky and talented, write or direct the next blockbuster starring Daniel and Kathryn. But you haughtily dismiss this idea saying that it’s beneath you. Dad shakes his head and regrets supporting your choice to go to film school. Deep in his heart, he still wants you to have a change of heart and become a bureaucrat or a lawyer.

Finally when you have an idea for your debut film –a ten-hour movie composed of a dozen shots featuring a cart, a horse, a transvestite impersonating the Virgen de la Guadalupe, and an awfully bored peasant reflecting on a koan— your father reluctantly gives you money to produce it. It’s the rave in European art houses you explain. You appeal to his guilt.

“Dad, I would only get half of your money. Don’t worry. I already wrote a film proposal to (insert name of a funding organization).”

As soon as Dad leaves the room, you revert to the saccharine personality of an eight-year-old kid and ask Mom if she can cook for ten members of the production, three meals a day for two weeks. Before she can even protest you shower her profusely with gratitude, sealing your contrived act with a kiss on her forehead.   

Then you talk to other potential producers. Dilemma. Should you wear the signature indie-filmmaker look – denim jeans, ukay-ukay shirt, and Chucks? This way you will look sincere. Or show off in the latest Italian designer shirt and jeans? It can give a semblance of financial stability. The downside is you cannot beg because you will only look like a poseur.

When the potential producer starts quoting the Far Eastern Economic Review in an attempt to turn you down without hurting your feelings, you proceed to Plan B.

You post messages on various art and film e-groups.

In need of actors and camera!

Minimal fee. Independent production.

The truth is you don’t have a budget for camera rental. You only intend to borrow. You can repay this favor by being the PA of the camera’s owner when he makes his film.