The very first Cinematografo International Film Festival (CIFF), a film exhibition series and networking event designed to elevate and showcase emerging Filipino and Filipino-American talent, films and television content to the world stage, was launched in a by-invitation presser at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8 in San Francisco’s Japantown last week. The initial Cinematografo is a project of the leading Filipino media and entertainment company ABS-CBN International. The press conference was attended by representatives from various Bay Area publications, the San Francisco Film Commission, and the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco.
The vision and objective of Cinematografo was presented at the presser. Executive Director for CIFF 2017 John-D Lazatin says that “with all the content that we create, I believe that film is the strongest form. You’ve got narratives, documentaries, and shorts. Film is really a piece of art, and art is basically what we want to showcase.” Lazatin underlined that “Cinematografo’s objective really is to put the Filipino talent on the world stage.”
The Honorable Gregory Chew, San Francisco Arts Commissioner At Large, firmly stated that “we have to tell our stories, true stories, especially Asian films and stories. We’re 22 and a half million people in this country now and we don’t have enough voices.” That is why Chew strongly feels that Cinematografo is important.
Festival Director Miguel Sevilla recognizes the importance of movies as a platform to present the realities of the present times. Sevilla weighs in when he says “two countries, an ocean apart and long-time allies, have now reached a turning point in their respective histories. It is almost irresponsible, nay impossible, to celebrate Philippine cinema, the Filipino, and the Filipino-American, and not recognize how these issues have permeated our art of storytelling. More and more, in this era of fake news and alternative facts, we are now looking to movies as a source of truth.”
It is but fitting to premier Cinematografo International Film Festival in San Francisco where the city’s culture is diverse in terms of arts, music, food, and culture. According to CBS SF Bay Area, “the San Francisco Bay Area is home to some of the world’s most renowned film festivals. From intimate, small-town festivals to grand scale events featuring hundreds of movies and the biggest names in Hollywood.”
To have another festival like Cinematografo is not redundant, nor does it crowd the landscape. In fact, CIIF is a welcome addition because the festival offers the chance for these unique stories to be presented, and will help amplify the voices of the writers, directors, and producers who need an arena on which life, as seen through their lens, can unfold.
David Lamble, film critic for The Bay Area Reporter, argues that niche festivals are very important when he said that “it’s the festivals that give Bay Area film goers the chance to catch films that they otherwise couldn’t see.” Lamble adds that “for over half a century, people have been nurtured through film festivals to understand foreign films.” Festivals like Cinematografo is also very crucial for producers. According to Lamble, “this is their one shot to get an important, influential audience. Since the film is not likely to open in San Francisco, it’s the only shot you get. You better take advantage of it.”
Cinematografo happens on November 9-12 at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8 Theatres in Japantown. That will be a four-day exhibition of screenings, panels, and intimate industry networking that will feature narratives, documentaries, and short films from North America and the Philippines from Filipino and Filipino-American filmmakers.
The Festival opens with Ang Larawan (The Portrait), adapted from the musical play of the same title based on National Artist Nick Joaquin’s three-act play “A Portrait of a Filipino as an Artist.” Director Loy Arcenas, lead actress Rachel Alejandro, and composer Ryan Cayabyab will be attending the U.S. premiere on November 9.
There will also be conversations with three Filipino-American filmmakers who will preview their new films that are co-productions with Cinematografo Originals. Another highlight of the festival is a tribute to documentary filmmaker Ramona Diaz. Her latest, award-winning film Motherland (Sundance 2017), about one of the world’s largest maternity wards located in Manila, will be screened, followed by an intimate conversation about her work and prolific career as one of the most renowned Asian women documentary makers today.
There will also be industry forum and panels where influential and visionary Filipino, Asian-American and independent industry leaders and festival programmers can discuss Filipino and Asian American talent, international perceptions of the Philippines and Filipino culture, and to leverage common vision and share networks and collective resources.
Raffy Lopez, COO of ABS-CBN International, stated that he “has always believed that films are powerful purveyors of culture. When moviegoers leave the theaters, we provide them with a little more understanding of who we are or we trigger a curiosity or hunger for them to know and learn more about our culture and all its complexities and nuances. If all these translate into more conversations about Filipinos, and into a more positive attitude towards them, then the mission of ABS-CBN burns brightly in Cinematografo.”
A discussion at the Festival will tackle the imperative “The Minority as the New Majority.” It will focus on Filipinos as an often “invisible minority” throughout the world, including in the Asian-American media and film landscape. It is time to let the voices of a new era of storytellers be heard and resonate around the world for these are stories that depict the human condition, the realities that surround humanity in these most interesting of times.