Docu on love and migration opens Cinemalaya

Rafael I. Crisostomo

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'Jazz in Love' is not just about a gay love story. It's about love, says filmmaker Baby Ruth Villarama

ALL ABOUT LOVE. Villarama's docu, she says, isn't just about a gay relationship. Poster from Voyage Film Studios

MANILA, Philippines – Avid Cinemalaya fans were given a rare delight on Friday evening, July 26, when a thought-provoking documentary on a young Filipino man preparing to migrate to Germany to marry his German fiancé opened the 2013 edition of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

The organizers’ decision to show Baby Ruth Villarama’s “Jazz in Love” as the opening film of the 9th Cinemalaya was a departure from its tradition of starting off with a fiction feature. 

This was also an obvious toast to Filipino documentarists, who are being recognized with accolades and prizes abroad.    

Celebration of love

“Tonight it is more than ‘Jazz in Love.’ Tonight, we celebrate documentaries,” Villarama said in a short speech before her latest work was screened at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Emphasizing that this documentary is a celebration of love, Villarama said, “’Jazz in Love’ is not just about a gay love story. ‘Jazz in Love’ is beyond that.

“This is my small contribution to the LGBT community. It may not be totally accepted, but if it is one of the ways for us to increase our understanding of and respect for them, then I’ll be the happiest storyteller in the world.”

Villarama’s remarks elicited a roaring applause in the audience-packed theater, amid the heavy rains outside.

“Jazz in Love” was produced and edited by Chuck Gutierrez, a multi-awarded film editor and producer, whose works have always stood for advancing Filipino cinema in major film festivals, including Cannes, Venice, Pusan, Berlin, London, Tokyo, and New York. Gutierrez is a co-founder of Voyage Film Studios.

Villarama, also of Voyage Film Studios, rallied the audience to continue its support of Filipino documentaries even as she called on her fellow filmmakers to “celebrate independence and continue to be independent in our crafts.”

Villarama has been involved in Philippine indie films and documentaries such as “Busong” (Palawan Fate, 2011 Cannes Film Festival Official Selection), “Asia’s Titanic” (National Geographic, 2009), “Sampaguita” (National Flower, competed in 2010 Berlin and Pusan film festivals), “Halaw” (Ways of the Sea, Berlin Film Fest NETPAC Jury Prize), and “Harana” (2012 Pusan official selection documentary competition).

She is a co-producer in Alvin Yapan’s “Debosyon,” a competing entry in this year’s Cinemalaya.

READ: Sex, lies, videotape in Cinemalaya 2013

This year’s Cinemalaya has, among its partner theaters, the Ayala cinemas in TriNoma, Greenbelt 3, and Alabang Town Center, besides the CCP. This is the first time Alabang Town Center serves as a venue for Cinemalaya’s competing films.

Another first in this year’s Cinemalaya is the agreement with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, authorizing Cinemalaya to “classify and rate” its own films.

In a press conference launching the festival early this month, CCP vice president and artistic director Chris Millado, who is also this festival’s director, said “this year’s selection of films is quite provocative in terms of subject matter and provocative politically in terms of content.”

All these “make this year’s harvest of indie films quite exciting,” he said.

Noteworthy in the 2013 Cinemalaya is the participation of second-generation directors such as Christopher Ad. Castillo, son of the late Celso Ad. Castillo, Raymond Red’s son, Mikhail, and Paolo O’Hara, nephew of the late Mario O’Hara.

A total of 70 films, including the 25 in competition categories, will be shown in the July 26 to August 4 festival, under the sections “Ani”, Cinemalaya Documentaries, Cinemalaya Premieres, and Retrospective: Urian’s Best.

There will also be tributes to the late directors Marilou Diaz-Abaya and Celso Ad. Castillo who died last year and National Artist Eddie Romero who died this year. –

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