Kidlat Tahimik protests Cinemalaya scrapping of New Breed category
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Like flashes of quiet lightning, Kidlat Tahimik's (KT) film, Balikbayan #1 ( Memories of Overdevelopment) which recently won the Caligari Prize at the 65th Berlin Film Festival, is now making the rounds of screening in several theaters. Its homecoming premiere was in his very own Cinematheque hometown in Baguio City watched by an intimate crowd of those who were part of the making of the film and curious students and residents. It is currently being shown at the Hongkong Film Festival.
He announced that he was returning the Gawad Balanghay award to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), news which came across the audience like a streak of lightning, so to speak. Cinemalaya is supported by the CCP.
KT was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, Gawad Balanghay, as Father of Philippine Independent Film during the 10th year of Cinemalaya Awards night on August 10 last year.
It was a night of surprises for CCP and the audience as KT also gave Cinemalaya his signature Bamboo Award lauding them for their 10 years of support for the independent cinema movement.
Before a perplexed group of Mass Comm students, KT explained that he was giving back his cherished Gawad Balanghay award in symbolic protest of the scrapping of the mainstay New Breed Category in the Cinemalaya grants.
But he quickly added that he was not withdrawing the Bamboo Award he had given to Cinemalaya, carefully separating the achievements of Cinemalaya stalwarts (Nes Jardin, Tess Rances, Laurice Guillen and Chris Millado) from what he called efficiency goals of "MBA planners."
"I am not withdrawing the BamboCam I gave because CineMalaya’s decade of support has impacted on the “tsunami of Sariling Dwendes” awakened. They deserve the award for the past 10 years. My returning their trophy is to make them re-think their policies. ”
He said that the 10 years of Cinemalaya promoting the New Breed directors awakened the potential of a hundred creative "indie-genuises."
Even more important, he added, is that subsidizing these raw talents at the starting line had the exponential effect of widening the audiences' taste to enjoy non- formula flicks. "Every time you go to indie films at Cinemalaya, the audience gets bigger and bigger," he said.
Cinemalaya had the New Breed as a separate category for newbies or more unknown filmmakers for the past 10 years from which they selected 10, and another for the more established directors. But for this year, it was announced by the head of Cinemalaya, Chris Millado curiously at the Hanoi Film Festival that there will be 10 selections from a mix of script entries in an open competition and raise the usual P500,000 grant to P750,000. "I sort of heard about it but it was at the Berlin Film Festival that the head of the Tokyo Film Festival confirmed it to me," he said.
That it was talk around international festivals affirms that the world is watching the Cinemalaya products and its new talents.
KT said that the idea bothered him since which eventually made him decide to return his Gawad Balanghay as a statement of his protest.
KT likened the situation to a boxing match placing the amateur Diamond Gloves Highschool boxers against giants like Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire. "No matter what support you give them, mabubugbog sila (they'll get beaten up)," he said.
He looks at what might be the nuances of the decision. It could be their thinking that letting the new fellows compete against the established ones will make of them better directors, he said.
But it can also be that passionate new indies need close monitoring because of “teething problems,” KT said, and that can be a heavier headache. The Cinemalaya grant has an infrastructure that gives support, like workshops and guidance to help the young filmmaker get to finish the film. They can also recommend actors. "But it is really these new talents that need this 'Tender Loving Care,' said KT. He says that the new policy dilutes the true purpose of Cinemalaya. The more established filmmakers already have their contacts and requirements in place to get the film rolling.
Then there is the issue of the awards at the end. While not against it, KT says it may not be necessary, especially among the new breed. Looking at the award in making the film "steals away the thunder away from the main purpose of just wanting to tell your story." And to make the fresh filmmakers slug it out with the big names, majority of the winners will come from those who need the least supervision, he surmised. Film to him is just about telling a story, one expressed from the awakend 'sariling dwende' within, and to get it to the finish line. Sariling dwende is a constant advise from him, referring to one's own inner drive, inspiration and images.
"I see Cinemalaya more as an encouragement institution and not so much as an award-giving body. The infrastructure they give that allows indie films to happen every year and the audience it organizes and draws are the main outputs that are laudable," Kidlat Tahimik said.
The trophy is now with the UP Film Center until the issue is resolved. CCP has reached out to Kidlat Tahimik for a dialogue.
"Merging the New Breed section and the Director’s showcase strengthens Cinemalaya’s resolve to support, develop and showcase the works of the burgeoning generation of filmmakers. The environment for filmmaking has changed since Kidlat became one of its pioneers more than thirty years ago. These conditions prompted Cinemalaya to review and realign its strategy while keeping its original vision.
"The merging of the New Breed and Directors Showcase sections recognizes the potency of the new as it engages with the established. The 'story' and innovative ways of telling continues to be the main focus of Cinemalaya films and this is where the new breed derives its power.
"The merging of the sections allows Cinemalaya to schedule more screenings of films therefore giving them more exposure and an increased cash subsidy for film production. We believe that the process of monitoring, guidance and mentorship which Cinemalaya has provided to new filmmakers has contributed to the success of many and we have broadened this opportunity by establishing the Cinemalaya Institute.
"We will be having a meeting with Kidlat so that he may understand and appreciate the strategy of Cinemalaya for the next ten years and assure him that we are one with the vision of developing new and independent films in the Philippines.
"Currently, there are 150 short film features and 120 full length feature proposals that have been submitted to Cinemalaya for consideration for the upcoming Festivals in 2015 and 2016." – Rappler.com