In line with my coverage of tiered film awards, first fully initiated by Kritika (1990-92) and currently exclusively practiced up to this point by the Filipino Arts & Cinema International (FACINE), I am providing the citations I wrote for the selected entries in the first Shout Out Film Festival of Pelikulove. The entries consisted of short films funded via subsidies from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the council of evaluators comprised me (as chair), Bibeth Orteza, and Glenn Sevilla Mas, with Pelikulove founder and chief creative producer Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil and Raffy Tejada, program director for the board of festival directors, present during deliberations to be able to answer queries that we, the evaluators, might raise. (The complete roster of filmfest directors included Ricky Lee, Rody Vera, Jeffrey Jeturian, Issa Manalo Lopez, and Cristina Juan.) At the end of this set of citations, I appended the description of the process that I read before we started announcing the entries, proceeding from the last listed selection to the first one. The highest compliment, in so far as I was concerned, was stated by the Pelikulove GM when she described the results as “the most progressive set of local awards” that she knew of.
• “How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad” (Indiopendente Productions, Roman Perez Jr., Mary Ann Perez, & Ferdy Lapuz) – for its compression of a social reality that functions as multi-leveled metaphor and cautionary tale in the same instance, with the several recent concerns over media, representation, and bureaucratic corruption raising the questions of who exactly are society’s prisoners, and who among us deserve to be imprisoned
• “No Trespassing” (La Salle Film Society, Tanya Lopez, Julius de la Peña, & Dada Grifon) – for its ultimately moving explication of how age-old problems remain and beset people who are conveniently hidden from us because of their distant locale and several cultural and linguistic differences, and how their very existence is threatened because of our social superiors’ drive to attain wealth and prosperity at all cost
• “Quarantine 5” (Sining Banwa, Reymark Boaloy, & Elmira Jasmin Broncano) – for its novel reformulation of the standard reunion scenario, friends who grew apart coming together to mourn someone who represented their past idealism, with the mediations and interventions of new-media technology
• “Libro for Ransom” (Giya Productions, Ralph Morales, Khaye Medina, Arjanmar H. Rebeta, & August Espino) – for its concern for the endangered status of history in our revisionist present, without the usual grim-and-determined approach that makes progressive material difficult to approach
• “When a Manananggal Loves a Man” (IPAG & Arlen Abanes) – for its formulation of a tragic situation – a mother who wishes only the best for a daughter who resists because of a love that has never succeeded before – leavened with a language and sensibility that can only be described as hip, healthy, and transgressive
• “Hypertext” (Maria Cristina Juan & Jovi Juan) – for its willingness to provide a slice of life far removed from the here and now of Philippine reality, in a foreign context that may soon become a reality for global citizens including overseas Filipinos
• Paul Exequiel dela Cruz (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for the consistent and well-rounded development of a key collection of male characters from various social strata, while the central figure turns into the personification of bureaucrat corruption with a benevolent visage
• Andrew Estacio (“Quarantine 5”) – for the careful delineation of former comrades with enough commonalities that signal their past experience as a tightly knitted unit yet with enough indications of how they had grown apart, with the bonus of also revealing one final character, someone who will never be able to meet with them again
• Salvador Bolano (“Ilaw sa Labas ng Tahanan”) – for presenting a dialectical opposition between sisters confronting a fight-or-flight option in seeking justice for the deaths of their husbands
• Paul Exequiel dela Cruz (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for the clever and ironic use of various settings as both plot device and a means of unveiling increasingly distressing scenarios for its viewpoint characters
• Andrew Estacio (“Quarantine 5”) – for the nearly imperceptible buildup to mounting tension among a close-knit group of mostly ex-activists brought together by the death of their most committed member and their reckoning of how the past has shaped their understanding of the present
• Raymund Barcelon (“When a Manananggal Loves a Man”) – for the humorous yet insightful combination of traditional expressions with millennial lingo in order to demonstrate the separation between generations as well as the emergence of the acceptance of differences in the younger generation
• Dada Grifon and Members of the Cast (“No Trespassing”) who translated Filipino into their own language – thereby allowing Hiligaynon to function as a language of dispossessed Filipinos, articulated with the required native expertise and credibility despite the complex political crises confronting the characters
• Viva Andrada O. Flynn (“Cooking with Love”) – for highlighting a loved one’s devotion to familial duties even at the expense of sacrificing personal happiness and paying tribute through continuation of her passion and good deed
• Jovi Juan (“Hypertext”) – for literally transporting an overseas Filipina through her encounter with new forms of prospective relationships with posthuman entities
• Ralph Morales (“Libro for Ransom”) – for demonstrating the importance of historical accuracy within the contemporary period of revisionism, ironically by revising an event dismissed in the past but using fact-based evidence to demonstrate the only acceptable way of moving forward, in effect holding up a magnifying glass both to see the past in better detail and to shine a brighter light on the present
• Ley Dornilla, Christine Fel Viernes, Milton Dionzon, John Arceo, Mary Jane Quilisadio, Wee Trinidad, Roem Ortiz, Ramil Satingasin Jr., Rose Fransz, Kathryn Baynosa, Jeffrey Lazaro, Kent Ontanieza, Harley Hojilla, Marion Opuan, Rodney Jarder Jr. (“No Trespassing”) – for the impressive realness of a wide array of characters in a milieu whose distance from middle-class urbanity results in difficulty for mainstream professionals to realize, with even the smallest players succeeding in maintaining a documentary-like authenticity
• Elmira Jasmin Broncano, Jobert Grey Landeza, Breco Halum, Ma. Quency Castillo (“Quaratine 5”) – for meeting the challenge of a theatrical staging by making a collection of distinct personalities believable while also performing as entities separated yet brought together by internet media
• Desiree Joy Briones (“Libro for Ransom”) – for conveying the ease and humor with which millennials deal with new-media activities while trying to solve professional and historical challenges
• Elmira Jasmin Broncano (“Quarantine 5”) – for anchoring the various conflicting emotional outbursts of her comrades in a sympathetic and conciliatory acceptance of her friends’ differences with one another
• Maria Cristina V. Macapagal (“When a Mananggal Loves a Man”) – for voicing the traditional argument in enforcing the separation between humans and monsters, based on an experience of heartbreak from the betrayal of a mortal lover
• Soliman Cruz (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for the expert use of warmth and avuncularity in the process of revealing an unexpected depth of cynicism and depravity
• John Arceo (“No Trespassing”) – for embodying the painful realization that the struggle for justice has no end in sight and exacts a tragic toll on the most helpless among us
• Jobert Grey Landeza (“Quarantine 5”) – for the portrayal of a mature activist who has to own up to his youthful errors while confronting the loss of a dearly loved comrade
IV. TECHNICAL ELEMENTS
• Roman Perez Jr. (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for successfully depicting the conditions in a congested prison while building up to the horrific realization that criminal corruption by elected officials effectively imprisons the rest of society
• Sari Saysay (“Quarantine 5”) – for the innovative arrangement of providing a singular indoor space wherein characters convey the experience of communicating via mobile devices as suggested by actors situated in close proximity with one another
• Nathan Bringuer, DOP; Charley Sta. Maria, PD (“No Trespassing”) – for the authenticity of the depiction of the private and work spaces of disenfranchised rural citizens
• Alex Espartero, DOP; JC Catigay, PD (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for the ironic use of setting, where a prison courtyard turns out to be a safer space than a privileged prisoner’s inner sanctum
• PJ Tavera & Arjanmar H. Rebeta, DOP; Jeric Delos Angeles, PD (“Libro for Ransom”) – for incorporating historical and topical issues within an identifiably contemporary situation
• AB Mactao (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for providing a series of unexpected transitions without losing believability by assuming the perspective of two innocents drawn into a hidden web of corruption
• Jovi Juan (“Hypertext”) – for the spare use of subway sounds and announcements as well as phone keyboard haptics that contrasts with the characters’ stressful exchanges
• Fatima Nerikka Salim (“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad”) – for the subtle transformation from the camaraderie of the prison setting to the increasingly hostile domestic space where the voice of the candidate reveals a hidden monstrosity
• Raymund John Sugay & Jayson Baluno (“No Trespassing”) – for the uncanny use of silence punctuated by an ominous drone that lent the proceedings a mysterious and inexplicable aura of danger
• BJV Music Productions (“Quarantine 5”) – for the affective and heartfelt use of song as a means of remembering the past and commemorating the ideals it represented
Online Recognition Ceremony
September 24, 2012
Good evening, let me start by explaining the process we observed. It was a simple one really, because if your final results have the potential to get really complicated, it’s always best to agree on basic principles. Believe it or not, these steps were drawn from lessons that I learned from my membership in the Filipino Film Critics Circle, which hands out annual awards that many practitioners consider the most widely coveted.
Since I was an insider during their early years, I can tell you that a lot of the procedures we followed then are no longer being observed today. But I’ll leave you to figure out what those are. My plan was for the evaluation team to watch all the entries together and discuss each one right afterward, but since many of the workshop participants did not meet their deadlines, we had to watch individually, as each one was submitted. We also planned to convene with the filmmakers to inquire about their intentions and production difficulties, but for the same reason that did not become feasible any longer.
So we set an appointment for an online deliberation session, with some Pelikulove officials attending so they could fill us in on any questions we might ask. We agreed on a basic number of groups, similar to the basic challenge that each production team would face: recognition for writing, performance, technical achievement, and overall excellence. The refinement of the recognition within each group was an innovation that I was able to introduce along with another member of the local critics group, who resigned like me, for many reasons including the highly unsatisfactory option of conducting traditional film awards.
What I mean by trad awards is the one you’re familiar with. Categories are fixed, and a fixed number of nominees are announced, and then during a special ceremony, the winner of each category is proclaimed. It probably works for beauty contests and presidential elections, but my former colleagues were academics like me, and that’s not how academia works. There’s a standard everyone has to meet to attain tenure and win promotion, with a non-negotiable point system to follow. So if no one in your batch of instructors makes the cut, the university replaces everyone with other candidates. If everyone makes it, that’s a headache for the administration’s budget, but on the other hand, your department gets bragging rights about having faculty who can survive in the highly competitive world of globally recognized research and publication.
So when Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr. (FACINE’s founder) and I set up our critics orgs, we made sure that we would have this type of system. You’ll have certain basic prizes available for film and performance and tech achievements, but within those areas, you can have no winner or one winner or several winners. Also, the types of winning might differ from one another, and we gave ourselves leeway to announce that. You’ll notice that here when the writing awards get announced. In cases where two or more entries provided impressive work, but some faced greater challenges than others, we used a tiering system – gold and silver and so on.
We also had a few later rounds via Messenger chat, where we talked about whether we might have overlooked or misclassified some of the achievements we recognized. In those cases, we made adjustments and additions. This is why for a short film competition, we were able to come up with not just several categories, but also mostly several winners per category. Compare this to the critics’ awards for short film, where only a small number of entries are announced as nominees, and only one awardee is declared. During the awards nights that I attended, I went home angry and brokenhearted for the nominees who weren’t announced as winners, who put on a brave face and tried to strike up civil and spirited conversations. This also comes from knowing how some winners were picked – mostly from camaraderie, and sometimes in order to punish the other nominees.
I’m sharing this because I always believed that the artistic process can only be completed with critical thinking, and that artists should be conversant with critical ideas in film and media and cultural studies, just as critics should be informed about the artistic process, especially when they set out to write on any specific film. I always get criticized by other critics for saying this, but I’m now at the stage where I can say I don’t care and, more important, that they are seriously in error. No wonder we have so many problems not just in culture but also in politics.
Final words for everyone – whatever you think you’ll be going through after we announce our selections, we, all your elders, went through the same things before. If you were hoping for a specific recognition and didn’t make it, that’s actually better than winning and deluding yourself that you have nothing more to prove. (At least that’s how it worked for me.) If on the other hand you won something, just think that it’s your first work so you had it too easy. You’ll need to convince everyone and yourself that you have to keep getting better in order to have proof that you deserved the early recognition you got. This year’s National Artist winners for Film – I was able to observe how they conducted themselves after early triumphs and frustrations. For them, the recognition they got was just icing on the cake. The real prize always lay in the future achievements that they planned for themselves.
With that introduction, we’ll proceed to the awards for technical achievement….