Filmmakers from the Philippine regions bond together

The thorny issue surrounding a health protocol that the Film Development Council of the Philippines, together with the Health and Labor Departments, put in place to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which allegedly was made without consultation with film industry players represented by the Inter Guild Alliance raised another issue: independent filmmakers outside of Manila have been neglected in the ongoing conversation. 
While some of the filmmakers in the regions work in the Manila film industry, the vast majority produce independent works in their cities in conditions that are different from the industry. For one, the film budget is far less than their Manila counterpart. Most often these filmmakers work with a skeleton crew. The works are mostly non-commercial. The filmmakers assert that many provisions in the government protocol are detrimental to their production, thus, they want a protocol of their own that takes into consideration the realities on the ground and addresses the peculiar nature of the film production in the regions.

Amidst this, these filmmakers bonded together to create an organization –the Regional Filmmakers Network – so that their voices are heard regarding the various issues that the film sector in the Philippines faces in the new normal, as well as to promote the rights and welfare of filmmakers. This is actually a belated move. For more than a decade, these filmmakers meet at least once a year during the Cinema Rehiyon Film Festival traditionally in February. The festival is a government initiative through the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to nurture and cultivate filmmakers from the different regions. Approaching its thirteenth year, it is plagued with controversies stemming from the definition of regional cinema and who can be considered its makers. With RFN, it is expected that these issues may finally find solid answers not from government bureaucrats or Manila critics and academics, but from the film practitioners themselves. The issue with the government protocol may just be the right catalyst for filmmakers from the regions to finally pull their acts together and once and for all define their own course.

Here is the manifesto of the Regional Filmmakers Network:

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, regional filmmakers, workers, cineastes and leaders of film communities have come together to evaluate and define how we can best move forward amidst the challenges of the times. As a result, we have bonded together to form the Regional Filmmakers Network – a space that recognizes diversity and the unique cinematic expressions in the regions, as well as to promote and nurture our rights and welfare.

For many years, our regional filmmakers and productions have been producing films that represent our specific issues and realities. These films have become a social document of our creativity as a country, navigating the waters that separate us in islands big or small, reflecting the sentiments, dreams and aspirations of our diverse peoples and cultures. We have established our film festivals in the regions to serve as a venue to screen our works and discuss important issues that confront our film communities. This has resulted in the development of our audience, as well as relationships with local governments and businesses.

Through the years, we have enriched our regional cinema movement and its trajectory towards a decentralized national cinema that is reflective of the archipelagic nature of our country. Free and independent, we are unencumbered by government institutions or by the hegemonic critical establishment. We are an industry in the offing with a distinct mode of production that provides the filmmaker not only the source of creativity and labor, but also ownership of the artistic output.

Now more than ever, we come together with a greater sense of purpose and community. We acknowledge that our film communities do not exist in isolation and that we are part of a much larger society in which important issues affect even the far reaches of our vast archipelago. We assert our voices in all discussions that affect us as communities and as Filipinos.

We also take this opportunity for the Network to define regional cinema as an organic development in the artistic life of the regions whose direction we must be able to determine for ourselves, and not by people in places of power. We urge everyone to support the regions in our rightful place in the national imagination.

- Kath Banal

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