If there is one thing that the Sineng Pambansa has proven, it is that it proved how Ilonggos have a very warm appreciation for well-made, high-quality Indie Films. The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in cooperation with the Iloilo City Government held the very first Sineng Pambansa (National Cinema) Film Festival here in Iloilo City last January 19, 20, and 21, 2011. This was to be the first of what is expected to be an annual event which celebrates quality films of the country. For three days, the program was able to show a number of quality Filipino indie films that have been critically-acclaimed and award-winning in the international scene . Films like Brillante Mendoza’s Lola and Raymond Red’s Himpapawid were being exposed to Iloilo’s mass audience. These used to be movies that the ordinary Pinoy would not be familiar with; now we have the opportunity to see them with festivals like this.
The festival had a very warm reception from its audiences. I have never actually seen such long lines for a movie than what the movies of this festival have had. One of the big factors that contributed to that is that it was free admission, but then it’s not a mere walk-in process. The tickets are free of charge, but you have to register and get a numbered ticket so as to limit the audience to the limits of its maximum seating capacity. But then again, that did not stop the seemingly multitudes of moviegoers from watching EMIR on a jampacked “standing room” theatre. When I got inside the moviehouse, I was quickly reminded of the old days of local cinema when there were only a few moviehouses in the city; and these were also the days when people sitting on the floor for lack of seats, or just standing up for the entire duration of the movie were a common sight. And indeed, when EMIR was shown, there were people sitting on the balcony steps, on the floor, and standing on the sides, because all the seats were filled. In addition, before the movie began, the line of the people lining-up for Emir extended from Cinema 3 on the left-wing of the mall up to Cinema 6 on the right wing (other side) of the mall. This was going on while Iloilo was on its Dinagyang Friday, while the fireworks contest was going on just outside the mall, it did not diminish the crowd that filled the moviehouse that evening.
Another big factor is the support from students and schools. I really applaud the schools that encouraged their students to watch these movies. Arts and Culture is important in building the education of the youth. I am happy to say that there are these schools that encourage their students to break free from the mediocrity of what is fed by popular media, and pay attention to what truly is the kind of Arts & Culture that the well-educated youth should be exposed to.
Ultimately, aside from the factor that this is a free admission event, and aside that this event had heavy support from some schools, I would say that this festival is successful because a large number of the audiences really are people who loved quality films, specifically prestigious indie films. In many of the films being shown, there is always a degree of audience reaction; from laughter, to gasps of awe and suspense, to shrieks of sudden surprise scenes, and of course, there are the applauses and standing ovations. I can feel the honest reactions from seatmate audiences, and some reactions can be as loud as the ones in the farthest seats. And of course, there is also the degree of how active the audiences were during the Q & A sessions the screenings. The active interaction between the film and its audience is underlined with how audiences would be so eager to know more about the movie as what the Q & As had shown us. It is also there that they expressed their admiration, and I was so proud as an Ilonggo that there are still so many of us here who have true love for Quality Pinoy movies, specifically Prestigious Pinoy Indie Films.
I am so sure that Iloilo will be looking forward to the next Sineng Pambansa Film Festival with sheer eagerness and excitement. Yes, you and I will be there…