january 23-30, 2002
greenbelt cinema 1, makati city
metro manila, philippines














































DIGITAL EK EK: the .mov digital film festival
MTV  ink

By Bernie T. Sim 

            No slutty leading ladies, no impossible FPJ stunts, no stupid dance numbers, and no two hour-long diva dramatics. These anti-formula digital Pinoy flicks are able to cram in a whole lot of art and meaning in the time that it takes for the other feature films to run their opening credits. 

            Vocalist Carol Bello of the world music ensemble Pinikpikan falters midway through the Philippine National Anthem at the packed January 22 opening of the country’s first digital film fest. She giggles in embarrassment then resumes singing, thankfully remembering all the words to the “Pambansang Awit” this time. This was just one of several faux pas committed that night: The Dawn’s Francis Reyes had to step in for flu-ridden .Mov host Lourd de Veyra, there were countless lapses in program cues, and obnoxious people were dishing out loud side comments throughout the show (okay, so this isn’t production’s fault – but still).

            Despite the many dilemmas that prompted the veteran NU 107 DJ to quip, “Man, this is the hardest gig in the world,” the .Mov opening at Greenbelt was a success. Artists, directors, and musicians were crowding the buffet table and chugging down cans of Red Horse beer before proceeding inside Greenbelt Cinema One for the opening remarks, the Silvershorts short film awarding, and an audio-visual freestyle jam session.

            For the next eight days .Mov showcased some of the best materials independent cinema has to offer. For madcap orgranizer Khavn de la Cruz, getting it all together required an abysmal trip into Philippine bureaucracy, not to mention being a complete drain on his resources. Two days before .Mov took off Khavn discovered that he just lost his government funding due to a technical lapse. Attempts to get the MTRCB and the NCAA to help proved futile. “The MTRCB chairman doesn’t even know what a short film is!” Khavn exclaims. “He told me, ‘Short film? Five minutes? Eh, end credits lang ‘yun eh.’ After that, I just remained quiet.” Thankfully, Khavn and his associates managed to pull off their event even without big money, and even with three bored MTRCB housewives waving the mainstream plastic mallet around.

            .Mov aims to promote the medium and the cause of digital filmmaking in the country. As a production tool the digital media combines the best format of video with the cheapest format of film. It’s definitely a medium that allows a filmmaker to focus on their art, not on the box office hit grosses the industry would want them to make. There were over 60 entries spread across different .Mov categories, such full-length features, shorts, music videos, animation, video installments and documentaries. Some are as long as an hour while others would be over a minute. Then there’s the geographical variety entries from Canada, USA, and India, which held their own digital film fest last year. To accommodate the volume of entries, .Mov also held free alternate screenings at the 50-or-so-seater Greenbelt preview room, at the CCP, and at Joey Fernandez’ Brash Young Cinema bachelor pad. .Mov screenings were originally supposed to be free, but Ayala decided to “test the market,” and therefore charged a fee of P60 to watch one or two full-length .Mov films at the Greenbelt Cinema One theater. “If we had it our way, It’d be free,” says Khavn. The Ayala people were saying that they didn’t really care about the money and all, but alas, those were just merely words meant to pacify the plea of the ‘angry young artist.’”

            One of the program’s highlights is the long overdue local short film competition, The Silvershorts. I only managed to view five out of the 12 SS finalists, but wow, these were amazing works that deserve a slot on primetime TV more than Attagirl and Whattamen do.

            Said SS judge and film guru Kidlat Tahimik during the awarding ceremonies, “ I never had the discipline you guys have. During the first week of classes I was teaching at UP, the five minute shorts I received all had a touch of Mother Lily sex and violence. Pero talagang magagaling ang mga nakita kong films dito. The digital revolution has a potential here.” Then he proceeded to grant the award – literally a kid-sized pair of silver shorts suspended from a metal hanger.

            The first place winner was Jolly Feliciano’s stop-motion feature, Kawala. Stark and poignant, it looked like a painted comic (think Alex Ross’ Earth X or Kent William’s The Crow) come to life. The editing was superb, and it was obvious a lot of work went into post-production. Second place went to Mo Zee’s unnerving Sulyap. Mo Zee, he with the rock star hair and model bod, captured the estranged but ordinary moment when the poor meets the well-off. Nothing fancy, but the short captures the feelings of tension and guilt so well that I couldn’t help but squirm on my posh, newly upholstered theater seat.

            Then there’s the sensual and estrogen-rich This is My Body by Edber Mamisao. It’s an intellectual and eroctic short that puts all our local skin flicks to shame. A 3D black & white fun piece, Overkill, is a macabre comedy about millennium disasters by Erin Pascual. And of course, I got to see the much-gushed about A Date with Jao Mapa by that bouncing body of comic relief, Quark Henares. Hilarious and koboy, even with the Misery plot. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to view Arleen Cuevas and Elizabeth Balitaan’s third placer, Taguan. Not to worry, since Khavn’s Filmless Films production group will have the Silvershorts finalists and some choice .Mov entries available on VHS format sometime this year.

            In the mornings during the festival, .Mov held a series of free digital filmmaking workshops titled Digital Freedom. These are moderated by the likes of Cannes and Sundance winner filmmaker Rob Nilsson, Tanging Yaman and American Adobo cinematographer Lee Meily, and Artist Group’s Bong Modesto. The seminars were capped by an open forum on the 30th of January. You’d expect some free-spirited opinions flying around then, especially with digital revolutionist Rob Nilsson, “Filmmaking for me is to tell something I don’t know rather than something I do know. I want a cinema for people. For me the everyday man and woman is interesting.”

            Of the full-length features I only managed to watch JJ Pascual’s Lonely Planet-esque A Pilgrim’s Journal. It was a lovely 40-minute film, a perfect eye soother after a hectic day of commuting, and one you didn’t want to leave even if your bladder’s begging you to go peepee. There were only a handful of people in the G1 cinema (as opposed to maybe 20 in the free preview room), but then it was a weekday, and the organizers admitted to slacking off in the publicity department early on. “We started to peak during the weekend, although hindi siya binaha as in,” says Khavn. “We got a very positive response. Pero saying lang yung iba nalaman lang nila yung .Mov during the fest na, o kaya naman patapos na. Maybe if there was enough awareness.” You becha.

            The transition from celluloid to digital is not a revolution most want it to be. Rather, and more realistically, it’s a slow evolution. Even if you’ve convinced the big movie companies to switch technologies (and they will because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to save a few million bucks), there’s still the challenge of making them think digital. There are big film outfits out there who still have minions of personal assistants working on their small-scale digital projects. It is yet another challenge the truly digital folks need to conquer, and conquer they will because of their unadultered love for film. If they need to spell out to these old dogs what a short film is, then so be it. Otherwise, you can still curse them on national TV for being a “festival of idiots,” much like Batang Westside’s director Lav Diaz did. But that’s another not-so-short story.          

Copyright © 2001 .Mov: The 1st Philippine Digital Film Fest and Filmless Films. 
 All Rights Reserved.