Dekada Cinemanila – As The Bulol Stops Wishing: The First Ten Years Of Cinemanila

It has been a decade since the Bulol was first associated with excellence in filmmaking, ten years since the deity whose presence ensures good harvest became the icon for the dream of presenting the best of Filipino films to world cinema audiences and of world cinema to the Filipino audience. This October, as the Cinemanila International Film Festival marks its tenth anniversary, the time has come for that decade-old dream to give way to another.

Since its inception in 1999, Cinemanila has become the launching pad for the new breed of Filipino filmmakers. Past winners went on to create waves in both the local and international arenas. Gawad Urian awardee Mes de Guzman and Cannes scholar Raya Martin are but only two of the prestigious alumni of the festival’s Young Cinema Competition. The competition was also one of the first to recognize John Torres, now a Gawad Urian Awardee and recipient of the Fipresci-Netpac Award from Singapore.

Cinemanila has also been at the forefront in recent developments in local cinema. The festival, in cooperation with in Singapore, launched the very first digital film festival in Manila and Southeast Asia in 2000. Four years later, Cinemanila paved the way for the 1st Boracay Co-Production Meeting together with the Hubert Bals fund of Rotterdam IFF and the Goteborg Film Festival. Since then, the Boracay Co-prod has provided grants to the likes of acclaimed Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz (Heremias) and Raya Martin (Glint of an Alley in a Rush).

Many prominent figures have also graced the festival’s annual celebration, infusing Cinemanila with a dose of prominence and credibility. Christopher Doyle, famed cinematographer of Hero and In the Mood for Love, gave a workshop during the festival’s initial run. Adoor Gopalakrishnan, recipient of India’s highest national honor for lifetime achievement in cinema and the French Top Honor for culture, was given a grand Filipino welcome the same year.

In 2003, Cinemanila welcomed Fil-Am Hollywood celebrities Tia Carrere and Lou Diamond Phillips. A year before that, Jeremy Segay of Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight graced the festival as Rob Nilsson (Caméra d’Or winner for Northern Lights) and Pierre-William Glenn (Un fil a la patte, Cette femme-la) conducted direct cinema and cinematography workshops respectively. The year 2004 saw internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi gracing the 5th edition of the festival.

Founder of the Pusan International Film Festival Kim Dong-Ho was present in 2005 to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. The same award was bestowed to Aruna Vasudev, founder-president of the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC), and Philip Cheah, founding festival director of the Singapore International Film Festival, the following year. And just last year, Cinemanila received American cult icon Quentin Tarantino and HSH Chatrichalerm Yukol, film director and member of the Thai Royal Family. Esteemed representatives from foreign film festivals were likewise present which include Olivier Pere, artistic director, Director’s Fortnight, Cannes Film Festival; Ansgar Vogt, selection member, Berlin International Film Festival Forum Program; and Wieland Speck, director, Panorama Program, Berlin< International Film Festival.

Truly, the road to the tenth edition is marked by outstanding contributions and undeniable accomplishments. And the fact that Cinemanila has reached a decade is another achievement by itself. The past ten years encompasses a relentless cause fueled by enthusiasm, dedication, hard work, optimism and yes, even luck. Just as it proclaimed during its humble beginning, Cinemanila still remains steadfast in its advocacy of promoting world cinema to the Philippines and vice versa – of promoting Philippine cinema to the world.

Today, Cinemanila can firmly stake claim to being the country’s premiere international film festival. No more wishing for Cinemanila to bridge the gap between the Philippines and what world cinema has to offer. This dream may have taken almost a decade to be realized but it was a journey well worth it. Now as another edition approaches, Cinemanila welcomes another set of challenges. It has also set its sight on another dream, to put the Philippines back on the world cinema map. And just like it has done for the past ten years, the Bulol looks on, expectant of another decade filled bountifully with excellent Filipino films.