WHILE glancing at the posters of this year’s batch of Cinemalaya films posted at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, I thought I was in a movie house to watch mainstream flicks.

I became a fan of local independent films, or “indies,” because of their approach to stories and the unconventional formula of putting the scripts into moving images.

Aside from these, their deviation from predictable storylines and bothersome lineup of celebrities give me a sense of relief––the Philippines still has brilliant filmmakers who can produce works worthy for artistic cinema.

Every year, I look forward to the competing “indies” in Cinemalaya. This time, the festival offered a new kind of category for veteran directors to showcase their independent works, an opportunity and a challenge given to accomplished directors to try “indie.”

Aside from the directors from the mainstream and often times “commercial cinema,” most of Cinemalaya 2010 contenders had been the usual celebrities we see on the television, unlike before where new artists were introduced.

During the time when independent filmmakers were starting to transform the “indie” scene to mainstream look, I was one of those who disliked the shift because I thought it was an “if you can’t be them, join them” scenario.

But I was enlightened when I got an internship in an independent film production recently. It was a film which cast members are regularly seen on television such as Janice de Belen, Mart Escudero and Eugene Domingo. Also, the production uses a high-quality camera. It seems that gone are the days when independent cinema was propelled by amateur video cameras and amateur “no-name” cast.

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One thing that Raymond Lee, one of my mentors in the internship and a professor at the University of the Philippines Film Institute, taught me was that a viewer should not look mainly on the technical aspect of a film but the story it serves to its audience.

That is one quality offered by almost all independent film and is mostly not visible on mainstream––an interesting plot that does not conform to the demands of advertisers and has story lines that are not based on the popularity of main stars.

During the awards night of this year’s Cinemalaya, it was as if you were in the Star Awards for Movies because of the presence of the many celebrities.

As Milo Tolentino, best director in this year’s Cinemalaya Short Film competition, commented about the recent festival in a report from the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “indie and mainstream people came together. Suddenly, there’s this community of filmmakers… like there’s no barrier between indie and mainstream.”

Definitely, there is no stopping the mainstream world from invading the indie circle. Things may change sooner or later with the independent filmmakers entertaining the thought of applying mainstream ideas to their works, such as succumbing to the demands of advertisers and having a “profit first” mentality before producing a good story.

When the time comes when “indies” become the “new mainstream,” Philippine cinema will have to struggle again in finding ways to bring back the fire that has once been sparked by independent films.


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