Mindanao films go on world premiere in Metro Manila

Adjani Arumpac's full length film "Walai" will open the festival at 7 p.m. on December 5.

"Walai" is an exploration of spaces. It prods on the memories of four Muslim women who once  lived in the infamous White House in Cotabato City. The documentary seeks narratives in “places…we tend to feel without history.” It traces the past through  the women's experience of what has happened inside the wrecked home—nostalgia and fear, loss and love, and birth and death.

Gutierrez Mangansakan II's full length documentary, "The Jihadist,” will premiere at
9 p.m. on December 6.

“The Jihadist” is an autobiographical documentary on the filmmaker’s struggle as an artist amid the backdrop of the Islamic revolution in Mindanao. His search for his
rightful place in the memory of his homeland yields questions that require him to confront his identity as a Moro and come to terms with his homosexuality.

Mangsakan is an award-winning filmmaker and is an inspiration to many an aspiring filmmaker in Mindanao. He also edited the anthology of essays by young Moro writers, “Children of the Ever-Changing Moon,” launched Thursday at the National Bookstore in SM Davao City.

“Salam Mindanao,” composed of seven short films shot in seven different sites in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), will be shown from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., before Mangansakan’s film.

The films are: Tranquil Times by Loren Lao (documentary);  George’s Town by Moises Charles Hollite (documentary);  Sulu by Al Jacinto (documentary); Biniton by McRobert Nacrio (narrative);  A Step for My Dream by Mona Labado (narrative); Angan-Angan [Dreams] (feature); and Pulubi by Eduardo Vasquez Jr. (documentary);

“Tranquil Times” delves on the good governance efforts of the private sector, civil society and the local government unit of Wao, Lanao del Sur working together to erase remnants of the religious and ethnic clashes of the 1970s. It explores how peace has been achieved in this multi-ethnic town, propelling the once-turbulent municipality into its present agricultural renaissance.

“George’s Town” takes off from George Sabandal, one of about 2,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have sought refuge in the town of Buluan, Maguindanao as a result of the “all-out war” in 2000. Refusing to go back to the place of his origin, he has created a new life for himself and his family in their ideal town.

“Sulu” by Al Jacinto is a film on young writer Arthur Sakalauran Abalos,  born of a Muslim mother, who decides to visit Sulu despite the perceived strife and presence of Muslim rebels and Abu Sayyaf terrorists. In Sulu, he meets a former Muslim rebel-turned policeman who tells him about his life story and how he got separated from his family for
more than a decade. He returns to Sulu to start a new life after being reunited with his family. Arthur returns to Manila after a short stay in Sulu, bringing with him memorable stories and truths about the island feared by many as a dangerous place to go.

“Biniton” by McRobert Nacrio is a story depicting the process of preparation and
cooking of a dish called Biniton that is particular to the community of Saniag, Ampatuan. The process of cooking, in the eyes of an old woman, brings to life the hardships they experienced amidst armed conflict at the same time the process of preparation, through the experience of Amel, her grandson walks us through the current situation of their community. How amidst the hardships and diversity in culture they had all managed to bounce back and become united.

“A Step for My Dream” by Mona Labado is a narrative on seven-year-old Abdul who dreams of becoming a leader of his town in Paglat, Maguindanao. He has natural
charisma and easily becomes friends with people even if he hasn’t known them for long. But his grandmother reminds him of their peasant roots which is no match to the traditional ruling family. Undaunted, Abdul sees it as a challenge envisions his future.

“Angan-Angan” (Dreams) by Sheon Dayoc, is a feature on nine -year-old Satra who has been mute for as long as she could remember. But her determination to secure a good
education reverberates clearly amid the strictures of her Yakan culture.

“Pulubi” by Eduardo Vasquez Jr. is a documentary on the transformation of Upi, Shariff Kabunsuan as seen through the metamorphosis of a beggar.

The filmmakers

Loren Hallilah I. Lao is an Instructor at the English Department and Communication Studies Program of Mindanao State University, Marawi City.  A lawyer, she is also a Lecturer at the College of Law of the same University.  At the same time, she writes fiction and dabbles in filmmaking. She is one of the authors of the recently-launched book, “Children of the Ever-Changing Moon.”

Moises Charles Hollite, born in 1980, initially wanted to pursue a career in music. But having worked as production assistant in four documentaries changed that. Influenced by MTV, George’s Town is his first directorial film.

Al Jacinto is a freelance journalist, a photographer and a budding independent filmmaker. He co-produced a 10-minute documentary-MTV on the poverty situation in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines entitled Pobreza en Zamboanga. And made a full-length film
entitled Sultan in Mindanao and several short photo-documentaries about poverty since 2006.
McRobert Nacario, 24, has worked in various documentaries and feature films. His keen eye for detail is evident in his works making his films a sumptuous visual feast.

Mona Labado, a computer engineering graduate, gravitated to the world of cinema when they were asked to make video projects in college. Together with her friends, she has made a few documentaries and short films. A Step for My Dream is her directorial debut.

Sheron Dayoc is a philosophy graduate of Ateneo de Zamboanga University. Trained at the UP Film Institute, he has produced several documentaries on the untold stories of marginal people and different tribes in Mindanao that has enriched both his personal

Eduardo C. Vasquez, Jr., OMI is a Catholic Missionary priest who belongs to the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI). He is presently assigned as the parish priest of the San Isidro Parish in Upi, Shariff Kabunsuan. He is the founder and the present director of the “I-watch Team” which produces short video documentaries advocating Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. Fr. Vasquez has earned his Masteral Degree in Pastoral Ministry at the Loyola School of Theology in Ateneo de Manila University where he graduated Cum Laude. In  2003, he earned his diploma on Religious and Social Communication in CREC-AVEX, Ecully, France. (MindaNews)