One thing you'll notice by looking at the schedule of the Bangkok International Film Festival (PDF), and hanging around and listening is a distinctly Filipino flavor.
Besides Thailand, I don't think there's another country with a heavier presence in the festival schedule than the Philippines. There are six Filipino films:
- Jay - The lone Southeast Asian entry in the Main Competition is directed Francis Xavier E Pasion. In it, a gay schoolteacher named Jay is murdered and suddenly a reality-TV producer also named Jay is filming the teacher's grieving family. Pasion's debut feature, it won Best Film, Best Actor and Best Editing awards in the 2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival. It's showing at 3pm on Saturday, September 27, and 1:10pm on Sunday, September 28, both with Q&A sessions.
- Now Showing - Raya Martin's four-hour family drama about a young woman who works at her aunt's pirate DVD stall is in the Southeast Asia Competition. The first part in a planned trilogy, it premiered at this year's Directors' Fortnight. Showing at 1.30pm on Thursday, September 26 and 10.45am on Saturday, September 27, both with Q&A sessions.
- Serbis - One of two films in the fest by Brillante Mendoza, this drama is about a family that runs an X-rated cinema in Angeles City. It was a nominee for the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year - the first Filipino film in the main Cannes competition since Lino Brocka's The Jaguar in 1984. I think Serbis is going to be one of the Bangkok fest's hot tickets. Showing at 7.15 tonight (September 24) with a Q&A afterward and 8.30pm on Saturday, September 27.
- Years When I Was a Child Outside - Director John Torres takes an autobiographical look at childhood, depicting the relationship of a son and father, who, as it turned out, led a double life and had another entire family. Showing at 4pm on Thursday, September 25 and 6pm on Saturday, September 27, both with Q&A sessions.
- Drumbeat (Tambolista) - Prolific young director Adolfo Alix Jr. directs this indie drama about a teenage boy who dreams about having is own drum kit but probably won't ever realize that dream because he's just another kid living in the slums of Manila. It premiered in Rotterdam. Showing at 11.30am on Thursday, September 25 and 10.30am on Saturday, September 27, both with Q&A sessions.
- Slingshot (Tirador) - Mendoza's other film in the program, playing out of competition in the Southeast Asia Panorama, follows the life of a gang of petty thieves in the slums of Manila. Critically well received, Slingshot premiered in Toronto last year and has since been a fixture on festival circuit. Showing at 5pm today (September 24) with a Q&A and at 4.30pm on Friday.
With all the directors present for Q&A sessions after their films, the opportunity presented itself to organize a seminar on Pinoy cinema. (Well, Mendoza won't be around. After the screenings of Serbis and Slingshot today, he'll be jetting out.)
They'll talk about the Pinoy New Wave, which has been exemplified by the movement's unofficial leader, Lav Diaz, who is a Main Competition juror at this year's Bangkok International Film Festival. Diaz broke away from commercial filmmaking in 2002 when he made Batang West Side which set the tone for the movement, using digital cameras, experimental techniques and boundless running times. Diaz' other films include the nine-hour-long Evolution of a Filipino Family, which took 11 years to make, the mind-blowing Heremias Book One (also nine hours) and the 11-hour Death in the Land of Encantos. His latest film, the seven-hour-long Melancholia, won the Orizzonti Grand Prize at the the recent Venice Film Festival.
The seminar will be held from 4 to 6pm on Friday (September 26) in the First Class Lounge at SF World Cinema.
(Cross-published at Bangkok Cinema Scene/The Nation Weblog)