The independent cinema of the Pangasinan province, Philippines

Archive for December, 2012

2009: Highlights in Film

By Oggs Cruz published at Lessons From The School of Inattention on January 1, 2010

2009 has been both kind and cruel to Philippine cinema. As we celebrate the numerous recognitions Filipino films are getting from beyond Philippine shores (Brillante Mendoza winning Best Director in Cannes for Kinatay (The Execution of P) with Raya Martin’s Independencia (which is the second Filipino film, after Mendoza’s Serbis (Service) in 2008, to be featured in the prestigious New York Film Festival) and Manila (co-directed with Adolfo Alix, Jr.) also premiering in the film festival; Pepe Diokno’s Engkwentro (Clash) winning the Luigi de Laurentiis Award and the Orrizonti Prize in Venice, where Mendoza’s Lola (Grandmother) premiered in the main competition of the film festival; Pusan and Thessaloniki putting the spotlight on Philippine cinema, concentrating on the diverse output of the new wave of directors from the vibrant independent scene; Vienna holding a retrospective of Lino Brocka’s works; among many others), we mourn the untimely passing of the heroes of Philippine cinema: Alexis Tioseco, a great critic who championed Southeast Asian, and more specifically Philippine cinema, concentrating on the films of the Diaz, Martin, and John Torres, whose works he dearly loved, with endless passion; and Johnny Delgado, a great actor whose collaborations with almost all of the country’s great filmmakers (Brocka, Mike De Leon, Gerry De Leon, Laurice Guillen, and Celso A. Castillo), make up a portion of this country’s vibrant cinema.

2009 also saw the continuation of what ails our cinema: an unimaginative mainstream (although I must admit that Chito Rono’s T2, the first half of which is quite intriguing, Olive Lamasan’s In My Life, a baby step for the mainstream to embrace gay cinema (as opposed to the banal comedies of Joel Lamangan that merely re-echoed the stereotypes of homosexuality from past decades with contemporary idiocy), and Laurice Guillen’s I Love You, Goodbye, a fine film except that it ended illogically, were minor delights), and local film distributors that favor brainless blockbusters (Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Chris Weitz’s New Moon) to quality imports (although the latter part of the year saw the surprising commercial release of Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, James Gray’s Two Lovers, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds and Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox). Despite that, the year saw the continuation of what gives us hope in our cinema: Cinemalaya, despite my apprehensions to its raison d’etre of independence through creative compromise, had a roster of good to great products (Alvin Yapan’s Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe), Veronica Velasco’s Last Supper No. 3, Borgy Torre’s charming short Bonsai); Cinemanila, apart from showcasing the best films from around the world (including Christopher Chong’s Karaoke, Sergei Dvortsevoy’s Tulpan and Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In), saw the premieres of Raymond Red’s Himpapawid (Manila Skies), his first film since winning the Palm D’Or for his short film Anino (Shadows), Christopher Gozum’s Anacbanua (Child of the Sun), and Armando Lao’s Biyaheng Lupa (Soliloquy), and CinemaOne, despite my problem with the festival’s treatment of its director’s property rights with regards their films, which produced its sole masterpiece, Ray Gibraltar’s Wanted: Border.

One can only hope for better things for 2010: with filmmakers getting their due respect, not only in terms of recognition but also basic sustenance (it pains me to see these filmmakers struggling to pay off debts incurred for the sole reason of advancing this country’s cinematic culture); with our audience actually watching the films that have garnered worldwide fanfare instead of simply reading about them from obscure press releases in several broadsheets; with more film lovers writing about our cinema, giving room to responsible discourse about our films. Now, on to the lists:


Top 10 Foreign Films Released in 2009

1) The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Werner Herzog)
2) Two Lovers (James Gray)
3) Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki)
4) Karaoke (Christopher Chong)
5) Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
6) Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
7) Public Enemies (Michael Mann)
8) Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy)
9) Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
10) Drag Me To Hell (Sam Raimi)


Top 10 Filipino Films Released in 2009

1) Independencia (Raya Martin)
2) Kinatay (The Execution of P, Brillante Mendoza)
3) Wanted: Border (Ray Gibraltar)
4) Anacbanua (Child of the Sun, Christopher Gozum)
5) Lupang Hinarang (Hindered Land, Ditsi Carolino)
6) Himpapawid (Manila Skies, Raymond Red)
7) Walang Alaala ang mga Paru-paro (Butterflies Have No Memories, Lav Diaz)
8) Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe, Alvin Yapan)
9) Last Supper No. 3 (Veronica Velasco)
10) Kimmy Dora (Joyce Bernal)


Top 5 Older Filipino Films Seen for the First Time in 2009

1) Pagdating sa Dulo (At the Top, Ishmael Bernal, 1971)
2) Bakit Dilaw ang Gitna ng Bahaghari? (Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow?, Kidlat Tahimik, 1994)
3) Bontoc Eulogy (Marlon Fuentes, 1995)
4) Ang Magpakailanman (The Eternity, Raymond Red, 1982)
5) Kagat ng Dilim (Dark Bites, Cesar Hernando, 2006)


Pangasinan movie wins Paris International Film award

By Yolanda Sotelo published at Northern Watch on November 6, 2012

DAGUPAN CITY – An exiled poet returns to his native homeprovince of Pangasinan after many years of absence. Through a mystical soul journey, he reclaims his primal connection to the water (danum), to the land (dalin), and to the people (katooan) where in the end he finds a home to anchor his wandering soul and his art.

This is the synopsis of “Anacbanua (Child of the Sun),” an experimental feature movie on Pangasinan landscape, people and culture written and directed by independent filmmaker Christopher Gozum, 35. The film won this October the Prix des Signes Award from the International Jury in the “Cinema in Transgression” section of the 10th International Festival Signes de Nuit/Paris.

Anacbanua is one of Gozum’s movies written in Pangasinan language, his way of helping the language from getting extinct as the province had been “invaded” by Ilocano-speaking people that only central towns speak the original language of the place.

Gozum, from Bayambang town and who studied film and theater arts at the University of the Philippines, passionately advocates for the preservation and promotion of the language though his films.

“I hope to make young audiences from the province appreciate the beauty, poetry, and importance of the language, thus helping in its revival and revitalization,” he told the Inquirer in an interview through email.

In 2007, Gozum founded his independent film company Sine Caboloan committed to producing cutting edge films about the Pangasinan province and its people in the homeland and in the diaspora.

Gozum has also just completed a new feature-length experimental documentary film called Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved) between 2011 to 2012, and is preparing for two new independent projects namely Say Kalayan Na Linang Tan Balitok (The River of Silt and Gold), a feature-length experimental documentary film, and Luyag ‘Da’ra’y Anino (A Kingdom of Shadows), a feature-length narrative film.

Gozum decided to focus on making Pangasinan movies because “no one makes Pangasinan films in this country – films that tell the stories of Pangasinenses, either set in the Pangasinan province or beyond, whose dialogues or narration are presented in the Pangasinan language.”

He became passionate about the venture in 2006 when he saw an independent film made in Nueva Vizcaya whose dialogues are in the Ilocano language. “It is a quiet yet powerful film that tells the story of the local Igorot community. The cast in this film comprise mostly of non-actors who also came from the town. Somehow, this experience gave me the idea on making Pangasinan films,” he said.

Gozum said his pride about being a Pangasinanse was because of studies that showed the Pangasinan region was already an independent ethnic state before the Spanish conquest.

“We had a highly civilized community, a well-developed language and culture, and a vibrant economy that had maritime trade links with mainland China and mainland Southeast Asia. In short, I was born in a place that already had a long and proud history,” he said.

He does not believe that Pangasinan language is getting extinct, explaining that he still hears many children in the barrios of my hometown of Bayambang speaking the language.

“It is only in the Poblacion (town proper) of big towns and urban centers like Dagupan where the language is spoken less frequently especially by children, he said, putting the blame on the parents for the deterioration of the native language because they prefer to speak to their children in Tagalog/Filipino and English even inside their own homes,” he said.

While saying he was not a trained linguist, he thinks the Pangasinan language will continue to evolve adding loan words from other languages like English and Tagalog in its arsenal although many native words and native idioms used two decades ago will go out of use in another two decade.

Gozum admits that his venture was not financially viable, with very little or no money at all, although he is able to sustain it through screening fee or royalty fee from groups or organizations. He also used the cash prize for his short films as seed money for his first two films, and a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts for “Lawas kan Pinabli.”

But he said he would continue doing the movies because, “Art which includes the cinema is the language of the soul. If nobody ventures in creating works of art in the Pangasinan province, how can we as a people or as a community express the essence of our soul. A place or a town, or a community without its’ local artists and native intelligentsia is a dead place, it does not have soul. So the community must always support and nurture its homegrown artists and native intelligentsia.”

It may be a lonely road for this film maker, but his love for the language, which he speaks even in his dreams, keeps him going.

Award-winning Pinoy filmmaker: Being an OFW changes how you look at things

By Karla Maquiling published at GMA News Online December 18, 2012

Riyadh-based Filipino filmmaker Christopher Gozum, whose “Anacbuana” film won an international award, said being an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) gave him a different perspective of things.

Gozum won the Prix des Signes award in the Cinema in Transgression section of the 10th International Festival Signes de Nuit in Paris last October.

“Being away from our country has given me a sharper and more objective view of things back
home,” said the 35-year-old Pangasinan native who works as a medical videographer and video editor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Gozum’s diaspora experience fueled “Anacbanua” (or “Child of the Sun”), the first film in the
Pangasinan language.

Narrated through visuals and poetry or “anlong,” the film follows a Western-educated poet as he goes back to his hometown.

“My initial objective when I was writing the concept of ‘Anacbanua’ was to make a film that
would become a vehicle to show the contemporary poetry of the province,” the two-time
Palanca awardee told GMA News Online.

He didn’t expect the film to get so much attention, but in the last three years, “Anacbanua” has made the rounds of numerous film festivals all over the world, including the:

* 16th Filipino-American Cine Festival in San Francisco in 2009,
* 8th Edition flEXiff in Sydney in 2010,
* 12th Mumbai Film Festival in India in 2010,
* 8th World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2010,
* 11th Jeonju International Film Festival in South Korea in 2010,
* 8th Edition Chennai International Film Festival in India in 2010, and
* 1st Anemic Festival of Independent Film & New Media Art in Prague in 2010.

Locally, “Anacbanua” won the Digital Lokal Lino Brocka Grand Prize and Best Director Award
at the 11th Cinemanila International Film Festival in 2009, and has been nominated for Best
Cinematography and Best Screenplay at the 33rd Urian Awards in 2010.

The movie has also been shown at the UP Film Institute, the Alexis Tioseco-Nika Bohinc Film
Series, Cinemalaya, and a few universities in Pangasinan.

“Anacbanua” brings together Gozum’s passion for poetry and his skill in filmmaking (he has a
film degree from UP Diliman as well as a diploma from South Korea’s Asian Film Academy).

A playwright and a poet, Gozum chose cinema as a vehicle for his advocacy because of its

“I think the cinema has the capacity to reach as many people of diverse backgrounds. Creating the awareness among Pangasinenses on the importance of conserving their linguistic heritage is best done through cinema,” he said.

Working to finance his passion

Wanting to create independent digital films about Pangasinan is what drove Gozum to seek
employment abroad.

During the day, he works as a videographer for an eye hospital; at night he plans, writes his
scripts, and coordinates with Philippine-based collaborators via the Internet for digital projects made through his own film production company, Sine Caboloan.

Shoots are done during weekends or when comes home to Pangasinan for his annual vacation.

“Anacbanua” was produced with his own money, funded partly by the cash prize he got for the experimental short film “Surreal Random MMS,” an Ishmael Bernal award winner at the 2008 Cinemanila.

Even though he’s away from the country, Gozum continues to produce Pangasinan films that
he hopes will inspire other ethno-linguistic communities in the Philippines like the Hiligaynons or the Bikolanos to tell their own stories, in their own language, through the cinema.

Gozum has just finished working on “Lawas Kan Pinabli” (or “Forever Loved”), a three-hour
experimental documentary about Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East.

Funded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the film premiered this year at the Cinemanila and was brought to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Edinburgh International Film Festival in the United Kingdom.

Gozum is working on a documentary on the Pangasinan and Ibaloi communities near the Agno River and how their lives are affected by floods, mining, and modern developments.

Another project that is in the works is “Luyag ‘Da’ra’y Anino” (or “A Kingdom of Shadows”),
which follows the life of a middle-aged migrant Filipina, a shepherdess in a remote Middle
Eastern village, who has been unable to come home for 21 years. Gozum said these projects
will start shooting once he gets funding for them.

For a diaspora filmmaker like Gozum, one can never be too far away from home. – VVP, GMA News