Saturday, February 18, 2012

Indie initiation

WHAT can I endure for P10?

Quite a lot, I learned last Friday at the culmination of Mass Communication Week at the University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu.

The icing of the activities was, for this fan of stories, the short videos made by students for the revived UPelikula and the short and feature-length movies made by indie filmmakers first shown in the Binisaya festival last year.

Years ago, UPelikula began in UP Cebu as a showcase of the shorts made by Mass Com students for course requirements. This year, the Mass Com program, Communicators of UP and the UP Cebu Student Council opened the competition to all students.

First shown at the University of San Carlos-Talamban Campus, the Binisaya movies were presented to a UP Cebu audience that missed the December viewing.

Entrance was free when all entries for UPelikula were shown on Feb. 16. A day later, I was again the first to queue up and turn over my P30 for a purple ticket that got me inside the UP Cebu conference room for the Binisaya showing.

Actually, I didn’t have to queue up. Even if I came an hour after the scheduled start, I was, for a period long enough to show a couple of shorts or one feature-length movie, the only one waiting in the dark for the movies to start. (Patience rewards: I got a P20 discount when organizers lowered the entrance fee after more interminable waiting.)

Lesson 1 for indie newbies: bring a story to read or make your own while waiting for the movie to start.

At UP, alternative classes don’t force students to troop to events, the assumption being that anyone serious about learning will go on his or her own volition. This can create headaches for organizers, but I can live happily without “captured audiences” that fill the chairs and then yak about their bleeding hearts throughout the entire event.

Realizing that young people live hard, sleep late and wake late, I brought a Stieg Larsson novel to wait for my youngers to stumble in hours after I, the first latecomer, came. Actually, all the waiting I did enabled me to finish the second novel and begin the third novel of Larsson’s trilogy about human trafficking conspiracies.

Lesson 2: no matter how small, indie audiences demand a LOT.
In contrast to big-budgeted productions that only invest in sure hits, indie movies are supposed to mirror the unique, never-before-seen vision of an as-yet-unheralded visionary auteur.

Crap. I was glad to be part of a rather cozy audience because as soon as the UPelikula and Binisaya movies were shown, nearly all of us in the audience had something to comment or gossip about the actors/director/crew/setting—all totally unrelated to the movie: rolling guffaws (mockery with a capital M) when a Junquera character compares the red light district to sleepless New York. “Oy! Di ba na Kawasan (Falls)? You remember how Ingo totally lost it there during our Humanities outing (loud whisper during a climactic scene about dying, revelation and redemption)?”

Lesson 3: Why make movies for an audience that comes chronically late, gets in for free or a pittance, and out-criticizes the critics?

Because we stay on. Because in spite of our know-it-all snickers broadcasting in the dark that we see through Maja the Consistent Scholar acting as Donna the Pick-up Artist, a number of us wait till the end to find out how your story jumps, twists, slips away as image, metaphor or memory.

Because we shut up when the story holds us in its sway and we shout and demand to finish a movie that’s cut because another group is moving inside the conference room and we gobble down a late lunch to resume the viewing hastily continued in a classroom.

Because some stories demand to be told these stories that go beyond mere good or bad stories that make waiting in the dark a point connecting to another point and so on until you walk out of the dark, thinking: I didn’t even miss the popcorn.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 18, 2012 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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