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The very first Cinematografo International Film Festival (CIFF) opened its inaugural year with a four-day exhibit of 28 films that echo the voices that tell the stories of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans.

Opening night at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8 Theaters saw a parade of filmmakers, celebrities, government officials, community leaders, and guests walking the red carpet just before the U.S premiere of Loy Arcens’ “Ang Larawan” (The Portrait). Director Arcenas, Lead Actor Rachel AlejandroProducer Girlie Rodis, and Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, who wrote the music, were in attendance and participated in a Q&A with the audience right after the screening.

Good spirits, good food, and wine flowed at the Opening Night Party at the Omni Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Filmmaker Ramona Diaz was impressed, saying, “I think to get Filipino American filmmakers in one room is already an accomplishment. Cinematografo has really stepped up to the plate.” High-profile publicist David Magdael lauds that Cinematografo’s inaugural year was held in San Francisco because of the rich diversity and the strong Filipino artist base and Filipino community in the Bay Area.

Screenings throughout the four days enjoyed good attendance from movie lovers. There were those who attended all four days, having purchased the festival pass, and savored a good line-up of movies, including documentaries, feature-length narratives, shorts, and animation.

The energy was palpable throughout the festival as filmmakers, actors, creatives, and other industry representatives networked at the filmmakers’ lounge at the Kabuki in between movie screenings. Jannet Nuñez, iTVS Content Development Manager, emphasized that “any film festival that really focuses on a specific community is always important to visit, especially if you’re not part of the community, because you can learn so much.”

Festival Highlights

One of the highlights of the festival was a tribute to documentary filmmaker Ramona Diaz where her latest, award-winning film Motherland (Sundance 2017), about one of the world’s busiest maternity wards located in Manila, was screened, followed by an intimate conversation about her work and prolific career as one of the most renowned Asian women documentary makers today.

Other highlights were the various panels that featured discussions on: (1) State of the Nation(s); (2) The Minority as the New Majority; (3) Tribute to Documentary Filmmaker Ramona Diaz; and (4) Cinematografo Originals and New Projects. All panels were well-attended. Participants were excited with the launch of Cinematografo International Film Festival, and were eager to get the conversation going about finally having a platform where the unique stories of Filipinos and Filipino Americans can be told.

A New Platform for Emerging Voices of the New Majority

“What I love is you’re my people! Mga kababayan ko! (My fellow Filipinos!) So, it’s a great feeling to have our own festival,” Hollywood Actor Reggie Lee enthused. Fellow Actor Dante Basco echoed the sentiment saying, “It’s time for us Filipino Americans to really flourish as artists. We have so many stories, so many great artists. It’s about time we continue to work and produce great product and support each other.”

Bianca Catbagan, Director of “Supermodel,” one of the featured shorts, stated that, “We want to see more films by women, by people of color. Having this network is great because we see each other’s work and we can be a group that forges on together.”

Cinematografo helped amplify the voices of this generation of storytellers, providing them a platform where they could show powerful, unique stories about the Filipino and Filipino American realities.

Asian American Studies Professor, Writer and Poet Oscar Peñaranda said that Cinematografo offers a fresh perspective in its vision of shining the spotlight on stories of Filipino Americans that is not presented elsewhere. The Festival was a viable arena to showcase the voice of the community. Cinematografo Executive Director John-D Lazatin got his wish as all participants felt that the passion for storytelling was the energy that filled the Kabuki in those four days. As Cinematografo Festival Director Miguel Sevilla reiterated, they want Cinematografo to be the festival where the Filipino voice refuses to stay quiet, where Filipino stories refuse to be forgotten.

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