Cash prize controversy marks first Digital Lokal competition

The Cinemanila International Film Festival is the lone internationally recognized film festival in the country. Last year, Cinemanila organizers launched the first-ever Digital Lokal Competition—a contest among Filipino filmmakers offering a grand total of three million pesos for the winners. However, the 7th edition of Cinemanila held last year was marked by a controversy when the cash prizes were still not awarded to the winners a year after their win.

With the theme Buhayin ang Pelikulang Pilipino, last year's Cinemanila was held in October 2005 and was presented in cooperation with the City of Manila—where Mayor Lito Atienza headed the Festival's Executive Committee. The Digital Lokal Competition featured 8 digital films crafted by renowned Filipino independent filmmakers.

The roster of winners for last year's Digital Lokal Competition included Auraeus Solito's Tuli, first prize for Best Picture-Local. Solito was also named Best Director (Local) for the abovementioned digital film. This was followed by Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong by Mes De Guzman and Briccio Santos' Ala Verde Ala Pobre in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.

Bo Vicencio and Ana Capri were named as Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively, for the movie Ala Verde Ala Pobre. John Torres was heralded as the recipient of The Ishmael Bernal Award a.k.a Best Short Film Director, with his movie Salat as Best Short Film. The Best Screenplay award was handed to Jorge Arago and Briccio Santos for Ala Verde Ala Pobre.

However, the grand ceremony turned out to be all hype when the winning filmmakers just brought home a trophy and a blown-up manager's cheque-courtesy of the City of Manila. To date, the full amount of the promised cash prizes has not been completely distributed.

In an exclusive interview with PEP last October 11 at the Cinemanila office at Intramuros, festival director Amable "Tikoy" Aguiluz VI clarified that the cash prizes for last year's winners of the Digital Lokal will come from the City of Manila and not from Cinemanila itself. "It was very clear. The prize money will come from the executive committee. Nandun sa guidelines they [committee] signed so ganoon ang nangyari, pati yun pagsubmit doon [City of Manila] sila [filmmakers] nagsubmit."

During the planning stage, Cinemanila Festival had arrangements with the City of Manila-with the latter taking charge of the prizes. "I knew the money was there although I don't know where the money was coming from. I only know that the Executive Committee promised the money. Pero klaro that the Executive Committee [has] the money to pay. And during the awards night the check was there. Cheke ng City Hall na-blown up e," narrates Direk Tikoy.

The reason for the delay of the outstanding amount of the cash prizes remains to be known. PEP tried to get in touch with representatives of the City of Manila but they were unavailable for comment.

Direk Tikoy does not intend to put the Executive Committee in the bad light, saying that he is just stating the real deal. "Nalaman ko na lang na nabigyan na sila ng mga 70 to 75 percent [of the caash prizes]. There was no intention to run away. Malacañang is giving the rest of the money directly to the City Hall. So naresolve na yun problema."

Now that the issue on the cash prize is settling down, the acclaimed director is not one to turn his back on the problem. "I cannot wash our hands because it's still our festival but we've done our best that this thing gets straightened out and it's straightening out slowly maaayos na. Kaya lang inabot ng one year."

Undaunted by the issues, Direk Tikoy declared that despite the hurdles, the show must go on. "We fought for this. It's my competition. The damage has been done. But it shouldn't stop me from organizing another competition."

True enough, the 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival will push through starting today until November 15. Films will be screened at the SM Cinemas (Megamall, North EDSA, Mall of Asia), Ayala Greenbelt Cinemas (Makati) and at the NCCA Auditorium (Intramuros, Manila).

This year's Cinemanila will feature 75 full-length films from 35 countries in five sections—World Cinema, Young Cinema, Digital Lokal, Philippine Panorama and Cinema Pambata.






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