The 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival officially kicked off last night at the Gateway Cineplex, with Johnnie To's witty, if a bit twee, pickpocket movie "Sparrow" as opening film. A Brazilian short film, "Muro," from this year's Cannes Directors' Fortnight, was also screened with musical accompaniment from Pinikpikan. Familiar faces who graced the cocktails and the short program that preceded the screenings included National Artist for literature Bienvenido Lumbera, screenwriter Pete Lacaba, billboard guy of the moment Bayani Fernando, directors Raymond Red and Lav Diaz (fresh from his win at the Venice Film Festival), actors Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla, and Ana Capri, Ely Buendia, Marcus Adoro, Binibining Pilipinas beauties, members of the media and the diplomatic corps, and people like myself who wolfed down on the free grub from Cibo (medyo bitin). Lav Diaz was asked to do the invocation (!) during the program, and promptly prayed to God for the "abolition of the board of censors"!
However, in spite of an online petition and the prayers of Pinoy film buffs, Martin Scorsese will not be coming after all. Last year of course saw the attendance of Quentin Tarantino, and the first time ever that he had granted permission for a retrospective of all his films, including Death Proof. (Read more about my Tarantino experience HERE.)
This year's edition of the Festival seems very promising though, with over a hundred films to be screened from 35 countries. The line-up includes festival favorites such as The Band's Visit, Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Ten Canoes, the films of Brillante Mendoza, and Filipino classics such as Lino Brocka's Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim, Himala, Batch '81, and Kisapmata.
As of this writing, the schedule for the next few days is already posted in the Cinemanila website, but as usual it was very last minute. No info yet on whether they will issue festival passes for those who intend to watch many films. Last year, I forked out a significant amount for a festival pass because it was the only way to be able to get into the Tarantino session (unless you knew festival organizer Tikoy Aguiluz personally, and apparently, many do). After being waitlisted and finally securing a pass, I then queued early as soon as Gateway opened to be able to reserve a front row seat, which I got. I did all this only to be told inside the cinema by a bunch of freeloaders, who have comfortably parked themselves at the numbered seats we paid for, to just go sit at the back. (I'm referring to you, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez!) The seats beside her were actually empty, but there were things on top of them to sort of "reserve" them for their friends outside. Even Tarantino noticed us standing at the side and then sent his girlfiend, Fil-Am actress Tiffany Limos to ask why we're not taking our seats. Buti na lang nagmatigas kami. We refused to sit anywhere else because those seats at the back were also reserved, and we had to work hard to get our desired seats, not to mention that we were true Tarantino fans. Two minutes before the session with QT, Alvarez finally relented and gave us the seats that were ours in the first place!
No more glitches and hitches please Mr. Aguiluz, or we will throw Gateway's flavored popcorn at the audience during screenings, or recreate scenes from Taxi Driver in the aisles.
(Thanks to Ellaine Bandelaria of the Araneta Group for the invite).