As I write this, I've just come out of a screening of acclaimed documentarian Ditsi Carolino's latest work, "Lupang Hinarang," at the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. The film -- still a work-in-progress -- tells about the plight of two groups of farmers in the Philippines: the first from Negros Oriental, who held a hunger strike in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform until they're granted access to part of the hacienda they work in that the law says belongs to them; the second, the group from Sumilao, Bukidnon who did the unthinkable by walking for 60 days until they reach Manila, to ask the president herself that the land they were tilling be given to them (again as the law prescribes) before it is turned into a piggery by San Miguel Corporation. Though both events took place two years ago, their stories are still unfinished; in the film, their stories end tragically, and indeed, tragedy has struck the farmers even after the events captured in the current version of the film.
In both stories, one thing is very clear: the farmers were willing to die for their land. This is something that most of us, including myself, will probably never fully understand, to risk life for something like a hectare of soil. The thing is, besides the clothes on their backs, the only thing they really have is land. In the film, it is also clear that the farmers did it not for themselves, but for their children, maybe because they knew that the land for which they have given sweat, tears, and blood, is the only thing they could leave their kids.
Watching Carolino's latest film is a very cathartic experience, in which emotions are expressed in all their nakedness. Suddenly, the artifice in storytelling that beset many movies that are showcased even in festivals like the Cinemalaya just fall away when confronted with a film like Carolino's, whose previous films include "Bunso" (which I have not seen) and the excellent "Riles." It is also to Carolino's credit that the film got/is being made: with no funding and no certainty that the film would ever be finished, she just grabbed her camera and jumped right in when she learned of the farmers' plight, simply because she believed their story deserved to be captured and told. And what stories theirs are.
I've always maintained the belief that the ability to create art and to have the resources to do so is power, and to not use them to advance either a cause or the art form is a waste of said resources and a lost opportunity. In both respects, Carolino and her film stands taller than everybody else.
Know more about Lupang Hinarang and how you can help: http://www.lupanghinarang.com/
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I've not seen two of the competing films in the fifth edition of the Cinemalaya. As if that would stop me from ranking my favorites in order of preference:
1) Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (Alvin B. Yapan)
2) Sanglaan (Milo Sogueco)
3) Last Supper No.3 (Veronica Velasco & Jinky Laurel)
4) Dinig Sana Kita (Mike Sandejas)
5) 24K (Ana Agabin)
6) Nerseri (Vic Acedillo, Jr.)
7) Astig (GB Sampedro)
8) Engkwentro (Pepe Diokno)