1st Manila International Film Festival celebrates Philippine cinema and bridges Filipino diaspora

Some of the actors in attendance included Piolo Pascual (extreme left), Christopher de Leon (4th from left), Dingdong Dantes (5th from left) and Alden Richards (extreme right).


By Mic Diaz

FRIDAY, February 2 saw the largest, most-sophisticated and much-lauded event of the year thus far — the 1st-ever Manila International Film Festival (MIFF) — at the Directors Guild of America headquarters in Los Angeles.

Coming off the heels of the highly successful Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), which concluded in January, the 1st MIFF was attended by the Who’s Who of the Filipino community — from actors, filmmakers, singers, community leaders, public servants, fashion designers, press and media, social media influencers, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, healthcare professionals, stylists, makeup artists and movie enthusiasts from various industries — from Manila, California, Nevada and other areas of the United States.

On what is the purpose of MIFF

MIFF president Ebradu Ubarde

According to MIFF President Abrade Udarbe, MIFF aims to bridge the gap between the Philippines, the U.S. and the international stage.

Atty. Don Artes, chairman of Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and MMFF, stated that the goal of MIFF is to open the doors for Philippine movies to be shown and to be recognized not just in the Philippines, but all over the world. He believes that there are good storytellers and filmmakers and that there’s a need for a platform to showcase their talent. He added that the 1st MIFF is just a start.


Supporting MIFF

DILG Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos, Jr. and Mandaluyong Vice Mayor Menchie Abalos

Philippine Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos, Jr. stated, “We are here not only to promote the best of Philippine movies, but also to invite foreign producers to come and visit the Philippines. We have very good sites, actors and actresses, and production staff. We want to make sure of the ease of doing business. That’s why DILG and MMDA are supporting the film industry.”

Stalwart supporters of the local scene in Los Angeles were in attendance. A dedicated supporter of live performances, event sponsor iSkin Med Spa CEO Imee Ong Maghanoy said, “We love to uplift any Filipino business especially in entertainment. It’s about time for them to cross and be in Hollywood.”


The joy of attending MIFF
Members of the Philippine delegation such as actress and MMFF Executive Committee Member, Boots Anson Roa, echoed the excitement of her constituents, “Nakakatuwa po na lumabas po lahat ng mga Fil-Am dito para manood ng mga pelikula. I am sure that they were all very, very happy.”

Actor Alden Richards being interviewed by GMA News.

Alden Richards of the film “Family of Two” revealed that he adjusted his schedule and that he couldn’t miss attending the 1st MIFF.


The love affair between Hollywood and Philippine Cinema

John Arcilla, Supporting actor, Penduko

There seems to have been some unfinished business in the world of cinema. Indicating that there has been a past love affair between Hollywood and Filipino filmmakers, “Penduko” actor John Arcilla hopes this event will be the beginning of a much better relationship between filmmakers in Hollywood and in Manila.


Presenting and sharing Filipino stories

So much positivity and desire to present our community and our stories to the world filled the massive lobby and theatre of the DGA.

Cast, director and producers of “GomBurZa”Photos by Tony Garcia and Katie Ortiz

Actor Enchong Dee who plays Padre Jacinto Zamora in the historical film “Gomburza,” which bagged three awards — Second Best Picture, Best Cinematography and Audience Choice Award — said that we have a distinct history and a distinct story to tell, and he hopes that we can keep on making movies so that we can shine a light to our own stories as Filipinos as a nation and as individuals.

“Broken Hearts Trip” actor Christian Bables said that MIFF “is a way to represent not just the films, not just our movies, but our countries and what we can offer as Filipino artists.”

Producer of B”ecky & Badette,” Percy Intalan, affirmed what other filmmakers and storytellers have said about the festival: “It is a chance to show the diversity of the films that are being produced in the Philippines.”

Veteran actor Christopher De Leon of “When We Met in Tokyo” noted how Philippine cinema has had movies that are socially relevant. He added, “We have to adjust to all of these changes especially after the pandemic. We should be showing movies that are socially relevant like all of the movies that are being shown in MIFF.” One example of this is his film, “When We Met in Tokyo.”

Piolo Pascual (left) and Dingdong Dantes

Dingdong Dantes, MIFF Best Actor for “Rewind,” says that his film’s topic is universal and will resonate with Filipinos around the world.


As a juror of MIFF, actor Reggie Lee said that it was such a joy to watch all of the films and to see the different flavors of the films.


Bridging Filipinos around the world
Piolo Pascual, MIFF Best Actor for “Mallari,” hopes that “because of this festival, we’ll be able to create more partnerships with different FIl-Am communities, touch base with Fil-Am talents, do some co-productions and open doors for Filipino talents.”

MIFF Juror and CEO of Birns & Sawyer Mari Acevedo declared, “We want to produce content that is shot here in the U.S. with Filipino actors and our stories. We are assisting them. We are giving them access with an instant co-producing package to whoever wins the Best Film.”

The cast and producers of “Firefly”

“Firefly,” which was awarded the MIFF Best Picture will receive the co-producing package.

Veteran Filipino American actor and a staple in Filipino American films, Abe Pagtama revealed that having a festival like this really opens up a lot of opportunities not only for Filipino films, but also for Filipino-Americans.

Fil-Am Prince of Pop Garth Garcia stated, “It is very significant for Filipinos in the U.S. to connect to our roots from our motherland through films and other art forms. MIFF is an amazing platform for that. I am very positive that a film made out of Filipino American creatives will make it to the MIFF this year.”


Advice for creatives
MIFF Best Actor for “Mallari” Piolo Pascual’s advice for creatives is to “Go for it. If you think you got the talent and the skill, and you really want to do it, manifest it and go for it.”

Singer/actor Iñigo Pascual

Actor and singer Inigo Pascual attended and supported his father, Piolo Pascual. His message to fellow creatives is to “keep on doing what you’re doing. Don’t be afraid. There will always be someone that you will reach with your art.”


On the Filipino being world-class

Actress Janella Salvador

Janella Salvador, “Mallari” actress said that MIFF is a big opportunity for Philippine cinema to be seen internationally and is hopeful that this event is a good step — a good milestone — for the Philippines.

“Becky & Badette” lead actress Eugene Domingo (left)

“Becky & Badette” actress, Eugene Domingo, shared that it’s our dream as Filipinos to be known all over the world, and we are on our way. She added, “the Filipino talent is really world class.”

Actress Pinky De Leon

Actress Pinky De Leon, sister of Christopher De Leon, urged Filipinos, “We should support this event every year. It should not die down. It should be a showcase to Hollywood. Filipinos are world-class and we just need a little push.”


On representation

Apl.de.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas

Apl.de.ap of Black Eyed Peas declared that the event is important for Filipinos around the world to represent our culture, where we come from, our true identity and our talent.

World-renowned fashion designer Kenneth Barlis stressed the importance of being seen and being heard in Hollywood especially our culture and being Filipinos at this time when there is lack of representation. He added, “We should all gather together as Filipinos so we can support every culture, every Filipino and every talent that we have.”

As attendees left the DGA building, there was a resounding cry of joy and appreciation for the Manila International Film Festival in a world where there is a dire need for representation, for connecting and building bridges between diverse communities and for providing platforms for Filipino filmmakers and artists to showcase Filipino ingenuity through their craft.

Visit the Manila International Film Festival website, manilainternationalfilmfest.com, for information about future screenings and events.

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