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Monday, June 15, 2009

Lengthy Notes From a Commotion

This year’s French Film Festival at the Shangri-la Cineplex is probably the denouement of an existing but more often than not overlooked struggles of every Filipino cineaste with humiliation, poor customer appreciation, mismanagement and the lack of communication between the organizer and the cinema staff. Same shit happens everytime a film festival is held at the Shang. No wonder film buffs always end up with less catch and more exasperation.


For more than 15 movies in the line-up, I only caught two Frenchies (“Un Secret” and “Home”) and a screening of three Filipino short films (“Andong”, “Sabongero” and “Manong Maong”) and one feature length (“Independencia”).

“Un Secret” tells a story of a young man’s sad past with his family. It traces the horrors of war, the Jews, the Nazis and the healing that comes after. It’s beautifully directed and acted and for me, it’s a film that could as far as an Oscar Best Foreign Language film. The flashbacks are in color while the present, in black and white. One key scene reminds me of the Meryl Streep movie “Sophie’s Choice”. It stars one of my favorite French actresses Ludivine Sagnier. I can compare the concept of “Home” to another French film called “March of the Penguins”. It shows snapshops/videos of the Earth from a bird’s eye view and creates a story out of it as narrated by Glenn Close. The images are overpowering, capturing the photography buff in me in awe.

I’m not really a fan of shorts but after watching “Andong” and “Sabongero”, it awakened an interest in me. “Andong” tells a tender story of a young kid in Payatas who is in torn between spending up his earning on a raffle ticket that could win him a color TV and his little brother’s penchant for a fancy necklace. Perhaps the short film’s biggest assets are its two main young actors. They’ve got raw acting talent and striking screen presence. “Sabongero” made a fuss recently for making it to Cannes Film Festvial along with “Kinatay”, “Independencia” and “Manila”. Set in Cebu, it’s a tale about a cockfighting addict, his wife and his rooster. The best part of the film is perhaps its twist. It’s just fascinating that a film as short as 15 minutes can tell an excellent story. "Manong Maong" is a 5-minute film that documents the adventures of a walking, err, blue jeans.


As a background, Shangri-la Cineplex’s policy on ticketing is that they release tickets two hours before a screening (12:30pm, 3pm, 5:30pm and 8pm). Since the films are hot, long queues are expected. For instance, the staff even suggested that while a film showing is ongoing, you could just leave the theater, queue for the next film then come back. Some are practicing this just to do film marathons. The other option is to be a chance watcher but chances are, the ushers would not respect your plan to watch the film from the very beginning.

It was during the queueing for Raya Martin’s “Independencia” when the commotion happened at the box office area. Three hours before the release of tickets, film buffs started to queue. That’s 3pm for a release of tickets at 6pm and for a screening at 8pm. I actually loved the atmosphere in the area. I was being surrounded by a big group of film fanatics. They gave the tickets at 6pm as scheduled but suddenly came to a halt. It was announced that only 50 tickets will be released and that set the rest of the queue, including me, in fury. Raya Martin and his crew explained that a big chunk of tickets was already given out to friends and relatives and that it was a miscommunication between the organizer and the cinema management much to the crowd’s dismay. People started to get mad and to settle this, it was decided that an extra 150 tickets would be doled out. I was glad that I stayed in the queue.

These things happen everytime a film festival is held at the Shangri-la. I don’t get it why an early release of tickets is not carried out. Only film buffs can make an effort to go a cinema the earliest he can and again, I don’t understand why he can’t deserve a ticket or two. Is the idea to avoid having film marathons? And that we should settle for just one movie or two a day and let others enjoy the other films? I simply don’t get it.


To Shangri-la Cineplex, here are my suggestions to improve your system. First, do not limit the release of tickets to a schedule. If film buffs want it, give it to them. They deserve it. This would avoid long queues that could disturb the other patrons and that film buffs can also enjoy your other movies while killing time. For those who ran out of tickets, they should come early to the cinema area and queue. Here’s the deal: those who already have tickets should be allowed an entry 10 minutes prior to the screening. If late, he should just queue as chance watcher. Ten minutes would be enough time to settle seats for those who miss getting a ticket and for the latecomers. Of course, the other option, which I also prefer, is to charge a negligible amount to the ticket (say, P50). It won’t hurt if the money goes to struggling filmmakers, scriptwriters or film scholars.

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