Tessa Maria Guazon
Numerous questions were thrown our way this year. Those worth answering included queries on the relevance of awards, on why we persist on awarding films viewed presumably only by us, and why we appear to lag in the writing of film reviews. All these questions (some phrased with refinement than others) lead us to the uses and place of criticism within the exuberant sphere that Philippine cinema has become in recent years. The Young Critics Circle Film Desk has been consistent in regarding film as telling measure of the overarching conditions wherein it is crafted and circulated. These include the immediate context of Philippine society and the equally proximate realm conveniently labelled global.
The first citations for film was organized by the Young Critics Cirle in 1991, the periodic conclusion to a sustained dialogue among its members. I say with pride that such conversations traverse around and intervene in our lives, blossoming in carefully calibrated degrees as we by turns view, discuss, debate, and decide on the films to which awards will be conferred. The object of such a long process, which at times can be adequately described as tense, is what the YCC’s founding members had described as “dynamic discourse” wherein the most “provocative,” indeed the sharpest, incisive texts that engage and invigorate the imagination are identified. This vetting process amongst colleagues ensures that our reviews are thoughtful reflections on films and the attendant issues they raise. I again note with pride they are exercises in thought, reflection and engagement as we are not after website hits or equally fleeting, even trivial measures.
Discourse can only be sustained through difference and conflict. The yearly citations aim for films often circulated beyond the orbit of the centre (may include mainstream, big budget production,spectacular awards circuit, are among its many inflections) be recognized by a wide array of audiences. Our reflections on film of course are accompanied by a fervent wish that more audiences can view them, in venues that may not necessarily be deemed mainstream. It is fitting to note that festivals answer this need, especially those organized in the regions. Hence, recognition and platforms for wider circulation in most contexts can be said to necessarily inform each other. The YCC Film Desk sustains several platforms: our website for writings, the yearly citations, our periodic film screenings, and most important the forums where ideas are discussed and positions on crucial issues are courageously made. Our unflinching position on the disqualification of MNL143 is recent illustration.
2012 had innumerable film screenings: 51 films variously produced by Star Cinema, ABS-CBN Films, GMA Films, or Regal in partnership with comparably smaller production outfits, 72 full run digital films coupled with 63 other releases, and close to a hundred screened for the film festivals Cinema Rehiyon, First Big Shot, the FDCP Sineng Pambansa, Cinemalaya, Cinema One, Cinemanila, and MMFF New Wave. These figures may appear daunting to the avid follower of Philippine cinema and indeed, makes apparent to film critics the need to be ever more judicious in choosing the best among the lot.
The YCC after arduous turns in viewing all films publicly screened in 2012 narrowed these numbers to about thirty-two for its initial roster. We finally came to the nine best works for our short-list. Interestingly, those nominated for best film (Qiyamah, Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, and Kalayaan) all focus on Mindanao, if not southern Philippines, as locus for their narratives. Impeccably depicted by way of visual and narrative devices, we chose Qiyamah as best work among the three nominees. We also recognize the contributions of film stalwart Nora Aunor through the citation of her performance in Thy Womb.
As we enter preparations for another round of viewing and criticism, we look with gratitude to the pioneers of film and theatre who passed on this year. I extend the cliché of “passing the torch” to include that the new generation of film makers, directors and actors in Philippine cinema rise to the challenge of devising new modes of film crafting, new ways of seeing and thinking. A fitting response from film critics is deeper engagement, a more encompassing and incisive discernment of the role of cinema in our times, an equally creative and keener survey of the sphere of imagination, and its most optimal mobilization, to adequately respond to issues that demand introspection and action.
This year, we introduce a new trophy for our awardees. Designed and crafted by artist Manolo Sicat, the trophy’s sleek silhouette emphasizes the ties between cinema and society. The undulating form on top of the base symbolizes fast-changing film formats and technology. And yet such flight that marks the deepest fathoms of the imagination are solidly anchored to reality, of which cinema is one of the more powerful prisms.
The design echoes the title of this report: a persistent desire to soar but deeply rooted to earth and the circumstances that make us.