Silent? No, Not Really. Notes On My First ISFF Attendance

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Not perfect, but okay: Japan


At the 12th International Silent Film Festival held in SM Megamall last September 1, at the Q & A section, after the screening of Yazujiro Ozu’s 1929 film The Straightforward Boy, I kept to myself my disagreement with writer Sylvia Mayuga’s rave. She praised the pairing of Tito Valiente as benshi master (impassioned narrator, live dubber) and Tanikala, the musicians who accompanied the film. Sylvia said that the collaboration was perfect. She even suggested that more of similar performances should be held by the group in and out of the country.

When she asked Tanikala about how their creative process went before the actual performance, the hip-looking individuals that comprised the band said that they did a lot of trial and error with music combinations before their final set. They also said that they put in mind the need to play secondary to the images, and that they ensured pauses for those ‘pregnant silences.’ Tito Valiente meanwhile shared that he principally relied on a script provided by a benshi master from Japan. He inserted pinoy expressions ocassionally, which elicited a few laughs from the viewers. Before the screening, he narrated how he became the first benshi master in the country.

It was a first for me and for most of the audience, but if I were to comment, I would have wanted a script with sparser dialogue and annotation. Each time something happened on the screen, like the breaking of jars of sake wine, it was described when the image was enough.

I also did not notice the pauses and pregnant silences that the band said they considered. They must have enjoyed the jam too much they forgot about them. They played a mix of blues, jazz, and boogie improvisations, exactly what they said. That and Tito’s voice-overs alerted the crowd for about 30-minute duration of the screening.

I maintain that the performance was far from perfect. Sometimes Tito would read the dialogues a few seconds ahead of the action or image. A note-punctuation after a trill would have been enough to accompany one of the boy’s or the kidnapper’s facial expressions–without the unnecessary descriptions. For an Ozu short, the score and dialogues felt nonstop for extended periods and overpowered the images at certain points.

Probably because the scenes happened quickly that there was this overall energy to rush things up? The speed was very atypical of what I know Ozu is notoriously celebrated for.

The Perfect One: German


The pair before this short feature though was made in heaven. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Kontra-Gapi was a match miraculously hot and cool. Kontra-Gapi’s dynamics were perfect. The musicians slowed down or sped up their gongs, kubings, flute and other instruments appropriately, depending on the diffent scenes and motions. The volume of their music increased during the crowd and circus-fair scenes, while an instrument created a sound effect–a creepy, spirally, echoey bird cry or an insect’s scurrying, particularly when the somnambulist ‘Cesare’ inched in towards his next victim. The pauses were there, giving the crowd breathing spaces, in anticipation of a simple, textured but nevertheless breathtaking arrangement. It was a cohesive score, with a ethno-tribal imprint.

Kontra-Gapi’s act was world-class, world music at its finest–a Filipino band scoring the most influential German expressionist silent film whose impact to noir and horror cinema is evident even up to today.

My body hairs stood on their ends with pride at the movie’s first few minutes. I was overwhelmed by being finally initiated to this partnership of live music and silent movies. I imagined that this was like how they did it in cinema’s silent era and I was happy with what I felt was a privileged experience. When the film ended, the applause by us audience didn’t drown–

Our seemingly synchronized expression of gratefulness was music to the soul and ears as the band took their one brief bow. We wanted to stay for a few more minutes to exhale and relish, weirdly, the horror, and the spirits of the notes slightly vibrating at some corners or at some unnoticeable holes at the ceiling, like creatures, like magical bats, but we were advised to vacate the seats as there was little time already for Tanikala and Mr. Valiente and the Japanese feature to set up.


QCinema 2017 Press Conference: People and Films

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The Quezon City International Film Festival (QCinema) 2017 press conference happened at Gloria Maris in Gateway Mall last October 6. It was a gathering of film production people, stars, press, movie enthusiasts, government officials, and other distinguished guests. After we had eaten for lunch some mushroom soup, vegetable salad, Chinese noodles, fish fillet, butchi, glazed meat and what looked like some leeks with prawns drizzled with golden sauce, there were the usual pre-program chitchats and greetings between friends and acquaintances, some film producers probably eyeing prospective actors, cinephiles and bloggers being civil with each other, wine glasses sparkling against the on and off lights, before the organizers started the presentation.

The presidential long table was covered in milk-white cloth, and seated were the Honorable Joy Bolante, Vice Mayor of Quezon City, Manet Dayrit of Central Digital Lab, Ed Lejano, QCinema Executive Director, and Mike Sandejas, Secretary of QCinema Film Foundation. Flanking that table on opposite ends were the tables of the directors of Cinema Circle Feature and QC shorts. I remembered the names and faces of Pam Miras, Mikhael Red, Emerson Reyes, Khavn dela Cruz, Carl Joseph Papa, Epoy Deyto, and Ice Idanan.

QCinema Press Con

Vice Mayor Bolante welcomed everyone and gave a speech which compared the early years of the festival to where it is now. She even used the term halo-halo, which was appropriate, considering the wide range of themes and subjects of the movies that would be introduced later. More than her joy in celebrating the fifth year of this event, what energized her speech was the vision of QCinema and the Quezon City government she represents. She declared with pride the festival’s difference with other filmfest, with its giving seed money to deserving artists and scripts, and at the same time, letting the creators still keep their legal rights to their works. That fact was worth repeating. Then, she mentioned about a possible additional five-hundred thousand pesos to the current one-million-peso grant per film in the next years. That intensified the applause.

Ed, Manet, and Mike formally unveiled the titles after. Omnibus trailers of different competition and non-competition sections were also shown. “Loving Vincent” by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman opens the festival. The digitally restored edition of Mike De Leon’s “Batch 81” closes it.

In the Q & A portion, Pam Miras answered the question if there would be similarities of her Medusae to a recently exhibited local film. Mikhael Red, whose cap bore the text-print Anti-Social Social Club, explained how his entry, Neomanila, differ from his Oscars-bound film Birdshot. I was relieved that Khavn corrected people from mispronouncing his name. He said it should be with two-syllables instead of one, not pronouncing it like Cannes /kan/.

The press conference ended with group pictures of the industry leaders, directors, producers and stars, with the media bunched in the front row, flashing their professional cameras, tablets, and cellphones.

Here are screenshots and trailers of some of the entries:

Circle Competition: Dormitoryo, directed by Emerson Reyes

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 10.51.00 PM

Circle Competition: Kulay Lila Ang Gabi Na Binudburan Pa Ng Mga Bituin, directed by John Steffan Jobin Ballesteros


Circle Competition: Balangiga: Howling Wilderness, directed by Khavn dela Cruz

QC Shorts: Babylon, directed by Keith Deligero

Asian Next Wave Competition: Snow Woman, directed by Kiki Sugino

Digitally Remastered Series: Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, directed by Mario O’Hara


QCinema will take place from October 19 to 28, 2017, at film establishments within Quezon City.

For more updates, follow their Facebook site:

For Festival Screening Schedules, please check the link below:

#qcinema #qcinema2017