In its grand, but limited theatrical return, the QCinema International Film Festival heralds the great rebound of the physical movie-going experience in the Philippines after quite the long wait.
Ah, the cinema. In nearly two years of the persistence of the pandemic, the immersive movie experience is one that has been crippled by the punishing effects of the crisis. While there was certainly no shortage of films that functioned both as entertainment, as well as of an escape, the medium of consumption has since relented to the necessary curtailing of movements, maintaining of social distances, and to generally keep things safe. From the larger-than-life screen coloring the audience in the cinematography of a film, the high-definition surround sound shocking the senses with every audible detail, and the smell and crunch of snacks being munched on as quietly as possible, watching a movie became downsized and insular with the screenings and releases on streaming services. Considerably austere, but also more concentrated, it did, and still is tiding us over. However, nothing really comes close to the big screen.
Now, while there is still no end to the pandemic in sight, things are relatively looking up. Sure, the protocols and precautions are still exactingly enforced, at least in most cases, but we are fairly getting a semblance of life beyond the walls of our privilege. Slowly and steadily, a lot of things that were limited are now easing up a bit more in the Philippines, including among other things, the cinema. Still held to the rigors of regulation, the screenings are showing to stricter standards at reduced capacities, especially so in the case of the return to the big screen of the QCinema International Film Festival.
The Great Rebound
“This year, as we jumpstart cinemas’ great rebound, we made sure the experience will be worth the wait so we only lined up the best,” says QCinema International Film Festival Director Ed Lejano. True enough, there is no holding back with the long-awaited return to the dimmed cinematic spaces with award-winning films, Asian premieres, and a unique assortment of Filipino visual essays. “This will be the first film festival to be held after cinemas opened their doors again and we are very happy to be part of the jump start of our much-loved industry.”
Kicking things off at the 10-day QCinema International Film Festival 2021, which begins expanding its reach with a hybrid set-up of theatrical and virtual screenings through Gateway Cineplex 10 and KTX.ph respectively, is Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first English language film, Memoria. The Cannes Festival 2021 Jury Prize winner and Colombian entry to the 94th Academy Awards starring Tilda Swinton is a big swing by all means, especially that this counts as its Southeast Asian premiere.
Completing the impressive list of criticially acclaimed films filed under the Screen International of QCinema International Film Festival 2021 making their Asian and Southeast Asian premieres include The Worst Person In The World (Joachim Trier), The Box (Lorenzo Vigas), Happening (Audrey Diwan), and Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (Audwin), as well as of Drive My Car (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi) and Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi).
Hailed as the most important Japanese filmmaker in recent years, Ryūsuke Hamaguchi emerged with quite the successful run in 2021 as both of his feature films have been consistently singled out as sensations in the intimidating festival circuit. Two completely enthralling masterpieces by the Japanese auteur, the award-winning selects of Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy (Silver Bear, Berlinale) and Drive My Car (Best Screenplay, Cannes), not only cover the complexity of the human condition, but it also stands to be some of the most important films of the 21st century that as Filipino actor Perry Dizon (Drive My Car) swears, “is a film that will be studied by film students, film schools, actors and drama schools for the next 100 years.”
From The Philippines To The World
The QCinema International Film Festival proudly platforms the nuanced storytelling and timely truths of the LGBTQIA+ community with the RainbowQC section, which sees the titles Great Freedom (Sebastian Meise) in its lineup. Other notable releases in the many programs of QCinema 2021 include Lamb (Valdimar Jóhannsson, New Horizons), and Onoda: 10,000 Nights In The Jungle (Arthur Harari, Special Screenings), which features Filipino actress, Angela Bayani, as well as of Filipino films Historya Ni Ha (Lav Diaz, Special Screenings), A Will To Dream (Patrick Alcedo, Special Screenings), They Call Me Dax (Patrick Alcedo, Special Screenings), and Am I Being Selfish (Patrick Alcedo, Special Screenings).
Meanwhile, since the creation of QCinema in 2013, the international film festival will have two Shorts Programs for its 2021 edition, specifically listed as #QCShorts and Asian Shorts. A diverse lineup awaits the viewers for #QCShorts, which includes Skylab (Chuck Escasa), Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol (Maria Estela Paiso), i get so sad sometimes (Trishtan Perez); MIGHTY ROBO V (Miko Livelo and Mihk Vergara), City of Flowers by (Xeph Suarez), and Henry (Kaj Palanca). For the equally exciting and evocative Asian Shorts, a lot of brilliant gems are featured such as Dear To Me (Monica Vanesa Tedja), Sunrise In My Mind (Danech San), New Abnormal (Sorayos Prapapa), Live In Cloud-Cuckoo Land (Vũ Minh Nghĩa and Phạm Hoàng Minh Thy), and the Philippine premiere of How To Die Young In Manila (Petersen Vargas) and Filipiñana (Rafael Manuel).
Not to be left behind, the online exclusives at KTX.ph are just as highly-anticipated and fascinating. Viewers can enjoy the QCinema International Film Festival experience from the comforts of home with such titles sectioned accordingly. Take your pick from Screen International: My Salinger Year (Philippe Falardeau), The Great Movement (Kiro Russo), and Miracle (Bogdan George Apetri); New Horizons: Apples (Christos Nikou), Magnetic Beats (Vincent Maël Cardona), El Planeta (Amalia Ulman), and Playground (Laura Wendel); Asian Voices: Yuni (Kamila Andini) and Islands (Martin Edralin); RainbowQC: The Girl And The Spider (Ramon Zürcher, Silvan Zürcher); and finally, Netpac Reloaded: Baboy Halas (Bagane Fiola) and Suburban Birds (Sheng Qiu).
Promising to be quite the return to beloved movie-going experience (alas, minus the snacking), QCinema 2021, the first film festival to be mounted in real life in the Philippines since the pandemic started, is something to look forward to for sure. In what is heralded as the great rebound of cinema, this is one relationship that we won’t mind getting back to slowly, surely, and safely.