Freeing the Arts: Nakabuhi Short Film Festival



Is there a town in Camarines Sur with its own film festival?


If there is none, then Buhi must be the first or one of the first towns in Camarines Sur to hold a film festival. Add to this the reputation of being perhaps the first town in the region to include in its observance of the fiesta a celebration of cinema.


This festival has been dubbed the Nakabuhi Film Festival, the word “nakabuhi” referring to the town and its myth of origin. It is said – and this is accepted by the townspeople – that the eruption of Mt. Asog, released an avalanche that pushed the people to seek refuge in a place.


And as the story continued, a lake was formed and beside it a town, whose language developed distinctly because the town was cut off from strong, external influences.


And now, cinema, which is an art form that validates true, unfettered freedom is the same art form this town has chosen to celebrate its legendary seclusion and uniqueness. With Ryan Cuatrona working closely with the Mayor Margarita M. Aguinillo, relayed this message:Sa paagi kadi Nakabuhi Film Festival, agku maliwanag na paglaum a mga filmakers sa banwaan ka Buhi na silag asin lamang sa ngamin na banwa nguwan sadi Rinconada, o kung buko man sa bilog na Camarines Sur. Pigsusugan kadi a mga una nang ekspwersong nagpapatanyag ka Buhi bilang banwaan nin arte asin kultura, na may pagmakulog sa ginikanan, sa agiagi asin nakasilong sa malinaw na futuro.


Loosely translated, the message speaks thus: How through the Nakabuhi Film Festival, there is a bright hope for the filmmakers in Buhi or in Rinconada, if not in the entire province of Camarines Sur. These initiatives are the same efforts that made Buhi into a place of arts and cultures, a town that cares for its past and beginnings even as it looks to a clear tomorrow.


The Nakabuhi Short Film Festival is an endeavor of Psusog, a youth advocacy group and the local government of Buhi under the leadership of the town chief executive known fondly as Mayor Marge.


Cuatrona emphasizes what the good mayor has expressed, the plan that this short film festival is sustained. Mayor Aquinillo also underscores the fact that the people of Buhi, in venturing into the new realm of film festivals, persists in following a difficult path, in fact holding this event in the most difficult and distressing situation posed by the pandemic.


Persisting at the end of the day, a film festival is good only insofar as the films it selects are good, and that they express the dreams and desires of the town, especially the young citizens of the place through their films and filmmakers.


Sitting as juror with Kristian Sendon Cordero, a multi-awarded writer and filmmaker, John Sherwin Acampado, a visual artist, I had the privilege to view the attempts of the town’s film directors as they shared with us what Buhi is all about.


The jury, in this regard, selected three top films: two made it to Jury Prize, Ex-Aequo, or equal to each other, and one best Film.


One film that was awarded the Jury Prize was Amo Iya Pinalain, directed by Julix Temperante & Jose Reuben Paloma. We, the jurors, agreed, that the story was interesting in the idea of Death as a positive element, and that dying is a matter of crossing a body of water, the Buhi Lake. We particularly noted the screen presence, not the acting, of Nenet Nachor & Krizia Marie Morandarte Villos. If they were not able to flesh out their respective characters it was because a flawed screenplay and direction reduced the narrative to melodrama. We oftentimes forget that acting in film is not necessarily done by the actors themselves; a great deal of this acting is forged by the director.


The other Jury Prize was given to Kútâ, directed by Elijah Leigh Labordo. Ambitious in scope, the short film about the memories of evacuation during the last World War, succeeds in its artistic depiction of how people remember sad events in their lives. Disjointed and incoherent, the memories of those years are captured by images that are blurred, soft-focused, elliptical, hinted at. Using the technologies of editing, images are superimposed on each other. The chaos on the screen brings about a tension necessary in telling a grim past of violence. Creative imagination and a strong sense of local history are the values shared by this other Jury Prize awardee.


e.D. by Ronel Francis Le, our Best Film, is above all the other entries in a presentation that is coherent, united, and clear. The film reminds us that simplicity is both a virtue and a power. In the film a young man assures us he has found what he is looking for. He runs, walks fast and stops. At each stop, the camera lingers lovingly on the scenes of the town. This is the kind of tourism film that Buhi needs. But more than showing the places, the camera shows the ordinary life in the town: a young man opens a store, children play around a small monument, people arrive from across the lake and goes up the embankment…What is this young man’s discovery? He has found out that clean air is the gift of a place, or the fact that his beloved town offers him a site where he can breathe once more. That is an amazing insight, an idea that is totally original. It is also a fresh tribute to one’s place.