The regional filmakers participating the Mindanao Film Festival.

It was in 2004, just a year after I started working for Philippine Information Agency Region-XI when I joined the Guerrilla Filmmaking Workshop organized by friends Lou Raphael “Dax” Cañedo and Andrew “Drei” Boquiren.

The 4-weekend workshop was a crash course on guerrilla-style filmmaking with modules on story development, scriptwriting, directing, cinematography, editing and marketing. We produced a short film after the workshop and the workshopper films were shown on a three-day theatrical screening at Gaisano Mall Cinema.

My co-workshoppers include some information officers from local government units, particularly from Tacurong City, which sent their personnel from the information office to learn cinematography and video editing. Personally, I joined the workshop to learn how to edit videos using the adobe premiere pro software.

By the following year, the organizers of the workshop asked for my help being with the Philippine Information Agency and having contacts with the media, they asked if I could assist them in their publicity. I agreed to support the group as it was undergoing a transition, the festival was no longer limited to Guerrilla Filmmaking Workshoppers but also open to other filmmakers. From Guerrilla Filmmaking Festival it was renamed into the Mindanao Film Festival.

For 7 years, I was the Mindanao Film Festival’s PR officer which involves producing press releases and doing media relations work until in 2012 when I was offered to become the fifth festival director of the festival which traces its roots in 2003.

With the blessing of Regional Director Efren Elbanbuena I was able to step in the role of festival director of the Mindanao Film Festival, the longest-running regional film festival in the country.

Apart from festival director duties, I was also tasked as a curator for the Mindanao film program in the 2014 and 2015 Cinema Rehiyon, one of the largest film festivals in the country that gathers over a hundred films from across the regions.

The Festival

The Mindanao Film Festival is one of the biggest regional film festivals in Mindanao. It is a recipient of a grant from the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) since 2010. The MFTDFI (Mindanao Film and Television Development Foundation Inc.) runs the festival.

With the board members of the Mindanao Film and Television Development Foundation Inc.

Since 2003 the event is held at the Gaisano Mall Cinema in a one-week theatrical screening. The festival culminates with an awards night where film vie for recognitions in different categories.

The Mindanao Film Festival mirrors the active regional filmmaking movement in the region, it receives about 70 to 80 film submissions mostly short films. They come from different localities in Mindanao, Davao City, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga City, South Cotabato, Nabunturan and Iligan City.

Aside from the MFF there are five other film festivals supported and assisted by the NCCA these include the Nabunturan Indie Film Exchange (Nabifilmex) in Nabunturan Compostela Valley, the Cine Magis in Cagayan de Oro City, Cine Mo in Iligan City, Lantawan Film Festival in South Cotabato and Salamindanao International Film Festival in General Santos City.


Ever since the beginnings of the MFF several government agencies, schools and non-government organizations have partnered with the MFF for their Information Education Communication (IEC) campaign.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) partnered with the MFF sponsoring an intercollegiate anti-drugs documentary competition in 2008. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) sponsored a block of climate change themed short films in 2014. Conflict-resolution NGO Forum ZFD sponsored a block showing conflict-resolution themed short films in 2015 and in the recent 2016 film festival we had the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP) and the Population Commission (Popcom) sponsoring films and block screenings.

Ribbon cutting (from left) Patnubay ng Dabaw Angelica Almaden,
festival director Rudolph Alama, FDCP coordinator Christine Cruz, NCCA Cinema
Committee member Dax Canedo

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) under the leadership of its chair Liza Diño-Seguerra has supported the current staging of the MFF from ratings to logistical support. This is in consonance to the FDCP’s mandate of supporting regional cinema in the country.

The Philippine Information Agency-XI formally entered the convergence picture when it became the conduit of funds from the NCCA to the MFTDFI, apart from conduit there are planned joint PIA and MFTDFI activities which will range from film screenings to film and video production workshops particularly among government information office personnel in the region.

This aim to capacitate information offices to create videos and films which will highlight their localities, foremost example is the local government units in Tacurong City in the early years of the Guerrilla Filmmaking Workshops and currently the Provincial Government of Davao del Norte whose information office personnel were able to produce short films which showcase the tourist attractions in the province.

The City Government of Davao thru its City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO) is also supporting the endeavor of regional filmmaking as it seeks to promote film tourism in the city. The CTOO has been a partner in the MFTDFI in the holding of a 24-hour filmmaking race the Guerrilla-Film-a-Thon which is set in various tourist landmarks in Davao City. The films in the film-a-thon are shown during the MFF.

A Template

The Mindanao Film Festival could be a template for the different regions in the country. Recent advances in digital technology, the advent of more affordable High-Definition cameras and computers that will serves as post production equipment has democratized filmmaking. Also, social media has complemented these advancements as films now have online platforms which are alternative to traditional movie houses or television sets.

Delivering the welcome message at the opening of the 12th MFF.

A short film or a video could be uploaded in a video-sharing site such as You Tube or Vines (seconds long short films).

The social media could also serve as a marketing tool for filmmakers wanting to promote their films. Historical blockbuster such as “Heneral Luna” owes their box-office success to an intense online promotion which awakened interest among the public.

The convergence among the FDCP, NCCA, PIA-XI and a private group such as the MFTDFI could capacitate regional filmmakers which include government information officers in coming up with their own productions. A short film or a video can best document their communities or present issues and concerns thru the medium of film.

A perfect example is Mary Ann Gabisan, a public school teacher in Monkayo who joined the Nabifilmex filmmaking workshop and now is into making films. One of her short film “Tamiaw” about a 4Ps beneficiary in a remote barrio was acclaimed as one of the best short films in 2015 and was exhibited in the Sarajevo Film Festival in Bosnia-Herzogovina.

The film convergence augurs well for a dynamic regional filmmaking community, one which is relevant to the aspirations of the region. One that is not just limited to being an art movement but also as a tool for communication and social mobilization, an agent for nation-building. (Rudolph Alama, PIA-XI)

Postscript: The 12th Mindanao Film Festival (Dec. 7-13)  featured 61 films from all over Mindanao. A short-film from Zamboanga, the Chavacano language Entre Medio del Fin (In the Middle of the End) directed by Ryanne Murcia won best film. The opening film of the festival, the feature length “Baboy Halas” which was shot in the mountains of Marilog District in Davao City will be shown in this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands.