Baguio celebrates independent filmmakers with new film festival

BAGUIO CITY, PHILIPPINES一The country’s first UNESCO Creative City is set to establish itself as a cultural hub for independent filmmaking with the launch of the first Montañosa Film Festival (MFF) this February.

Drawing inspiration from the Spanish word montañosa, which directly translates to  ‘mountainous,’ the festival will highlight the rich cultural heritage of the Cordilleras, its diverse creative forces blending together harmoniously through the melting pot that is Baguio City.

With the theme “Crossing Borders,” the MFF is geared to dive into new creative efforts to open relevant avenues for discourse on the environment, health, peace, freedom, art, culture, heritage, political and social issues, and contemporary living, among others.

Ten exceptional narrative and documentary films from ten of the region’s most promising independent filmmakers will be showcased from February 20 to 28, 2021 in a one-of-a-kind festival experience, crossing the borders and limits of traditional communication methods into the age of the new normal.

The ten finalists for the festival’s films-in-competition category include Aliw Awards 2017 Best Director Angelo Aurelio; urban farm property developer and creative investment consultant Clint Taynan; videographer and vlogger Enrico Laoagan; JCS International Young Creatives Award 2017 finalist Giulienne Sanchez; Fridge Multimedia proprietor Hendrix Sanchez; SIX HOURS LATE FILMS founder Moises Soriano; experienced video and photo editor Karl Patacsil; seasoned instructor in theater and freelance theater artist Lynette Bibal; veteran video editor and producer Narciso Santos, Jr.; and director of CineFilipino 2016’s Best Short Film, Wilfredo Aquino.

Riding on the wave of success film tourism has experienced in the past two decades, the festival aims to bring exposure to Baguio Creative City and re-ignite the city’s tourism industry, which was brought to a standstill by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Baguio will then play a central role in bringing this revival to the rest of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

The MFF, which also features non-competition and international sections as it intends to establish itself as an annual event. By gradually opening itself up to both national and international participation, the MFF aspires to encourage independent filmmakers to follow in the footsteps of National Artist and Father of Independent Filmmaking, Kidlat Tahimik.

With the endorsement of the local government of Baguio Creative City through Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the MFF is organized by TWIMEDIA under the helm of Festival Director Ferdinand John Balanag, a multi-awarded film and theatre director. The festival is primarily presented by the Department of Tourism, along with event partners the Tourism Promotions Board, the Film Development Council of the Philippines, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The international film component of the festival is fueled by the support of various embassies, including the Ambassade de France aux Philippines. Other lead partners include the Council for Baguio Creative City and the Baguio Tourism Council. The MFF’s main beneficiary is Good ACTS (Artists, Craftspeople, and Tourism Support), a community initiative of mutual support among the city’s artists amid the pandemic.

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