NABIFILMEX: Fulfilling Hopes, Fueling Dreams
By Karen O. Santiago-Malaki
Festival Director, NABIFILMEX

            It all started with the objective of the Municipal Tourism Council of Nabunturan, Inc. (MTCNI) to promote Nabunturan, the capital town of Compostela Valley Province, as a relevant tourism destination in the Philippines. Unfortunately, Typhoon Pablo devastated most of its promising eco and agri-tourism spots in December 2012.  Focus was then shifted into capitalizing on the talents of Nabunturanons, thus the concept of events tourism was considered.

            Sometime in March 2013, Bryan Jimenez, the then Vice President of MTCNI, relayed to the council that he had a friend who had connections with award winning filmmakers who were conducting filmmaking workshop in General Santos City.  MTCNI readily grabbed the opportunity to request them to come to Nabunturan.  The first filmmaking workshop dubbed as the Sine Indie Film Workshop 1 was conducted on May 24-27, 2013 and was attended by students, teachers and Sangguniang Kabataan officers.  The workshop speakers, namely, Directors Arnel Mardoquio, Aureus Solito and Ed Cabagnot encouraged the group to organize a film festival to showcase the workshop output. 

            The Nabunturan Independent Film Exhibition (NABIFILMEX) 1 was held as one of the activities of the 19th Simballay Festival, an annual festival of the Municipality of Nabunturan on December 17-20, 2013 at the school gym of Assumption College of Nabunturan.   It was peppered with trials.  Foremost of all was the fact that Nabunturan has no cinema house.  It seemed absurd to some vocal critiques which resulted to the animosity of some local leaders of the municipality.  Second was the lack of equipments  and the insufficient funds to produce the local films.  Third was the disinterest of the town’s people to watch independent films.

            Despite the challenges, NABIFILMEX 1 was a success.  Five films  by local filmmakers were competed, namely, Badjang by William Ranara and Dally Boncales, Sepulturero by Jimmy Abayon, Amog by Racky Malaki III, Tuwalya by Prescila A. Decena and Wagas by Gemmila Sophia Alonsabe.  With the help of Direk Arnel Mardoquio’s networks, 25 films from Davao City, General Santos, Zamboanga and UP Los Banos were also in competition and 10 were in exhibition.  The local film Badjang won the Gimadyawan Award for best film.  After NABIFILMEX 1, Badjang was also invited in Pelikultura: Calabarzon Film Festival and in the CineSB Film Festival of the College of St. Benilde where it won the Audience Choice Award.  Badjang, Sepulturero and Amog were also featured in Cinema Rehiyon 6 in Cagayan de Oro City.  These humble accomplishments propelled MTCNI in cementing the efforts for NABIFILMEX.

            Preparation for NABIFILMEX 2 started in the early part of 2014 by forging partnerships and networks with the end view of sustainability.  Taking advantage of the K to 12 curriculum and the Special Program for the Arts, MTCNI partnered with the Department of Education Compostela Valley Division.  It formed a symbiotic relationship whereby the teachers and students would learn filmmaking with a venue to showcase their output.  In return, the partnership assured MTCNI a steady source of local films and audience for NABIFILMEX.  Coming with the partnership was a funding support for Sine Indie Film Workshop 2 which was conducted on June 18-20, 2014.

            The other very significant partnership was forged with the Open Air Cinema Foundation of the Human Security dot Org.  It is an international organization which promotes alternative film exhibition by open air screening of local and independent films.  The foundation, through its Director Blaine Johnson, brought for the first time in the Philippines its 10×20 feet inflatable screen and high definition projector for free.

            MTCNI also sought the support of the Local Government Unit of Nabunturan to hold NABIFILMEX 2 as an event separate from its local festival.  The LGU provided the venue at the municipal plaza and allowed the closure of a street to accommodate more audience and for security purposes.  The LGU also granted financial assistance that included an amount as seed money for film production and technical support.

MTCNI’s proposal to the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCAA) was also approved by the Film Committee making NABIFILMEX as one of the festivals supported by the agency.

MTCNI also partnered with the Musikahan Foundation, Inc, a tourism organization of the neighboring City of Tagum  to help in the promotion of the event and for the conduct of road shows.  The road show featured the Cinema Rehiyon Reload as required by NCCA.

NABIFILMEX 2 was held on October 16-19, 2014.    With the novelty of the inflatable open air screen and the experience of watching movie in the park, people from all over the Nabunturan and other municipalities of Compostela Valley flocked to witness the festival.  Also recorded were audiences coming from Tagum City, Davao City and General Santos City.  Per estimate of the Philippine National Police who provided security in the festival, there were about 500 to 800 people in the audience every night.

20 films were in competition from filmmakers of Nabunturan, other municipalities of Compostela Valley, Tagum City and Davao City.  Ten of which were produced by the different schools of Deped Comval with either teachers or students as filmmakers. 

The film Nilusak by Dally Boncales and Faith Prieto which was produced by the Baranggay Council of Sta. Maria, Nabunturan bagged the Gimadyawan Award for Best Film.  The said film was also invited to Pelikultura: Calabarzon Film Festival, CineSB Film Festival.  It also competed in the Lantawan SOCKSARGEN Film Festival and in the 10th Mindanao Film Festival where the lead star won Best Actress.

Other NABIFILMEX 2 films also competed and gained recognitions.  Pasuon by Bryan Jimenez, won Best Film in the 10th Mindanao Film Festival.  It also bagged the Best in Cinematography Award.  Pangindahay by high school student Erl Niko Limos, Mino by Julius Robles and Bala-Bola by Tata Acusar also competed and received nominations in the 10th MFF and LSFF.  Nilusak, Pasuon and Pangindahay will also be featured in the Cinema Rehiyon 7 in Cebu City.

Because of the overwhelming success of NABIFILMEX 2, the LGU of Nabunturan through its Sangguniang Bayan declared NABIFILMEX as one of the official festivals of the Municipality and provided funding thereof. 

Preparations for NABIFILMEX 3 is the perfect synergy of MTCNI and its partners.  For its third edition, NABIFILMEX went international by inviting filmmakers from other countries to exhibit their films.  Since the call for entries last July 5, 2015, films from USA, Canada and Italy had been submitted already along with films from Makati and Osamis City.  Filmmakers from Cebu and Los Baños already sent inquiries.  Meanwhile the Nabunturan and DepEd filmmakers are currently shooting their films with Direk Arnel Mardoquio serving as mentor.   NABIFILMEX 3 is set on September 16-19, 2015.

The Nabunturan Independent Film Exhibition 4 commenced on                           May 19-21, 2016 when MTCNI, with the help of LGU Nabunturan conducted a Filmmaking Workshop dubbed as Sine Indie 4 Filmmaking Workshop that involved discussions on the art, philosophy, and process of filmmaking.  Classes also contained story development, screenplay writing, directing, cinematography, editing and sound score.

Out of this workshop, 9 films were produced and showcased during NABIFILMEX 4 which was conducted last September 21-24, 2016.  To increase audience awareness and appreciation, road shows were conducted in the various high schools, barangays and Gaisano Grand Mall of Nabunturan as well as at the Bulwagan Hall, Provincial Capitol of Davao del Norte.

NABIFILMEX 4 presented 78 films from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and even as far as USA, Bahrain, Canada, and Nepal. Eight (8) of which are from the students section; Twenty two (22) films from the open category; Forty-one (41) films for exhibition; and Seven (7) international films were also exhibited. Artists, producers, individuals, and organizations from different parts of the country came to witness the showcase of the film entries.

The festival’s unique open air cinema has drawn in visitors from outside the province.  The rain on the third day did not hinder the organizers and the film viewers to flock to the municipal plaza where it was held. Film screening at the plaza and the awards’ night at the Sanitary Function Hall ran simultaneously.

Here comes 2017, the year when the small town of Nabunturan, a municipality with no movie theatre, was granted the chance to host this national film festival. The theme No walls, No Ceilings did not only speak about the open space cinema experience in Nabunturan, but also for film as a boundless art form. It can be made and shared by anyone and everyone.

Cinema Rehiyon 9 held last August 22-27, 2017 had gathered more than a hundred guests and filmmakers from Luzon, Visayan, and Mindanao. Also it became an avenue for local community to watch the films from other regions and experience their lives through film.

For Nabunturan and the entire Compostela Valley Province, NABIFILMEX is not merely an exhibition of films but a showcase of talents and skills.  It is not all about the process of shooting sequences but of telling stories relevant to the lives of the filmmakers and of the place where they belong.  It is not just a contest but an opportunity for regional and budding filmmakers to have their films viewed by a large audience.  It is not any other event but a celebration of fulfilled hopes and fueled dreams.

Now on its 7th year, NABIFILMEX continues to soar high as more local filmmakers are producing quality and competitive films that showcases the rich culture and colorful stories of Compostela Valley and Mindanao. It will also venture into the international arena by partnering with the Scandinavian Film Festival through the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).  

 International award-winning films shall form a significant part during the 5-day festival on September 26-29, 2019.  There shall be 2 categories—a) Comval Films where films submitted by Comval filmmakers shall vie for the Gimadyawan Award for Best Film and other special awards; and b) Open Category to be competed in by films submitted from different parts of the Philippines. 

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