The 15th Pandayang Lino Brocka (PLB) Political Film and New Media Festival was held at the Far Eastern University (FEU) – Manila leg on October 23. The lineup of films presented addresses environmental campaigns, martial law, and workers’ issues with this year’s theme “May Magagawa.”

Known for the program’s strong and eloquent campaign to transform the cinematic experience from mere entertainment to raise critical awareness of the people on art and society, the festival is now in its 15th year and continues to pose a challenge to filmmakers, enthusiasts and viewers to create and produce and partake in films that tackle human rights and other social issues pertinent to grassroots sectors.

The event was organized in partnership with the FEU Department of Communication, FEU Film Society, FEU Media and Information Literacy Advocacy (MILA), and Likhang Mulat. The film screenings had three sessions: two for the morning and afternoon sessions while the talkback session was held at the FEU Conference Center in the FEU Arts building.

Bayan Ko, Kapit sa Patalim: Film of the People and the Country 

The film festival acknowledges that one of the most effective ways to educate and combat misinformation is through film screening. It screened “Bayan Ko, Kapit sa Patalim,” a 108-minute film by Lino Brocka that is regarded as a tribute to the potent power of cinema in delivering noteworthy perspectives during the Marcos Regime.

“Bayan Ko, Kapit Sa Patalim” revolves around a Manila print shop employee who, as a result of his lack of political awareness, ends up on the wrong side of a strike. He was then forced to engage in criminal activities as the film intensified. It deftly weaves together real-life incidents like the Manila strike, kidnapping, and the gunfight between the kidnappers and the police to form a coherent story that strikingly exemplifies the widespread corruption and unjust system within the Philippine government.

Jenna Dolovino, the 15th PLB Film Festival’s director, emphasized the transformative power of Lino Brocka’s film, which succeeded in bringing attention to the situation of the marginalized sector in the Philippines. According to her, this film was delivered despite the difficulties Brocka had to overcome in order to smuggle the movie all the way to Cannes in 1984.

Films like this served as acts of defiance by depicting the harsh realities of the struggle for justice, torture, and the weight of oppression within their very frames—dispelling the myths surrounding the Marcos era and revealing the unvarnished truths about the social, political, and economic circumstances endured by Filipinos under his dictatorship.

In no time, it garnered significant international acclaim. It was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or in addition to being recognized as the most outstanding film at the British Film Institute Awards. 

The New Media: Films of the Current Era, Issues of the Modern Society

There were nine (9) participating films in the official selection, five (5) were documentary films and four (4) were short films.

The first film shown was Daing by Pelikula Chopsuey, a multi-character documentary film about the lives of the subjects in the community of Pamarawan. It follows the daily struggles of Ka Odi and Ka Edgar, both ‘mambabaklad’ or fish pen workers, and Nanay Auring, a resident of the area, and their conflict with the reclamation projects that threaten their community’s future. It was followed by Ilang Kahig Walang Tuka by Sibol Productions showing the dilemma of the fisherfolk coastal communities in the Cavite area due to land reclamation projects. This documentary film discussed the effects of commercial projects that put marine habitats at risk and affect the livelihood of the fisherfolk communities.

Pagtatangis ng mga Aninong Umiindak sa Hangin and Indigo are films on Martial Law. Pagtatangis ng mga Aninong Umiindak sa Hangin by Laurence Llamas follows the story of Amalia and his grandson Manuel and how Manuel opened the memories of Amalia’s past dream that turned into a dark nightmare. It was a chilling and unsettling visualization of the tortures and hardships faced by the victims at the hands of the authorities during Martial Law. Indigo by Ace Balbarez shows the story of Indigo, a stuttering college student who finds out about a certain cubicle that transports him back in time, which he used to fix his stutters. But due to abusing this power, it made him travel to the time of student activism in 2000s to 1970s. This film shows how one cannot change or revise the past, which is fitting with the historical denial and revisionism the people have been experiencing while the Marcoses returned to power.

The film Contemporary Bayani by Najeel Barios was a documentary film about Marina Sarno, a former distressed domestic helper, and the questionable normalized cycle of migration by the government. It discusses the struggles and the injustices the OFWs experience at work. Sa Katapusan ng Mayo by Ligaya Productions follows the salt industry of the country that is currently in decline. It shows how the greed of someone can threaten the livelihood of a community and even the future of an industry. 

The film Contractual by Aljane Narasaki and Diane Tila is a short film about a group of friends who tried to form a union to fight their company and contractualization. The film showcases the reasons why workers fight for their rights to get better treatment and to improve the quality of their life as a whole

The film Bungkal is a short documentary by Lance Lozano that follows the journey of Miriam, a farmer from Dasmariñas Cavite and her three-decade-long fight for their land, and their plea for genuine land reform. Despite the threats she has received, she persists in this struggle.

The last film was Ang mga Sisiw ng Kagubatan by Vahn Pascual, a short animation on the story of the chicks in the forest and their mortal enemy, a hungry and giant monster that lurks in the forest and abducts them one by one. One chick realized that they could fight the giant by not leaving someone behind, and uniting as one. It was a creative depiction of what collective struggles can do—that despite being weak as an individual, forming and gathering forces can defeat even the most monstrous and highest authority in the country.

May Magagawa

A roundtable discussion and an open forum surrounding the theme “May Magagawa” with youth leaders, invited filmmakers of the 15th PLB, professors in media literacy, and media personalities were also held.

When asked by the host why it’s important to have a discussion like this, they highlighted that the movies presented during the festival can influence the viewers to have “social and critical consciousness.”

As FEU Film Society’s president Vien Parales said, “Hindi mawawala yung problemang [kinakaharap natin] hangga’t hindi tayo pinapakinggan.”

[The problem we are facing will not go away until we are listened to.]

He added that all these movies will remain relevant until the problems featured in the films are solved in real life.

Christina Ustaris, Cluster Head of the Digital Cinema Track in FEU, said that film can be the instrument where we can provide our voice.

She noted, “Hindi natin boses ‘to, boses ng ibang tao ‘to para magbigay ng avenue para makita natin ang mga kalagayan nila.”

[This is not only our voice, this is the voice of different people so that we can give them an avenue to showcase their conditions.]

One of the directors of the films shown in the event, Ace Balbarez, talked about how media representation is important to make the marginalized visible. Issues like these are important and they exist, and that’s something he highlighted.

The event also showcased a cultural performance from Ms. Max Pontillas of Musicians for Peace singing their composition ‘Tumindig’, the song also used in the 14th PLB teaser.

Meanwhile, after the successful culmination of the FEU leg of the film fest, Dolovino shared that the film fest will be brought to other schools, workplaces, urban poor and peasant communities.

“We hope that we may be able to keep in touch and invite you in this endeavor to immerse with the people we cater our films to,” said Dolovino to the audience.

Films are not only meant to entertain audiences but also to enable them to delve into narratives that are unheard of, unseen, and unrecognized. They serve to inform, educate, empower, and encourage viewers to question what’s happening around them.

For as long as social issues need to be exposed, PLB will also continue to bring together films that open the eyes of the public.

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