Contesting a National Cinema in Becoming: The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival (2005-2014)

  • Emerald O. Flaviano University of the Philippines Diliman


Since its birth in 2005, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival has proven itself a major force in the Philippine f ilm industry. Established with the twin goals of “[encouraging] the creation of new cinematic works by Filipino filmmakers—works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity” and “[invigorating] Philippine filmmaking by developing a new breed of Filipino filmmakers,” Cinemalaya has been instrumental in the recent rise of what Tiongson (“The Rise of the Philippine New Wave Indie Film”) has called the “New Wave Indie” films. This recent wave of independent cinema, in turn, is taken to be the next significant moment in the history of Philippine national cinema. By considering the film festival—a spatiotemporally demarcated event and a unique discoursegenerating institution—as point of entry, this article discusses the contested process of constructing a coherent narrative of becoming of a national cinema. This process is found, more than ever, to surface resistance to any singular notion of “national cinema,” not least because of the inescapably transnational nature of all film production and consumption. It is within this context that any discussion about “saving” a Philippine national cinema is framed, particularly as to how international recognition has legitimized local independent cinema and influenced local spectatorship practices. Cinemalaya has helped revive a failing industry by giving shape to a new film movement, essentially def ined by contestation, as the f ilm festival’s experience in moderating the controversies it has found itself embroiled in has proven. More than anything, these contestations have brought to the fore previously unchallenged assumptions about what cinema a national public deserves to see.

Keywords: Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival; Philippine independent cinema; Philippine national cinema; film festivals