For this year’s Gawad Alternatibo Short Feature Category, we screened more than 120 entries from all around the country. In the process of selecting films whose home can be in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, we became acquainted with the nation’s fixations and preoccupations over the last few years — the ways that the pandemic and natural disasters have ravaged us; the manner by which institutions we’ve upheld have failed us; the opportunities for peace and prosperity that have passed us; the different processes by which freedom, truth, and humanity are preserved and destroyed.
These stories have been told time and time again, yet with each iteration become more and more valuable to be put at the center. It begs the question: What does it mean to be a voice of alternative cinema?
Does it mean exploring new forms of storytelling? Siding with those in the peripheries? Daring audiences to look at the ugliness from which we commonly avert our gaze? Saying things that polite society has suppressed us from expressing?
This year’s selection embodies these tensions through filmmaking, notices what others do not, and articulates why these remain unnoticed. In the selection, we discovered predominantly young storytellers — some women, some queer, some from the regions, some first time filmmakers — who must be nurtured, especially as their voices often do not have a place. If the selection represents a seed that must be taken care of, then Gawad Alternatibo must take on the mantle of a temporary home — one where these voices can be nurtured, given a place to grow, and provided with the resources they need to flourish.
In Michaela Coel’s 2018 MacTaggert lecture, she crystallizes what the jury searches for and sums it up in one word: misfits.
“A misfit is one who looks at life differently. Many however, are made into misfits because life looks at them differently.”
Here’s to the misfits and to the people that hold space for them.
The Short Feature Jury:
JASON TAN LIWAG | JUN SABAYTON | TARA ILLENBERGER