Cinemalaya is winding down, just two more days of films. The crowds are swelling; huge numbers of young students are trying to catch up with the final screenings. It has been a very good experience so far. Beyond seeing the films I’ve met dozens and dozens of filmmakers, press and other industry types - invaluable contacts for future programming at YBCA.
Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of the whole week. Benito Bautista had the world premiere of his new film HARANA. Benito is based in San Francisco, and we presented his great thriller BOUNDARY in “New Filipino Cinema.”
Harana is the almost-disappeared Filipino tradition of courting women by serenading them. The man goes to the home of the woman he’s courting and sings love songs while standing outside. The goal is to be invited inside. In the old days here, this was how dating worked. Traditional dating, as we think of it today, did not exist.
The film documents Florante Aguilar, a Fil-Am classically trained guitarist, and his journey home to the Philippines to find surviving harana singers and players. It’s a wonderful documentary, both intellectually stimulating and heartwarming. At times the beauty of the music is emotionally overwhelming. (You can order the soundtrack here)
The inter-generational audience for the sold-out screening was floored. You could hear many older audience members quietly singing along to songs they remembered from their childhood; and the kids got completely swept up in the romance of it all. At the end there was a spontaneous standing ovation for the filmmakers and producers, the first one I’ve seen at Cinemalaya.
They’ve got a major film here. With careful handling, a cult following along the lines of a smaller-scale Buena Vista Social Club is not hard to imagine. They’ve already been invited to Busan International Film Festival for their international premiere, and I expect the film to travel far and wide.