Freedom Mov_e 2018: Blurring the Lines Between Truth and Fiction
A Filipino mother working abroad mourning for her daughter who was a victim of extrajudicial killings; a teacher sharing her story of abuse during the Martial Law era; an elementary student being punished for not memorizing her national oath; a lifestyle photographer turned aspiring photojournalist confronting her boyfriend; a student vlogger who witnessed a murder and is being accused of the crime; a victim of police brutality using the guise of an animal because he was treated like one...
Real life or fiction? These were the narratives that came alive on the big screen during the Freedom Mov_E 2018 Film Festival on the 8th of November at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Diliman, Quezon City.
“As we continue to battle for human rights in difficult circumstances, we need to use all mediums and platforms necessary to send our message out and film is certainly a very powerful way to do this,” said CHR Chairman Jose Luis Martin ‘Chito’ Gascon in his opening remarks.
FNF Philippines Country Director, Wolfgang Heinze in his introduction said, “We, as a foundation for freedom working in more than 60 countries worldwide, see this format, the one being here now and also the first one last year, as a format that has been so successful that it actually has been taken over in other countries and it has been showcased as one of the most innovative initiatives.”
A video message was subsequently shown of the German Embassy First Secretary for Culture, Thorsten Gottfried. The video was filmed beside the embassy’s Buddy Bear named, Friend whom he said symbolizes the friendship between the German and the Filipino people. “Not only do we share this friendship between our two peoples, we also share the appreciation for human rights. Why? Easy – because human rights matter,” said Mr. Gottfried.
The aforementioned CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, FNF Philippines Country Director Wolfgang Heinze, and German Embassy First Secretary for Culture Thorsten Gottfried were part of the panel of judges for this year’s short film competition together with CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Father Ismael Jose V. Chan-Gonzaga III, S.J. of the Ateneo Professional Schools, and Alberto “Treb” Monteras II, director of the award-winning feature film from Freedom Mov_E 2017, Respeto.
In line with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, FNF Philippines collaborated with CHR, DAKILA, and Active Vista to hold the film festival for Freedom Mov_E 2018: UDHR in HD or Universal Declaration on Human Rights in High Definition featuring the ten finalists from both Student and Open categories of the short film competition and the feature film, Citizen Jake directed by Mike de Leon.
Afterwards, the audience was invited to cast their vote for the People’s Choice awards.
Once the voting concluded, it was time for this year’s feature film, Citizen Jake. Citizen Jake is described by Alex Poblete of DAKILA as a film that “courageously confronts its viewers with a parallelism of our nation’s past and present. Blurring the lines between truth and fiction, Citizen Jake tackles the complex issues of human rights violations recurring in our country today such as extrajudicial killings, the Marcos’ return to power, and the looming authoritarian rule.”
Upon the conclusion of Citizen Jake, a short talkback session was held to discuss the movie in detail and how it relates to the current situation in the Philippines. Included in the panel for the talkback were CHR Chairman Chito Gascon, Cebu-based filmmaker, poet, and journalist Ara Chawdhury, DAKILA and Active Vista Executive Director Leni Velasco-Bicol, spoken word artist and social media influencer Alfonso Manalastas, and filmmaker-director Pepe Diokno.
“It’s about how our society and our politics often impacts into the personal and it really gets me to thinking about not just the past and the present but also the future. The film reaffirms that if we want something better for ourselves and our children in the future, we need to resolve unsettled issues about the past so that’s what I take away from this,” said the CHR Chairman about Citizen Jake.
27 year old, Edu, a teacher of Media Law and Ethics from the University of Makati, described how he felt like a failure after watching Citizen Jake, unable to truly teach his students about the horrors of martial law because he did not experience it.
Leni Velasco-Bicol said she knew the director really intended Citizen Jake for millennials to know more about martial law and ask questions. “It kinda disturbs us to actually confront and question our own truths, especially for this younger generation,” she said.
CHR Chairman Gascon recalled precisely when he was young and fighting the Marcos’ regime in the 80s, the Filipino population was only at 40 million. “Now, we have close to 110 million people so that means 2 out of 3 people never lived through the horrors of martial law and if we don’t deal with the past, we might be doomed to experience new horrors and I think that’s why it’s important for us and the young generation to continue to ask questions, and to be critical, and to demand accountability,” he said.
Pepe Diokno, who is the grandson and namesake of the late Senator Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno, said that the takeaway from Citizen Jake is to ask, “What is the best way to deal and talk about martial law? How do we treat this important moment in history so that it’s never forgotten again?” “That’s a question we have grappled with for the last thirty years. It’s a question we still have to grapple today and I really hope that we, our generation reaches a conclusion or at least a better way,” he said.
As the talkback session ended, Alfonso Manalastas performed his spoken word piece written in 2016 entitled, “10 Easy Steps to Become a Filipino Hero,” written at the time as a reaction to Ferdinand Marcos getting buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery). The awarding for the short film competition then proceeded.
Announced first were the winners of the Student Category. The 2nd runner-up for the Student Category was the film, Miss You, ‘Nay (I Miss You, Mom) by Kelvin Aguilar. The 1st runner-up for the Student Category was the film, Selda by John Lord Tobias. Finally, the grand winner for the Student Category was the film, Panata (Oath) by Gian Arre.
Next to be announced were the winners of the Open Category. The 2nd runner-up for the Open Category was the film, Set Free by Spectrum Lab Media. The 1st runner-up for the Open Category was the film, Anonymous Student Vlog by Christian Babista. Lastly, the grand winner for the Student Category was the film, Hayop (Animal) by Maki Liwanag.
Last to be announced were the People’s Choice awards given to those who garnered the most audience votes. The People’s Choice award for the Student Category was the film, Panata (Oath) by Gian Arre. The People’s Choice award for the Open Category was the film, Katiwala (Housekeeper) by Seymour Sanchez.
FNF Philippines, together with CHR, DAKILA, and Active Vista, would like to congratulate all the winners as well as those who entered the Freedom Mov_E 2018 short film competition for creatively expressing issues on human rights and specifically, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, rights of a child, and right to life. The short films of the winners of the competition are available on the FNF Philippines Facebook page and here on the website.
FNF provides innovative solutions that translate complex concepts of freedom into language that is relatable to Filipinos. By utilizing digitally innovative tools in its programs and activities, it aims to trigger discussions and initiate actions, thus promoting citizen engagement and empowerment in all sectors of society.