Freedom Mov_E Cebu: Human Rights “Swim Against the Tide”
“It’s exhausting swimming against the tide. You know what that means when you have to swim against the tide? It’s very tiring but I only think that it’s going to give my arms so much strength. I’m going to be so strong by the time the tide turns that we’re going to win this war,” said Atty. Cathy Alvarez when asked about the human rights struggle in relation to the movie, Respeto, the feature film for Freedom Mov_E Cebu.
On the 28th of September 2018, hundreds of Cebuano teenagers and adults eagerly waited in line and filled up the seats of the Cinema 2 of Robinsons Galeria Cebu for the highly anticipated Freedom Mov_E. This is the first Freedom Mov_E that FNF held outside Metro Manila. It featured the critically acclaimed film, Respeto, directed by Alberto Monteras II.
“We hope that through movies and other cultural events, Filipinos will realize that it is with the respect and appreciation of freedom that we get to realize our worth, our dignity as a person; that it is with freedom that we get to know our rights and that we show regard for the rights of others,” said Wolfgang Heinze, Country Director of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Philippines (FNF).
Leni Velasco-Bicol, Executive Director and co-founder of artist-activist collective Dakila, introduced the film, as essential for the youth of today especially during this period of historical revisionism, propaganda, and disregard for human rights.
As the movie began, the Cebuano audience immediately became engaged in its true-to-life depiction of poverty-stricken Pandacan, Manila. The introduction of the young protagonist, Hendrix (played by Filipino rapper Abra), drew oohs and aahs from the crowd - with his smooth rapping skills with witty lyrics They became invested in Hendrix and his friends, Betchai (Chai Fonacier) and Payaso (Silvester Bagadiong) as they ventured together to reach his goal of competing in Versus, a live freestyle rap battle competition.
The crowd also followed the stories of Hendrix’s older sister Connie (Thea Yrastorza) and her lover Mando (Brian Arda) who cared more about drugs and money than Hendrix’s passion; Doc (Dido de la Paz), an old poet and secondhand bookstore owner who became a mentor to Hendrix but was struggling with his trauma from the martial law years and his relationship with his son, Fuentes (Nor Domingo), who turned out to be an abusive policeman.
Throughout the film, the Cebuano crowd was not afraid to express their feelings whether they were joyful, disappointed, humored, shocked, enraged, and scared.
“Seeing this film, I could say it’s a ten out of ten for me,” said Angelo Velasco, a college student about the quality of the film and how it entertained and motivated him. Upon the ending of the film, the audience’s thunderous applause and cheers echoed within the cinema.
After Respeto finished, a panel discussion was held. Joining the panel are Wolfgang Heinze of FNF Philippines, Leni Velasco-Bicol of Dakila, Atty. Cathy Alvarez of StreetLawPH, Kristine Kintana and Roy V. Anunciacion, line producer and producer of Respeto respectively, Kristoffer Villarino, film director and rapper, Bro. Eugene Isaac Leaño of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu, and Isaiah Crisanto, senior high school student of Sacred Heart School – Ateneo de Cebu and Film Head of No Budget Productions.
This panel discussion helped shed light on the making of the movie as well as the present-day struggles of human rights defenders and the youth. Both members of the audience and the panel passed around questions while sharing personal experiences.
Atty. Alvarez was one of the panelists who responded to questions defending the cause for human rights. She explained that a person’s actions and decisions do not diminish his or her humanity and people who act or decide wrongly or unlawfully should be given the chance to correct his or her mistakes.
Respeto’s producers recalled that the film started out mainly as a hip-hop movie comparing new-school rap to old-school poetry. It eventually evolved into a socio-political film incorporating the real-life horrors of extrajudicial killings in the present day and martial law in the past. However, there was also an admission that despite adapting newer mediums to market the film, the film still fell short in terms of the amount of viewers they had hoped to reach.
In relation to the admissions by the producers of Respeto, Ms. Bicol explained that it is the job of the ActiveVista to bring movies to the masses including universities and communities. Her challenge was for the audience to show their support for more local films so that more films and better films could be made.
Mr. Villarino and Mr. Crisanto both sought to challenge the youth. For Mr. Villarino, the challenge was to find one’s voice to be able to express one’s self inspite of the problems of the current situation. “With the challenge of the times, find your voice. Find the words you need to use to defend what’s right,” said Mr. Villarino.
For Mr. Crisanto, he challenged those who were of voting age to take responsibility for the problems of the country just by voting. He also emphasized the importance of sharing stories to prevent history from repeating itself.
Discussions continued outside the cinema walls while moviegoers exited the cinema and Freedom Mov_E Cebu came to an end. However, Freedom Mov_E does not end there because FNF extended the deadline for submissions of entries to the Freedom Mov_E short film competition until the 12th of October 2018. Winners of the competition will be crowned at Freedom Mov_E 2018 on the 8th of November 2018 at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City as the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights continues.
FNF Philippines, together with its partners DAKILA – Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism, ActiveVista, Coalition for Better Education, No Budget Productions, co-organized the Freedom Mov_e Cebu.
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.