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QCinema goes online with a smaller lineup

FOLLOWING on the heels of several local film festivals that have opted to go for digital — or hybrid — screenings, the Quezon City International Film Festival (QCinema) will likewise be showing its films online, although it will have a physical screening of its opening film, the black-and-white version of Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar award-winning film Parasite (2019).

“We’re lucky that its producers agreed for it to have a theatrical screening here,” Eduardo J. Lejano, the festival’s director, said during a press conference on Nov. 16 via Zoom.

He described the opening film, which premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival in January, as an “entirely different experience” even for people who already watched what is the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the 2020 Academy Awards. The monochrome version of Parasite will be shown on Nov. 27 and 28 at the Gazebo Royale Events Place in Quezon City. The screenings are by-invitation only.

QCinema will run from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6 online via the Filipino streaming service Upstream. The Metro Manila Film Festival in December will also be using Upstream as its streaming partner.

And because the pandemic has halted or made it incredibly difficult for films to be produced this year, QCinema (like Cinemalaya) will be featuring it’s past Best Picture winners alongside foreign films instead of original films like the QCinemas of the past.

Among the former Best Picture winners that will be screened this year are Glen Barit’s Cleaners (2019), Dwein Baltazar’s Oda sa Wala (2018), and Khavn dela Cruz’s Balangiga Howling Wilderness (2017). Also screening in this year’s QCinema is Rae Red’s Babae at Baril (2019) which recently won the Gawad Urian Best Picture and a slew of other major and technical awards.

As QCinema is normally held in October, Mr. Lejano said that they had been hoping that the cinemas — which have been closed since the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic — would be allowed to open that month. But since they were not, QCinema made a shift to the digital realm.

“Like many other film festivals around the world, we’ve had to adapt to the unprecedented challenges of 2020. Factoring in safety concerns and restrictions, we’ve decided to follow the global trend of staging a hybrid film festival,” Mr. Lejano explained.

“We were changing plans as we went along because we were waiting for the government to announce MGCQ (modified general community quarantine),” Mr. Lejano said. “We were also hoping, just like the organizers of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), that the cinemas would open in time for QCinema. The festival used to be held every October, but we had to move it to late November.”

In another departure from the norm, Mr. Lejano said that this year they are presenting a smaller number of movies — 20 films instead of the 70 to 80 films the festival normally shows. But while the number of films have been decreased Mr. Lejano said that they tried to find films that would suit everyone’s taste.

QCinema will be hosting the Asian premiere of Lav Diaz’s Genus Pan (2020), the Southeast Asian premieres of the Peruvian drama Song Without a Name (2010) by Melina Leon, and the Brazilian film Divine Love (2019) by Gabriel Mascaro.

Mr. Diaz’s Genus Pan, a film that shows how much human beings are like animals, was the only Philippine entry at the 2020 Venice Film Festival. Mr. Diaz received the Best Director Award at the festival.

Other films that will be screened at QCinema are Vietnamese film Rom (2019) by Tran Thanh Huy, Hong Kong’s Suk Suk (2019) by Ray Yeung, and Polish film Corpus Christi (2019) by Mateusz Pecewicz.

Mr. Lejano admitted that it was difficult for them to get the digital screening rights for the festival films and that they had to assure the distributors that Upstream is completely safe and secure.

Aside from the screenings, QCinema will also have a ceremonial turnover of COVID-19 assistance grants it will give to the Inter-Guild Alliance to help industry workers affected by the pandemic. They will also be announcing the winners of the COVID Completion Grant at the opening ceremony on Nov. 27. The grant is given to select independent films that were forced to halt production during the lockdowns.

QCinema runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6 via Upstream.ph. Each film is priced at P150 and a limited number of tickets will be released per film starting Nov. 24. Bundles are also available at P750 for access to five films and QCinema-branded items. For more information, visit qcinema.ph and its official social media pages. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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