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Why QCinema Could Be the Berlin Film Festival of Southeast Asia

And why you shouldn't miss it.
IMAGE Courtesy of QCinema
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Seven years ago, the film industry’s best and brightest gathered together to birth a safe space for up-and-coming Filipino filmmakers. Less than 10 years later, QCinema International Film Festival has grown beyond expectations to become a leading international film festival in Southeast Asia. QCinema is incomparable to any other film festival in the country. If anything, it’s the Busan of Southeast Asia and the start of what could be our Berlin Film Festival. Opening on Sunday, October 13, QCinema 2019 is the film event of the year movie lovers can’t miss.

Known for pushing the envelope with its carefully curated and edgy selection of films, QCinema 2019 will feature a number of titles that premiered at Berlin Film Festival (Synonyms by Nadav Lapid) and Cannes Film Festival (Barucau by Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles). With the theme “New Wave,” this year’s edition of the event will focus on equality, diversity, and representation.

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In celebration of the centennial anniversary of Philippine cinema, a slate of classic, remastered films like Insiang by the late, great Lino Brocka will be screened. While viewers can see why it’s easy to appreciate QCinema for bringing award-winning international films to the Philippines, the value of QCinema’s backing of independent films is largely underrated. Unlike a number of other film festivals, QCinema gives seed grants to select filmmakers to produce their films, and more importantly, the festival lets the filmmakers own all the rights to their films.

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The last few years have been stellar for Asian films on the international stage. The last two Cannes Film Festival winners have been from the region: the Japanese film Shoplifters in 2018 and the South Korean film Parasite in 2019.

“It’s been a great two years for Asian filmmakers,” said Eduardo Lejano, festival director of QCinema. “This is where equality, representation, and diversity comes into play, where marginalized voices get their equal space and prominence.”

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In line with that, QCinema has added a number of sections and films to their lineup to cater to the voices of underrepresented communities. LGBTQ themes, female-centric stories, and struggling filmmakers are just some of the sections that have been created to add even more substance to the film festival.

On the demands of online streaming services and cinema, Lejano explained, “It’s a changing landscape nowadays with the ‘Netflix and Chill’ era. You can watch movies righftly or wrongly in their smartphones and tablets. But this is what film festivals are for—we have to celebrate the experience of watching award-winning films on the big screen.”

Despite the dominance of Hollywood blockbusters in theaters, there is a demand and a market for the indie film industry. “A lot of indie films don’t perform well usually at the box office, so films like these need an event to make it,” shared Lejano.

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Festivals like QCinema and Berlin offer a “communal experience—and despite all the changes in technology, it’s here to stay.” And while streaming services offer convenience, the full cinema experience is one that can’t be replicated.

This year will offer a number of genre-bending films: “Sometimes they’re dark, sometimes they’re sexy, sometimes they’re political, and sometimes they’re mind-boggling. That’s what we look for—impactful themes or experiences.” So get ready for 10 days of movies, parties, and meeting like-minded film buffs as this year’s QCinema is creating the full movie experience.

The QCinema International Film Festival will be held from October 13 to 22 in the following theaters: Gateway Mall, Ayala Trinoma, Robinsons Galleria, UPFI Cine Adarna, Cinema 76 Anonas, and Cinema Centenario. Over 60 international and local films will be screened.

The full schedule can be found here.

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About The Author
Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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