11 Films For Woke Folks to Catch at The Active Vista Human Rights Festival

In troubling times like these, we’ll take every little opportunity we can get to remind ourselves of what’s truly important. The Active Vista International Human Rights Festival is one such opportunity. It was originally an advocacy film festival for DAKILA, a social heroism movement founded by Lourd de Veyra, Noel Cabangon, Ronnie Lazaro, Buhawi Meneses, and Tado Jimenez. But it has since grown, and is on its fifth run this year, featuring a series of film screenings, exhibits, talks, and live performances towards the promotion and advancement of the human rights cause.

We’re most excited about the festival’s lineup of films, of course, which runs from Thursday, November 23 to Friday, December 8. It’s is a mix of new ones and classics that provide great perspectives on human rights issues. Here’s what you can expect:

Motherland (Bayang Ina Mo) by Ramona Diaz
Which is about: Motherland takes us into the heart of the planet’s busiest maternity hospital in one of the world’s poorest and most populous countries: the Philippines. The film’s viewer, like an unseen outsider dropped unobtrusively into the hospital’s stream of activity, passes through hallways, enters rooms and listens in on conversations. At first, the surrounding people are strangers. But as the film continues, it's absorbingly intimate, rendering the women at the heart of the story increasingly familiar. Three women—Lea, Aira and Lerma—emerge to share their stories with other mothers, their families, doctors and social workers. While each of them faces daunting odds at home, their optimism, honesty and humor suggest a strength that they will certainly have to summon in the years ahead.”
Human rights hot buttons: Women's rights, family planning and reproductive health

Catch it on: Thursday, November 23, 7:00PM at the EDSA Shangri-la Plaza Cineplex.


Blanka by Kohki Hasei
Which is about: “Blanka makes her living on the streets of Manila, from small thefts and tricks. She dreams of saving enough money to ‘buy’ a mom. When she meets talented Peter, a blind gambling musician, her life takes an unexpected direction. They decide to join forces in order to face everyday struggles. Thanks to Peter, Blanka discovers to be a talented singer and, more importantly, understands that money cannot buy the love of a person.”
Human rights hot buttons: Poverty, materialism, family
Catch it on: Monday, November 27, and Wednesday, November 29, 7:00PM at the EDSA Shangri-la Plaza Cineplex.

Small Talk by Hui-Chen Huang
Which is about: “They have lived like strangers under one roof for decades, almost never talking to each other. One day, Hui-chen finally summons up the courage to sit her mother down and talk.”
Human rights hot buttons: Family, LGBTQ rights
Catch it on: Tuesday, November 28, 7:00PM at the EDSA Shangri-la Plaza Cineplex.

Respeto by Treb Monteras
Which is about: “Hendrix dreams of hip-hop greatness, but he's spiraling down a rabbit-hole of crime and poverty until he meets Doc, an old poet still haunted by his martial law past. Can they turn each other's lives around before they're swallowed by their circumstance?.”
Human rights hot buttons: Poverty, drugs, the Martial Law Era
Catch it on: Monday, November 27, 1:00PM at the University of Makati Mini Theater; Saturday, December 2, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City; and Wednesday, December 6, 1:00PM at the UST Education Auditorium.

On The Job by Erik Matti
Which is about: “Filipino crime thriller inspired by a real-life scandal in which prison inmates are temporarily released from prison to work as contract killers on behalf of politicians and high ranking military officials.”
Human rights hot buttons: Poverty, crime, drugs, convict culture 
Catch it on: Sunday, December 3, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City.

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Last Supper No. 3 by Veronica Velasco
Which is about: “Based on a true story, Last Supper No. 3 is a humorous look at the circuitous path our legal system takes to justice. Assistant Production Designer Wilson Nañawa is tasked to look for a Last Supper to use as a prop for a TV commercial. He finds three, but loses the one owned by Gareth Pugeda. What happens next changes Wilson forever as he spends the next two years entangled in bureaucracy and red tape facing estafa and serious physical injury charges. How will this ordinary man fare against a system he knows nothing about? Will justice prevail for Wilson? Or will he be imprisoned for the loss of Last Supper No. 3?”
Human rights hot buttons: Systemic marginalization, flawed justice
Catch it on: Monday, December 4, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City.

Jay by Francis Xavier Pasion
Which is about: “Jay, a gay schoolteacher, is brutally murdered in an apparent sex-crime. Even before his family hears about it, a TV producer—also named Jay—and his camera crew are inside their house to document their shock and grief. The TV producer convinces the family to let him shoot the dead man's wake and funeral for a ‘reality show.’ This will help them to ferret out the truth about the crime, find the killer, and bring him to justice, he says. However, it soon becomes clear that this concept of ‘truth’ owes much to the entertainment value of the material being shot, and the expectations of the television audience. Skillfully orchestrating this ‘reality show’ is the dead man's namesake—a ‘journalist’ who knows that the truth is whatever works on camera.”
Human rights hot buttons: Fake news, sensationalism
Catch it on: Tuesday, December 5, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City.


Bunso by Ditsi Carolino
Which is about: “Rain is welcomed in the prison where the children Tony, Diosel and Bunso have to keep their footing amidst adult criminals. Rain means a shower and the chance to wash your clothes. As long as it is dry again in the evening, because the roof is leaking and if it rains you cannot sleep. In the prison, there is a lack of space, clothes and food. Worse, they share it with adult criminals convicted of rape, murder and drug dealing. Tony is only thirteen. Diosel and Bunso are eleven. Everyday, they struggle to survive in jail. Director Ditsi Carolino brings us into their life in prison, on the streets and the slums where they come from. Carolino shows how during visiting hours, the rebellious little Bunso argues with his heartless mother, who calls him an inferior beast. “Not I, but you should be in prison for beating me.” Bunso is a disturbing film set in the subhuman world of a city jail with many poignant moments from the boys who speak their truth with a rare mix of innocence and street-smarts, pain and humor.”
Human rights hot buttons: Poverty, children's rights, prison overcrowding
Catch it on: Wednesday, December 6, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City.

Himpapawid by Raymond Red
Which is about: “Inspired by a true news account, this is the astounding story of a lone deranged hijacker who has struggled to survive in the chaos of modern Philippine society.”
Catch it on: Thursday, December 7, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City.

Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno
Which is about: Engwkentro follows two teenage brothers attempting to escape an unnamed city controlled by an iron-fisted mayor. They must first break away from the cycle of crime, while trying to run from rival gang leaders and the state's murderous vigilantes.”
Human rights hot buttons: State-sponsored violence
Catch it on: Friday, December 8, 7:00PM at Cinema Centenario, Quezon City.

Die Beautiful by Jun Lana
Which is about: “Friends attend the wake of Trisha, a Filipino transgender woman. They look back into the her life as she faces the adversities and triumphs of living as a transgender in Filipino society.”
Human rights hot buttons: LGBTQ rights
Catch it on: Wednesday, November 29, 7:00PM at Pineapple Lab, Makati.

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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