By By Pablo A. Tariman
posted 28-Sep-2018  ·  
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TOFARM film fest director Bibeth Orteza. Looking forward to the 4th edition of the festival.

There is a lot of substantially good choices in the entries to the 3rd TOFARM Film Festival which opened last September 12 and to be capped by an awards night on September 15 at the Rizal Ballroom of Makati Shangri-La.

The late President Magsaysay’s connection with farmers is relived in “1957” written and directed by Hubert Tibi and starring Ronwaldo Martin, Richard Quan and Menggie Cobarrubias.

Keith Scat’s “Alimuom” goes into the distant future when farming becomes a forbidden practice due to the toxic environment. The director said the challenge of this futuristic film is that he is able to leave the present to chart a new, disturbing scenario in the future. “I know this is not going to be easy but this is where the challenge to the filmmaker lies. You confront the most disturbing thing about the future and convey your message to the moviegoers.”

The Carlo Enciso Catu film, “Mga Anak Ng Kamote” has resonance with the current food crisis and the killings caused by a nation-wide anti-drug operations. In fictional Philippines in 2048, the humble sweet potatoes are regularized as part of the government’s anti-drug campaign.

Bibeth Orteza, newly named director of the TOFARM film festival now on its third year, said she can connect very well with the subject and theme of the festival.

Indeed, it is a big challenge to her as, in her own words, she has a very big shoes to fill: that of the award-winning film director Maryo de los Reyes whose “Magnifico” was screened during the opening of the festival.

She recalls: “The last time I saw Direk Maryo (de los Reyes) was at the Christmas party of Regal Films. I had just sat down next to him, when he blurted out: ‘Bakla! Yung unang TOFARM, kasama ang asawa mo, artista. Yung pangalawangTOFARM, anak mo. naman ang artista. Sa pangatlong TOFARM, dapat kasama ka na, sa ayaw mo at sa gusto!’”

The late Direk Maryo meant that it was about time she acts in a festival entry. “As fate would have it, I got into TOFARM just the same, but not as an actor but as its festival director.”

Earlier, she got feelers about being interviewed for the position but she went to her initial meeting intending to say no. “I was aware I hadn’t yet directed a film, that my directorial chores were only all for television and some theater.”

 In the initial screening, Direk Laurice (Guillen) couldn’t take on the post as she was already with Cinemalaya. “She asked if I could possibly get along well with Direk Joey Romero, and I said yes.”

She was with Romero in the MTRCB, first when her mother-in-law (Armida Siguion Reyna) was chairman under the Joseph Estrada presidency, and then again from tail end of 2012 this year until he was replaced by Johnny Revilla.

The brainchild of Dr. Milagros O. How who heads the Universal Harvester, Inc. the festival differs from other local film events as its entries zero in on the lives, journeys, trials and triumphs of the Filipino farmer.

Thus far, the festival has made ripples on its first two editions and indeed it has succeeded in portraying life in the farms and the simple folks that inhabit it.

In time, both organizers and the audiences got to reflect on the farmer’s lives, how they cope and how they manage to survive in a profession that not even their own children would want to pursue.

Farming -- as it is now -- is a strange occupation for the millennials but it remains the source of hope and redemption for simple folks in the countryside.

Added Bibeth: “I connect very well with films on farm life. My Apoy Nano, my mother’s father, was a farmer in barrio Sabang, Calbiga, Samar. Apoy is Waray for grandparent.”

What does she intend to accomplish as newly named festival director?

Simple but to the point she is. “First, to get to TOFARM Film Festival 4 which will happen only if TFFF 3 does well. By ‘does well,I mean, sana kumita, sana we get more theaters, along that line. Finally, I hope we somehow get to unearth a good copy if National Artist Gerry de Leon’s Daigdig ng Mga Api (1965), which won nine FAMAS awards out of the 13 at stake, for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress (won by husband-and-wife Robert Arevalo and Barbara Perez), Best Supporting Actress, Best Child Actress, Best Story, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography. You ask how this connects to TOFARM? Well, Daigdig ng mga Api is about the hardship that farmers go through, silang mga talagang api. It was done in 16mm, no known copy exists, but Robert Arevalo and I are pinning out hopes on the possibility someone has archived it somewhere. Malaking bagay ito para kay Robert, kapatid ng tatay niyang si Tito Arevalo si Gerry de Leon.”

In conclusion, Bibeth is all positive for the future: “I am looking forward to being able to say, ‘See you in 2019, for TOFARM Film Festival 4!’ Meanwhile, we all have to be reminded that when we advocate for causes such as these, when we purport concern for those who have less in life, we must also in our daily dealings with them be just as kind and just as considerate, perhaps even more. Kasi tutoong buhay na ito.”

The select members of the jury in the awards night include Manet Dayrit, Jerrold Tarog, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, Mel Chionglo and Moira Lang.

Bibeth Orteza with the cast and director of "Alimuom." Substantial are the entries this year.
Entries in this year's TOFARM film festival.
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