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A hybrid 2021 QCinema film fest

WHETHER one misses the experience of watching films on the big screen, or still prefers to enjoy movies through streaming, the QCinema International Film Festival offers both options to moviegoers.

Now on its 9th year, the QCinema International Film Festival returns with a hybrid edition from Nov. 26 to Dec. 5, with theatrical screenings at Gateway Cineplex 10 and online streaming via

“We’re starting modestly because before we used to have many cinemas all over NCR (National Capital Region), but baby steps now — we’re just limiting it on in Gateway and KTX,” Ed Lejano, QCinema festival director, said at an online press launch on Nov. 16.

“As late as October, we weren’t sure exactly how to do QCinema this year, even if we had a lineup on films. We had to negotiate for the rights months before. [Then] there was… the announcement for the reopening of theaters in mid-October so that’s when we had the [final answer] that we can go theatrical,” Mr. Lejano said about the decision to pursue a hybrid format for the festival.

“We understand how hesitant some people are still [about] going back to the theaters. But there are protocols in place that will help us make the movie watching experience safe and still enjoyable,” he added.


The 10-day festival officially opens with the theatrical screening of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s first English language film, Memoria — the Cannes Festival 2021 Jury Prize winner and Colombian entry to the 94th Academy Awards. It stars Tilda Swinton who plays a Scottish woman who begins to hear strange sounds while traveling through the forests of Columbia. The film makes its Southeast Asian premiere with QCinema 2021.

Also screening at the Gateway Cineplex 10 are the films under the Screen International, RainbowQC, New Horizons, and Special Screenings sections.

The films in the Screen International section are Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, Lorenzo Vigas’ The Box (which won the Venice Film Festival 2021 Leoncino d’Oro Agiscuola award), Audrey Diwan’s Happening (Venice Film Festival 2021 Golden Lion winner), Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, by Indonesian auteur Edwin (Locarno International Film Festival 2021 Golden Leopard winner); and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s two films, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (which won the Silver Bear award at the Berlinale 2021) and Drive My Car (which won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival 2021).

QCinema will also screen the Cannes Film Festival 2021 Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner, Great Freedom by Sebastian Meise under the RainbowQC section; and the Cannes Un Certain Regard Originality award winner Lamb by Valdimar Johannsson, under New Horizons section. Meanwhile, films under the Special Screenings section are Arthur Harari’s Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle and Lav Diaz’s Historya ni Ha.

Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle is the true story of a Japanese soldier who spent 30 years hiding in the Philippine jungle unaware that World War II was over. The film opened the Un Certain Regard of the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. Filipino actress Angeli Bayani is part of this film. Meanwhile, Historya ni Ha, which stars John Lloyd Cruz, makes its Asian premiere in QCinema. The story follows a heartbroken puppeteer who travels home to a remote island with a sex worker, a nun, and a teenage boy. It had its world premiere at the 65th BFI London Film Festival in the United Kingdom.

Aside from these films, QCinema will also screen select Patrick Alcedo films for free. These are the A Will to Dream, and the short films They Call Me Dax and Am I Being Selfish.


The festival is also presenting an online lineup for this year’s film festival.

Under the Screen International section are the coming-of-age-story My Salinger Year by Philippine Falardeau, The Great Movement by Kiro Russo (Venice Horizon Awards 2021 Special Jury Prize winner), and Miracle by Bogdan George Apetri (Warsaw International Film Festival 2021 Best Film).

In the New Horizons section are Apples by Christos Nikou (Chicago International Film Festival 2020 Best Screenplay winner), Magnetic Beats by Vincent Mael Cardona (Director’s Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival 2021 SACD Award winner), El Planeta by Amalia Ulman (Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema 2021 Best Director winner), and Playground by Laura Wendel (Cannes Film Festival 2021 FIPRESCI Prize winner).

The new section called Asian Voices features new films from Asian directors. This section will showcase Yuni by Kamila Andini, and Islands by Martin Edralin.

Yuni is a coming-of-age drama about a high school girl who rejects societal norms. This is Indonesia’s official submission to the 94th Academy Awards. It won the Platform Prize, Toronto International Film Festival 2020.

Islands tells the story of a Filipino immigrant in Canada who has lived with his parents all his life, and quits his job after learning that his father’s health is declining. The film won the Special Jury award at the SXSW Film Festival 2021.

Other films available for online streaming are Ramon and Silvan Zurcher’s The Girl and the Spider under the RainbowQC section; and Bagane Fiola’s Baboy Halas and Sheng Qiu’s Suburban Birds under the Netpac Reloaded section.


For this year, QCinema will host two Shorts programs — #QCShorts and Asian Shorts. Both will have theatrical screenings and online streaming.

The #QCShorts films received production grants worth P600,000 from QCinema. The entries are: Skylab by Chuck Escasa, Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol by Maria Estela Paiso; i get so sad sometimes by Trishtan Perez; MIGHTY ROBO V by Miko Livelo and Mihk Vergara; Henry by Kaj Palanca; and, City of Flowers by Xeph Suarez.

Meanwhile, in the lineup for the Asian Shorts are: Dear to Me by Monica Vanesa Tedja, Sunrise in My Mind by Danech San, New Abnormal by Sorayos Prapapa, and Live In Cloud-Cuckoo Land by Vu Minh Nghia and Pham Hoang Minh Thy. It also includes the Philippine premiere of How to Die Young in Manila by Petersen Vargas, and Filipinana by Rafael Manuel.


Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte said that the city government made a list of protocols for confined, crowded, and close contact areas, as well as coordinated with building officials to inspect the establishments.

“The theater cannot operate in Quezon City if it doesn’t meet the standards that are set by the building official pertaining to good ventilation,” Ms. Belmonte said.

“We have a Safety Seal. It is a seal that is given to establishments including offices and commercial establishments if they meet certain criteria that we have set forth. And the safety seal is granted also to the movie theater,” Ms. Belmonte explained.

“Last I heard from the building official, they have gone around and checked all of our theaters, and many theaters have already retrofitted and are fit for operations, and definitely Gateway is one of those,” she said.

Health and safety protocols for theater viewing under the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic such as wearing of masks, distanced seating, and the taking of body temperatures will be observed. Moviegoers are to present a vaccination card prior to ticket purchase.

Tickets to the screenings are priced at P150. More details about the festival can be found at — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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