The Spirit of Chinese Cinema with the 12th Spring Film Festival

Written by Jayce Ching, Matt See, Caitlin Young & Joel Lim          and        Edited by Joel Lim

Photo header by JA Chua

Welcoming the new year in a proud and elegant spectacle of art and culture, the 12th Spring Film Festival commences the festive week with the Gala Night at EDSA Shangri-La Plaza Mall.

The annual Spring Film Festival (SFF), which began in 2007, is one of the most hotly anticipated galas in the Chinese-Filipino community. It is hosted by the Ateneo de Manila University’s Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies, together with Film Development Council of the Philippines, and Credit Suisse with the aim of showcasing the artistry of Chinese film culture.

Guests of the gala night were warmly received by a soft flurry of mint green fitted Celadon members, as though blossoms guiding them into the event, where a plethora of colors await. Briefly showcasing beauty and artistry of the Chinese culture are the paintings, displayed in a line for guests to view.  

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To start the night, the Philippine Tong Son Lion and Dragon Dance Group entered with a steady and strong beat of drums and cymbals, showing a bright and powerful performance that wowed the audience full of VIPs and members of the media. With everyone still in high spirits, the host of the evening Candice Tan introduced the president of Ateneo de Manila University, Fr. Jeff Villarin SJ, who gave an insightful speech on how understanding and appreciation for other cultures will lead to greater hope. “We seek the truth together… it is only in becoming together that we become conscious of the lens we use to see the world… look at the world together. Values, dreams, and aspirations bring us together,” shared Father Jett.

Such sentiments were relayed further into the night, wherein Ms. Lala Fojas, General Manager of the Shangri-La Plaza Corporation, expressed that the collaboration was established in hopes of sharing and appreciating cultures. Afterwards, International Relations Lead Officer Mr. Jo Andrew Torlao of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, emphasized the significance of films in introducing and bringing cultures together.

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Performing an intermission number was Joshe Tiu, who played a saxophone rendition of Sandy Lam’s “至少還有你 (At Least I Still Have You)”, and evoked emotions and admiration with the rich tones of his instrument. In furthering the mission of the Spring Film Festival to bridge cultures, Ms. Jubilee Ong, Acting Director of the Ricardo Leong Center for Chinese Studies, presented the Kaoka performance, a Chinese cultural art that is scarcely seen here in the Philippines yet still as riveting as the Lion and Dragon Dances. The Kaoka performers, mostly consisting of Ateneo faculty, students, and Celadon members, commanded attention from around the plaza with voices high & grand and visuals colorful & striking, capturing the attention of people in and passing around the venue.

Concluding remarks were then given by Dr. Ricardo Leong and Dra. Rosita Leong themselves, who ended the program proper by conveying their vision for this event – for both Chinese-Filipinos and Filipinos to learn from each other through this unique exchange of cultures.

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After dinner was served, the audiences were treated to the sight of the two lions from the lion dance marching on to the beat of Chinese drums. The two lions then led the audience to the mall’s Cineplex, where the movie Our Shining Days would be shown to commemorate the start of the SFF. Once Ateneo Celadon President Clarissa Chua and Spring Film Festival Project Head Jon “Sonson” Ledesma gave their respective statements, the audience was free to sit back, relax, and enjoy the movie!

After the entourage of the VIP’s to the cinema, the volunteers, core members, and other members of Celadon had their fair share of relaxation. Everyone had pictures together, food and drinks were served to everyone, and that officially marked the end of the night.

On how this year’s festival differs from previous years, Ms. Jubilee Ong said, “We showcased more mainstream movies, such as award-winning films, which gives a more eclectic flavor. Some of these award-winning movies are Walking Past the Future from the Cannes Film Festival and Monster Hunt. We tried to showcase a set of films that Filipinos can relate to like What a Wonderful Family. We chose Our Shining Days as the premiere film so that we can restore awareness to the people that Chinese instruments, though ancestral, are still ‘alive’ and they can be learned again.” Ms. Ong further stated that was pleased with the execution of the Gala Night, saying, “It’s great. A lot of people came despite the traffic; they enjoyed the performers, most of which were Celadon students… it was a great turn of events on how it came out to be.”

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Through the introduction of more of the Chinese culture to our society for people to understand better, Dr. Rosita Leong hopes that the Spring Film Festival would help the youth in their future, and they continue on doing so by carrying on the Spring Film Festival for as long as they can.

“It was kind of like things were going full circle for me,” noted co-project manager Jon “Sonson” Ledesma, who has been part of Spring Film Festival since his freshman year. “I guess what really drew me in [to join as a project manager] was the prestige that comes with such a big event. I wanted to be part of creating something truly great before I graduated. SFF gave me the perfect opportunity for that, so I took it.”

“It gives me delight to know that all the hard work exerted do not just reach the Ateneo or the Chinese community but to all of the people in Metro Manila,” said co-project manager Lucy Zeng. “Helping out in this project is really the kind of service that I will always gladly offer because this project touches me on a personal level.”

“It was nothing but an unending stream of gratitude and appreciation to the all the members in our team, and to Ma’am Jubilee, [Chinese Department secretary] Ma’am Grace and Nanay Beehua,” she insisted. “Sonson and I would not have been able to do anything without them.”

12th Spring Film Festival core team, organizers, volunteers and performers gather for a group picture. Photo by Calvin Choi.

“The best thing for me is the opportunity to just see all your hard work coming into place,” reflected Ledesma. “That one Gala event took so many months of stressful nights, but it was completely worth it. I owe that to the core team and EB backing the project, and I’m really proud of what we made possible this year.”

This year’s festival ran from February 13-18, 2018. Its selection included six full-length feature films, namely Our Shining Days, Walking Past the Future, Office, Monster Hunt, What a Wonderful Family, and Cold War II. All films were made available for free to the viewing public.

It was truly a successful kick-off to this year’s Spring Film Festival. Surely, the festival will continue to promote the beauty of Chinese film culture to the local community in the years to come.

For more information, check out Spring Film Festival’s official Facebook page, and check out Elements’ reviews of the films featured in this year’s festival:

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