Voices of A New, Emerging Majority Rise Up at the Successful Cinematografo International Film Festival

Getting ready to open the doors of the inaugural Cinematografo International Film Festival to the public, at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8 Theaters in downtown San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of John Lazatin)

The very first Cinematografo International Film Festival (CIFF) opened its inaugural year with a four-day exhibit of 28 films that echo the voices that tell the stories of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans.

Opening night at the AMC Dine-In Kabuki 8 Theaters saw a parade of filmmakers, celebrities, government officials, community leaders, and guests walking the red carpet just before the U.S premiere of Loy Arcens’ “Ang Larawan” (The Portrait). Director Arcenas, Lead Actor Rachel Alejandro, Producer Girlie Rodis, and Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, who wrote the music, were in attendance and participated in a Q&A with the audience right after the screening.

(L-R) CIFF Executive Director John-D Lazatin, “Ang Larawan” (The Portrait) Director Loy Arcenas, CIFF Festival Director Miguel Sevilla, and CIFF Festival Consultant Corey Tong are all smiles on the red carpet on opening day. (Photo courtesy of Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion)

(L-R) Daly City Councilmember Ray Buenaventura, ABS-CBN Global COO Raffy Lopez, and Daly City Mayor Glenn Sylvester. (Photo courtesy of Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion)

The Philippine Consulate General of San Francisco was a co-presentor of the opening film., “Ang Larawan” (The Portrait). (L-R) Cultural Officer Dianne Sarmago, Consul Carlyn Monastrial, Vice Consul Andre Estanislao, Consul General Henry Bensurto Jr, Madame Cecile Ascalon and Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon. (Photo courtesy of Nerissa Fernandez)

At the screening of Loy Arcenas’ “Ang Larawan” (The Portrait). (L-R) Producer Girlie Rodis; one of the lead actors Rachel Alejandro; Composer Ryan Cayabyab and his wife, Emmy; Cherie Gil, lead actress of another Loy Arcenas movie, “Mirador;” award-winning TV and film director Olivia Lamasan; and Star Creatives COO Malou N. Santos.

Good spirits, good food, and wine flowed at the Opening Night Party at the Omni Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Filmmaker Ramona Diaz was impressed, saying, “I think to get Filipino American filmmakers in one room is already an accomplishment. Cinematografo has really stepped up to the plate.” High-profile publicist David Magdael lauds that Cinematografo’s inaugural year was held in San Francisco because of the rich diversity and the strong Filipino artist base and Filipino community in the Bay Area.

Scenes from the opening night party at the Omni Hotel in downtown San Francisco. (L-R Standing) Trade Marketing & Events Specialist Alvin Gomez, Sales and Distribution Head Ray Olano, Marketing Specialist Haphi Llaneza, Global & Regional Marketing Head Pam Castillo, Customer Operations Specialist Jez Panlaqui, Global CS & SCM Group Head Emma Endaya, Chief Information Officer Genemar Simpao, and Production Engineering Head Jonas De Leon. (L-R Seated) Global HR & OD Head Vic Nuguid, award-winning TV and Film director Olivia Lamasan, Star Creatives COO Malou N. Santos, and Global Legal Services Head Chocho Sagmit. (Photo courtesy of Haphi Llaneza)

(L-R) Cinematografo Executive Director John-D Lazatin, ABS-CBN International Managing Director for North America Olivia De Jesus, Actor Cherie Gil, award-winning TV and Film director Olivia Lamasan, Star Creatives COO Malou N. Santos, “Ang Larawan” Lead Actor Rachel Alejandro, Producer Girlie Rodis, Director Loy Arcenas, and Cinematografo sponsor Omni General Manager James Lim and wife Cay.

(L-R) Filipino American Filmmaker Francis Dela Torre, award-winning TV and Film director Olivia Lamasan, Star Creatives COO Malou N. Santos, and Hollywood Actor Dante Basco at the opening night party. (Photo courtesy of Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion)

Screenings throughout the four days enjoyed good attendance from movie lovers. There were those who attended all four days, having purchased the festival pass, and savored a good line-up of movies, including documentaries, feature-length narratives, shorts, and animation.

The energy was palpable throughout the festival as filmmakers, actors, creatives, and other industry representatives networked at the filmmakers’ lounge at the Kabuki in between movie screenings. Jannet Nuñez, iTVS Content Development Manager, emphasized that “any film festival that really focuses on a specific community is always important to visit, especially if you’re not part of the community, because you can learn so much.”

Various scenes from the Kabuki Lounge where filmmakers, actors, and other industry representatives had the chance to network and continue with valuable Q&A sessions. (Photos courtesy of Eric Pugeda)

Festival Highlights

One of the highlights of the festival was a tribute to documentary filmmaker Ramona Diaz where her latest, award-winning film Motherland (Sundance 2017), about one of the world’s busiest maternity wards located in Manila, was screened, followed by an intimate conversation about her work and prolific career as one of the most renowned Asian women documentary makers today.

Documentary Filmmaker Ramona Diaz was given a tribute for her visionary talent that shines light on the human condition as seen in her documentaries (“Motherland,” “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and “Imelda”). (Photo courtesy of Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion)

(L-R) CIFF Consultant Corey Tong, CIFF Executive Director John-D Lazatin, Filmmaker Ramona Diaz, and CIFF Festival Director Miguel Sevilla on the red carpet, all-smiles on opening night after nearly a year of preparations. (Photo courtesy of Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion)

Other highlights were the various panels that featured discussions on: (1) State of the Nation(s); (2) The Minority as the New Majority; (3) Tribute to Documentary Filmmaker Ramona Diaz; and (4) Cinematografo Originals and New Projects. All panels were well-attended. Participants were excited with the launch of Cinematografo International Film Festival, and were eager to get the conversation going about finally having a platform where the unique stories of Filipinos and Filipino Americans can be told.

A New Platform for Emerging Voices of the New Majority

“What I love is you’re my people! Mga kababayan ko! (My fellow Filipinos!) So, it’s a great feeling to have our own festival,” Hollywood Actor Reggie Lee enthused. Fellow Actor Dante Basco echoed the sentiment saying, “It’s time for us Filipino Americans to really flourish as artists. We have so many stories, so many great artists. It’s about time we continue to work and produce great product and support each other.”

Filipino Actor Cherie Gil and Filipino American Hollywood Actor Reggie Lee share the spotlight on the red carpet.

 Bianca Catbagan, Director of “Supermodel,” one of the featured shorts, stated that, “We want to see more films by women, by people of color. Having this network is great because we see each other’s work and we can be a group that forges on together.”

Cinematografo helped amplify the voices of this generation of storytellers, providing them a platform where they could show powerful, unique stories about the Filipino and Filipino American realities.

Speakers at the Panel on “The Minority as the New Majority” starting at 2nd from left: Publicist David Magdael, Actor Dante Basco, Producer of TV Series Documentary “America Reframed” Carmen Vicencio, Actor Reggie Lee, and Moderator Francis Cullado are joined by CIFF Festival Director Miguel Sevilla (left) and CIFF Executive Director John Lazatin (right) on the red carpet. (Photo courtesy of Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion)

Asian American Studies Professor, Writer and Poet Oscar Peñaranda said that Cinematografo offers a fresh perspective in its vision of shining the spotlight on stories of Filipino Americans that is not presented elsewhere. The Festival was a viable arena to showcase the voice of the community. Cinematografo Executive Director John-D Lazatin got his wish as all participants felt that the passion for storytelling was the energy that filled the Kabuki in those four days. As Cinematografo Festival Director Miguel Sevilla reiterated, they want Cinematografo to be the festival where the Filipino voice refuses to stay quiet, where Filipino stories refuse to be forgotten.



The CIFF is the premier event for Filipinos abroad to tell their stories, and is the platform to bring these films to the world stage.

Guided by its mission to elevate Filipino talent to the global stage, Cinematografo aims to foster, nurture, and inspire filmmakers from the Filipino diaspora. The festival serves as a platform to launch films funded and developed through one of its initiatives – Cinematografo Originals, and serves as a venue for Filipino filmmakers to express their passion for filmmaking, to share their stories of the world through a cinematic lens, and to connect them through an international industry and community network.

For more information, go to www.cinematografofilmfestival.com  Follow Cinematografo on Facebook and Instagram to get updates.


Media Contact:

Pia Lopezbanos-Carrion

ABS-CBN International – TFC

2001 Juniperro Serra Blvd, Ste. 200

Daly City, CA 94014



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