June 1, 2023

The first-ever Montañosa Film Festival (MFF) will kick off in style with its invite-only opening gala at the Baguio Convention Center on March 20. 
The guest list includes personalities from lead festival partners such as the Department of Tourism;   Tourism Promotions Board; Film Development Council of the Philippines; National Commission for Culture and the Arts; Cultural Center of the Philippines; University of the Philippines-Baguio; and representatives from the embassies of France, India, and the Czech Republic. 
In compliance with safety and health protocols, only 100 people will be allowed at the venue at any given time. 
The gala will feature an exclusive screening of National Artist Kidlat Tahimik’s film, Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux III, and will be graced by performances from Ballet Baguio and Timpuyog Ti Gangsa. 
The event will also be livestreamed on the MFF Facebook Page. 
The launch will also coincide with the reopening of Burnham Park’s Rose Garden. 
On March 20 and 21, the MFF, in collaboration with the City Environment and Parks Management Office, will offer screenings of the MFF’s TBA Studios Collection of films at the Rose Garden, in addition to screenings of French children’s film Kirikou et la Sorcière (“Kirikou and the Sorceress”). 
On March 27 and 28, these screenings will relocate to Burnham Lake, where they will be projected from the observation deck, with boats allowing a limited number of viewers to enjoy the films. 
Other MFF film collections, such as Euro Cine, Cine Asya, the Luzviminda Collection, and Cine Cordillera, will be available for viewing courtesy of the MFF’s various screening partners in the city, including the Baguio Country Club, Grand Sierra Pines Baguio, Holiday Inn Baguio City Centre, Le Monet Hotel, and The Manor at Camp John Hay. 
Another major venue partner for the MFF is the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and the Management of the Loakan Airport, where, from March 25 to 28, a drive-in theater concept will be simulated, with only 50 cars (maximum four people per car) allowed within the audience at any given time. 
Mornings at the airport will feature the Musiklamon Food and Music Fair, which will feature local musicians and local culinary experiences. Screenings will start at sunset and conclude at least two hours before midnight. 
MFF’s Films In-Competition category will also premiere at the airport. 
These films, which were selected from 46 entries that were submitted to the MFF late last year, were produced by 10 up-and-coming independent homegrown filmmakers from the Cordillera. Each filmmaker was provided a P40,000 grant to produce their respective films.
To help realize the potential of their films, the finalists have been introduced to multiple opportunities for mentorship experiences with the biggest names in the industry, including a Pitch Lab with scriptwriter Emman Dela Cruz; a one-on-one mentorship activity with scriptwriter Moira Lang and director Dean Colin Marcial; and the FDCP-sponsored FDCP Film Talks, which featured producer Gale Osorio, scriptwriter Fatrick Tabada, director Sheron Dayoc, and cinematographer Martika Escobar. 
This guidance will continue even during the festival proper with the continuation of the MFF Film Lab series, which will be held at UP Baguio’s Teatro Amianan. 
The series will feature a two-part editing lab with Dean Colin Marcial and editor Abi Lara on March 22 and 25; a pitch lab with Emman dela Cruz, and a pitch lab for international co-productions with producer Alemberg Ang, both on March 24.
CCP President and NCCA Chair Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso will also grace the MFF for the picNICK Finalists’ Picnic on March 26, where finalists will have the opportunity to chat with Lizaso and, in the process, “pick Nick’s brain.” 
The festival will close with its awards night on March 28, which will also be held at Loakan Airport.
The MFF is an official city event supported by Executive Order 6, s. 2021 issued by Mayor Benjamin Magalong, which designates March 20 to 28 as MFF Week. The event is spearheaded by the Baguio Tourism Council, through Twimedia under the helm of festival director Ferdinand John Balanag.
The MFF’s main beneficiary is Good ACTS (Artists, Craftspeople, and Tourism Support), a community initiative of mutual support among the city’s artists amid the pandemic. – Ry Neri Kesner