June 20, 2024

The Montanosa Film Festival (MFF) 2024 concluded on a high note as “Ino,” a captivating documentary shedding light on the life of a young balut vendor in Cauayan City, Isabela emerged victorious, clinching the Festival Grand Prize plus five other awards.

Directed by Ranniel Semana, “Ino” surpassed 21 other entries from documentary, narrative, and mobile categories to claim the prestigious accolade.

Ino chronicles the daily struggles and triumphs of its titular character Santino Aggabao, a spirited young vendor who navigates the bustling streets of Cauayan City, not only to sell his goods but also to cherish moments with friends under the veil of the night.

However, the harsh reality of insufficient earnings often awaits him, as depicted in one poignant scene where Ino faces admonishment from his parents, serving as a stark reminder of the challenges he faces.

“Ang buhay ng bawat Pilipino ay katulad ni Ino, Pilipino si Ino,” said Joyce Bernal, an acclaimed director and member of the Grand Jury, in her personal citation.

Semana shared his documentary film helped him find answers to questions about things he hardly understood when he was still young.

“Sa buhay ni Ino, natagpuan ko ang mga kasagutan. Ang unang hakbang sa pagharap ng mga hamon ng buhay ay ang pagtanggap sa katotohanan kahit na ito ay maaaring maging masakit,” said Semana.

The MFF, an annual celebration of regional filmmaking hosted by Baguio City, aims to provide a platform for local filmmakers to showcase their unique narratives and experiences.

Its competition arm includes a year-long mentorship program for finalists, who will also receive a seed grant to kickstart the production of their individual short films.

Ino’s triumph at the festival not only reflects the exceptional storytelling prowess of director Semana but also shines a spotlight on storytelling and filmmaking abilities of every regional filmmaker in the country.

Ang pagkapanalo po namin at tagumpay ng bawat regional filmmaker na gaya ko, tayo po ang tunay na panalo rito,” Semana said.

Apart from Semana, other regional filmmakers also successfully shared their stories during the festival.

The awardees of MFF 2024 are:

Major awards – Best Festival Film: “Ino” directed by Ranniel Semana; Kapwa Award by Kidlat Tahimik: “Mahirap ang Makinarya, Banal ang may Kita” by Florence Anne Taino and “Zanjera” directed by Romel A. Pascua; Best Emerging Cinema: “Sino’t Saan” directed by AC Maria and Kahon directed by Donetha Merka; Gold Award for Documentary: “Ino” directed by Ranniel Semana; Silver Award for Documentary: “Sino’t Saan” directed by AC Maria; Bronze Award for Documentary: “My Boy Superman” directed by Jonathan Jurilla; Gold Award for Mobile: “Old World” directed by Roland Cartagena; Silver Award for Mobile: “Kahon” by Donetha Merka; Bronze Award  for  Mobile: “Your  Whisper  is  What I Miss” directed by Daniel Sanchez;

Minor awards: Independent Spirit Award – “Ino” directed by Ranniel Semana; Social Justice Award – “Ino” directed by Ranniel Semana; Humanitarian Award – “Ino” directed by Ranniel Semana and “Dolor” directed by Joshua Lomahan; and Best Performance – Shandy Jada Fuentes of “Kahon”.

The Grand Jury panel, composed of acclaimed directors Bernal, Pepe Diokno, Zig Dulay, along with award-winning actor Dingdong Dantes and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, chose not to award winners for the narrative category. Instead, they opted to distribute the cash prize among all narrative finalists as an act of support aimed to empower and assist these talented filmmakers in further honing their craft.

The Asia Pacific Film Institute also awarded a P100,000 scholarship grant to Semana and Cartagena, and a P50,000 scholarship grant to Merika and Taino.

All cash prizes this year were covered by the City Government of Baguio, SM City Baguio, and Baguio Country Club.

The finalists of this year’s MFF underwent a year-long mentorship program under award-winning and highly acclaimed filmmakers and directors led by MFF Festival Director Ferdinand John Balanag and MFF Competition, Camp and Mentorship Director Emmanuel “Ibonman” dela Cruz.

Mentors for narrative, documentary, and mobile categories were Harlene Bautista, Jade Castro, Paolo Villaluna, Ditsi Carolino, Nico Hernandez, Jet Leyco, Arjanmar Rebeta, Tristan Cua, and Arvin Belarmino.

The awards night, held on March 23 at the CAP John Hay Trade and Cultural Center in Baguio City, was graced by Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines, Agus Widjojo, who also attended the festival to promote their films for the MFF International Film Section.

Widjojo underscored the significance of films in fostering cultural exchange and understanding among neighboring nations, highlighting the transformative power of storytelling in bridging diverse communities.

The MFF, apart from its films in competition, also conducted free public screenings, film talks, workshops, and fora during its week-long celebration.

The films in competition premiered in the Philippines at the SM Baguio Cinema on March 22 and 23. They can be viewed via the MFF Vimeo account and the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ online screening platform, JuanFlix. – Press release