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In the Philippines, first-ever documentary film festival inspires filmmakers produce Adventist materials

Young film makers and media enthusiasts attending the first-ever media film festival in the Philippines. [photo by Hope Channel Philippines] 

Over 200 guests from local Adventist media teams and filmmakers attended the Media Missionaries Fellowship and Film Festival held at the Adventist International Institute for Advanced Studies(AIIAS) on May 25. The one-day gathering, sponsored by the North Philippine Union Conference(NPUC) in cooperation with Hope Channel Philippines(HCP), featured the screening of locally produced Adventist films as well as sessions with media professionals.

The ten entries were screened and evaluated for overall creativity, content, relativeness to the Adventist distinctives, and its narrative flow. Newly organized media group from the central province of Luzon, Philippines, Project Life-Nueva Ecija, featured the life of a former gambler and drug user who after risking his life several times, found his way back to reformation.

“I was a prisoner of cockfighting and drugs for a long time”, Bonifacio Calipus said. “I just can’t imagine how long God has been calling me to come home. I am just happy; our God never tires.”

The local conference media team from the south province of Luzon, Philippines, highlighted the life of Rey Laviña, a fisherman who like Peter, James, and John, lived a life closer to God’s miracles in the sea.

“My life is just like my boat”, Laviña said. “My boat was tested, was destroyed, was washed away by strong waves and winds, but it is still here. God overcame.”

The event recognized the talent, creativity, and passion of local media enthusiasts. The goal, according to organizers, is to encourage young film makers to eventually produce programs for Hope Channel and other social media outfits.

“We cannot disregard young talents who are passionate in this field of ministry”, said Joel Sarmiento, NPUC Communication director. “There are still rough edges, but once these young, talented individuals are immersed more in these kinds of atmospheres, we will see more Adventist films in the future.”

In addition to the film screenings, media professionals from two leading Philippine television networks shared vital points in becoming effective virtual storytellers while upholding Adventist distinctives. Janet Tolete, former senior program analyst of GMA and now an associate editor of Philippine Publishing House(PPH), advised on creating viral and appealing content. Leah Martinez, Artist Talent Coordinator and Special Events Consultant for TV /Movie Productions and Concerts/ Local and International Shows for ABS-CBN, shared her personal experiences as an Adventist in a secular media and how media impacts culture and personality.

Some attendees such as Gem Roy Fuentes, director for the Project Life Media Ministries, feels that it is past time for Adventists to enter this avenue in reaching a greater multitude of people. The concept of creating appealing content caught Fuentes’ attention as his media missionary group teaches basic production and film making skills at schools and local churches. He notes, “Young and old, almost everyone is influenced by this technology and we can’t afford not to have an Adventist presence here.”

For others, such as Rey Lavina, local church leader and talent for film entry “Bangka” or Boat, the day was personally transforming. Lavina never thought that film making could create such a huge impact not only to an audience but also to the ones telling their stories. Lavina was seen in tears while watching his own conversion story as detailed in his film.  

Such an impact is precisely the motivation for this first of many more similar Adventist film festivals. Leaders such as Mamerto Guingguing II, Communication director for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, looks forward to the ensuing impact that attendees will have in their communities. Guingguing summarizes their potential by adding, “We encourage young minds to explore this form of media for it is an effective tool in our generation to bring the message to the world.”

[Edward Rodriguez]

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