The South African National Arts Festival is one of the most important events on the country’s cultural calendar, and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent.
University of the Philippines Professor Dr. Arminda Vallejo Santiago, who represented film director Clodualdo del Mundo, was accompanied by the Embassy’s Cultural and Information Officer, Ms. Helen R. Firme-Subido, at the Festival from 3 to 9 July 2009.
The Philippines was able to participate in the Main Film Programme of the National Arts Festival. Seven Philippine films were shown at the Olive Shreiner Hall of the Monument in Grahamstown from July 3 to 8.
The Filipino movies screened included “Manila in the Claws of Darkness” (Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag), directed by the late Lino Brocka; “Baler” by Mark Meily, “Peeping” (Silip) by Elwood Perez; Mike De Leon’s “Third World Hero” (Bayaning Thirdworld); the comedy “Crying Ladies” by Mark Meily; Laurice Guillen’s “Santa Santita”’; and “Manoro” of Brillante Mendoza. “Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag” was the opening film shown on July 3.
Before the screening of the film “Maynila…”, Ms. Firme-Subido delivered a speech on behalf of Ambassador Virgilio A. Reyes, Jr., who was on official leave. Professor Santiago then made an introduction of the film and talked about film director Lino Brocka.
Despite the fact that Philippine films are not popular to festival goers, “Crying Ladies” surprisingly captured the interest of the audience.
The Philippines was also able to participate in the Main Music Program of the Festival through Grahamstown-based Filipina pianist Ms. Mariel Ilusorio, with Chilean-born violinist Mr. Juan Luis Muñoz, a senior lecturer in music at Rhodes University, and three South African vocalists.
In their Music of the Philippines, they presented a programme of works for solo piano, voice and violin introducing Philippine culture and classical music at the Beethoven Room in Grahamstown.
During the first part of the programme, which was presented on July 8, Ms. Firme-Subido also delivered a speech and gave a short talk about Philippine Music.
After the concert, people approached the artists, expressing their appreciation of Philippine music, their interest in the Philippines, and praising the artists for their outstanding performance.
The second part of the programme, held on July 10 in the same venue, was more successful as it was honoured by a standing ovation from a bigger crowd.
The proposals for the Philippine participation in this year’s National Arts Festival came directly from the Philippine Embassy, and supported by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
Now in its 35th year, the Festival began in 1974 and has grown to be one of the leading arts festivals in southern Africa. Its objectives are to deliver excellence; encourage innovation and development in the arts by providing a platform for both established and emerging South African artists; create opportunities for collaboration with international artists; and build new audiences.