With the growing number of film aficionados in the country, it’s no surprise that more and more film festivals and venues have been popping up to cater to the demand. What used to be a former chemical laboratory in the heart of Mandaluyong is now one of the promising new microcinemas found in Metro Manila. According to Black Maria president Angelo Santos, their venue aims to prioritize independent films. “May mga foreign independent films rin at saka local independents so that’s the kind of programming we want to show. We offer a venue na very accessible din sa lahat. We took inspiration from the cinematheque and specialty coffee movement,” he told PUSH.
Among the films recently screened at the venue were Metro Manila Film Festival Best Film winner Ang Larawan and also Siargao as well as acclaimed films like Smaller and Smaller Circles, Birdshot, Wonder, and last year’s Cinema One Originals entries. “The main goal of Black Maria Cinema is to cater to local producers and our own homegrown product. The reason why we want to include world cinema is because we want it to be a haven for filmmakers. We want to invite filmmakers from China, Thailand, and other countries,” shared Black Maria Cinema Programming and PR Head Shandii Bacolod.
One of the challenges for local indie films is not finding enough venues to showcase their projects. “We have to face it that a lot of the big cinemas don’t want to release titles that they don’t feel are mainstream enough because no one will come to watch but we will be there for them. We are flexible. We put producers first. We ask them what they want and how they want us to help them. Since Black Maria cinema opened last year they have done nothing but help the local producers to show their films. Yung mga titles na gustong gusto mapanuod na hindi nila alam kung saan pupunta, baka makuha namin. And of course the best Filipino films, indie or non-indie, mapapnsin sila dito,” Bacolod explained.
Bacolod also shared that they also aim to become a haven for world cinema in the country. “For 2018 we really want to introduce world cinema. We want this to be a haven for world cinema including the Philippines. We want to create a fusion and a diversity. Since cinema is an art by itself so we have to treat the programming as if you are curating a museum, an exhibit, so a festival.”
Black Maria Cinema is kicking off the year with a partnership with the ABS-CBN Restoration Project as well as the 34 films of Fernando Poe Jr. “All the restored movie projects of ABS-CBN will be ready for screening by February. We are also going to show FPJ films para sa mga baguhan na hindi kilala si FPJ kasi malaki ang contribution niya sa Philippine cinema so they should meet him in Black Maria cinema. And then yung mga local festivals na minsan pag gusto na manuod ng tao tapos na so Black Maria is there to address that. Either we show it simultaneously on screen with them or we show it right after para dito sila pupunta,” he shared.