2017 marks a special year as we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between France and the Philippines. On this occasion, we launched “PHILFRANCE: Feel French!,” a festival to be organized ever year to highlight the growing relations between our two countries in different sectors of activity, including arts and culture, lifestyle, business and technology, and the promotion of the democratic values of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.
Cinema is one passion shared by the French and Filipinos. Historically, and shortly after the very first public screening of Sortie de l’usine in 1895 by the Lumière brothers in Paris, the cinematograph reached the Philippine islands in 1897. Just as the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1898, short films were already being shot in Manila, such as Panorama de Manila and Fiesta de Quiapo. In fact, one of the first movie houses in Quiapo was called the Gran Cinematografo Parisien. And then Hollywood conquered the world.
As early as 1947, France created the Centre national du cinema (CNC) to institutionalize the need to protect and support their cinema. It established a mechanism that has since provided financial support for the production of local films, ensuring their survival in the midst of international competition and economic downtrends, especially at the time of reconstruction following World War II.
Meanwhile, the Cannes Film Festival was launched to provide a venue to showcase French films alongside others from all over the world. This created an environment that gave way to the development of French cinema that led to the Nouvelle ague, with the particular aesthetics and story-telling style that continue to inspire filmmakers today.
Philippine cinema at the time also began to flourish. Films by acclaimed Filipino director Lino Brocka were featured in different sections of the Cannes Film Festival, setting a tradition that we relive today. Indeed, since 2000, the year when Raymond Red won the Palme d’Or for his short film Anino, Filipino films have been regularly selected to participate in Cannes – from the Official Competition and Un Certain Regard and to the Director’s Fortnight and, this year, the Semaine de la Critique.
On this milestone year, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Ministry of Culture and Communication, through the Institut Français, has invited multi-awarded director Brillante Mendoza to be the Godfather of La Fabrique du Cinéma, a mentoring workshop held during the Cannes Film Festival for selected, up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the world. At the same time, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), under Chairperson Liza Diño, has led a Philippine delegation to represent and promote the Philippine film industry in one of the most prestigious and well-attended film markets.
As we celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations, which coincides with the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, the French Film Festival in Manila will highlight French and Filipino cultures through a selection of films that have been screened in various sections of Cannes through the years. In cooperation with Pioneer Films, this year’s edition opens with Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” which was in the Main Competition in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
I thank all the local partners and sponsors of the Festival, especially the Ayala Malls Cinemas, SSI Group, Inc., Peugeot and Delsey, for making this possible and for allowing more Filipinos to celebrate “PHILFRANCE : Feel French !” Bon film !
Ambassador of France to the Philippines