Scene from “Si Astri maka si Tambulah”. Photo courtesy of Diwa Film Festival.

Opening June 1st, the Diwa Film Festival, held at the Seattle Center, will feature independent short films from the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora that celebrate the Filipino “diwa”, or spirit in Tagalog. The diverse list of featured short films will explore and highlight the “diasporic, oceanic point of view that ‘provincializes’ the two poles of the Philippines and ‘abroad’,” says Adrian Alarilla, organizer of the festival.

Originally from Quezon City, Philippines, filmmaker Adrian Alarilla currently resides in Hawaii where he is pursuing his History Ph.D. at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, focusing on film and archipelagic history. When asked about his background in film, Alarilla states that his films, working specifically with documentaries and video diaries, explore “culture and identity in the era of globalization and Filipino diaspora,” and have been showcased in the Philippines, the U.S., and Mexico in various film festivals.

In 2015, he joined the organizing team of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and has been the programming manager of SAAFF until 2018. With that experience, Alarilla spearheaded the Diwa Film Festival, which was first envisioned in 2014, and originally part of the Pagdiriwang Philippine Cultural Festival as a film showcase. The Pagdiriwang, which is part of the Seattle Center Festál, has been held at the Seattle Center since 1987 and has since grown into the biggest festival of Filipino art, dance, music, history, and literature in the Pacific Northwest. With the addition of the film showcase to the Pagdiriwang, it has since grown into its current form as a two-day festival.

Since its inception, the Diwa Film Festival has highlighted Filipino voices from the Philippines and the U.S., as well as Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Guam, Hong Kong, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The festival intentionally showcases mainly short films, “in order to help encourage amateur and student filmmakers,” says Alarilla. A few films worth viewing include Si Astri maka si Tambulah (Astri and Tambulah) by Xeph Suarez and Lupah Sug (The Land of the Brave) by Rhadem Camlian Morados. Both films explore queer and Moro (a Muslim ethnic group hailing from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao) identity. Between Worlds: Filipino/Australian by Matthew Victor Pastor investigates a growing community of diasporic Filipino filmmakers in Australia who explore their identity through their craft, and Woodside by Vic Roxas examines the psyche of a Filipino immigrant in New York, whose guilt haunts him due to surviving a typhoon which unfortunately, took the lives of his parents.

With about 45 short films being screened, there is no lack of diverse topics being highlighted. The festival, with its schedule being organized by topics, has films exploring everything from diasporic perspectives, LGBT stories, spiritual connections and more. For Alarilla, when asked about the importance of the film festival and highlighting Filipino voices through film, he quotes filmmaker Zorinah Juan who said, in reference to the title of her 2017 narrative film, The Second Province, signifies placing roots in a home that is not your first…it is a feeling of belonging to both and neither at the same time. The ever-present knowledge that I am not of one province but of two; never quite being able to settle on which one is first in my bones.”

Alarilla feels that the films chosen for the festival encapsulate this point of view, of straddling two worlds, two homes; of simultaneously belonging and not belonging to a place. He expands on this, saying, “I believe this multitude of films, this multitude of voices, is important. When taken individually, these tiny, great realities map out filmmakers’ subjective spaces and ‘situated knowledges’ within the Filipino diaspora. But analyzed together and set in conversation with each other, they become a visual archive of Filipino experience that looks beyond nation and state in order to more completely describe the multifaceted nature of transcendent Filipinxness.”

The Diwa Film Festival will be held June 1-2, 2019, 12-6 PM at the Seattle Center, Armory Loft 1, concurrent with the 33rd Annual Pagdiriwang Philippine Festival. Admission is free to the public.

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