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Use your ‘animahenasyon’


ZOETROPE By Juaniyo Arcellana (The Philippine Star) Updated October 25, 2010 12:00 AM

A night with Roxy: The Animahenasyon lifetime achievement award will be given to Naga’s native son, cartoonist and filmmaker Roxlee.

The Animahenasyon animation film festival is now in its fourth year, and for the first time it will be held outside Metro Manila, from Nov. 23 to 26 at the Ateneo de Naga, with the lifetime achievement award being given to a native son, cartoonist and filmmaker Roxlee, who is not quite yet a senior citizen. There will be 62 entries screening in competition, mostly shorts, trimmed from submitted works all over the country and a handful abroad numbering some 173, and it is also the first time that the lifetime achievement will be given to one who has not yet left for the afterlife.

Well and good, or as Roxlee himself might primal scream in agreement, this welcome departure from the Manila-centric concentration, as it is also a first that the regional entries outnumber those from Metro Manila, in fact a good number from Naga, in which famous Jesuit school has perhaps the first animation department in the country’s academe.

Animahenasyon version 2010 was launched a month before takeoff at the Animation Council of the Philippines office on Perea Street, Makati, and in attendance were the film festival’s prime movers including Ricky Orellano as well as Rox and family. Playing on a white screen were a sequence of excerpts and footage from Roxlee’s works, such as The Great Smoke, Juan Gapang, Lizard, and Monkey and the Turtle, this last one with partner Lot Arboleda and national hero Jose Rizal.

The Great Smoke, which once screened in UP Manila during a humor fest sometime in the mid 1980s in atypical guerrilla style, and in the dark digs of the raw and unfinished UP Film Center in Diliman in more or less the same decade, has always been ahead of its time and now as it screened in an air-conditioned office in Makati in informal setting, seemed still prescient and humorously foreboding, such as that those who laughed nearly 30 years ago and who laugh again at this point in time at the end of the day it will be night, find the film yet again ominously funny or as that pop song goes, “it hurts so good.”

Or take, as another example, Juan Gapang, with fellow artist and photographer At Maculangan in the crawling title role, the small parable of the vagabond as taong grasa that is not all that small, with shots of a black and white Cubao or is it a weird colored semi-sepia, trust the lifetime achiever to bewilder the viewer with the film’s wash, a dizzying play of light and shadow in the underpasses and overpasses and the Parthenon ghost-like structure that is the Film Center in Pasay, you could almost smell the wayward spit on the heated asphalt, the proceedings overcast but not really gray, just shades of it, i.e., being gray and painted in latex with nowhere to go on all fours.

And where were you when Lizard was first shown, possibly in a makeshift theater not in Quiapo and neither bituka nor botica, with the unidentified man a bag over his head concealing his identity, a headbanger of a short if ever there was one, a collaboration it was with his kumpare and partner in crime Ludwig Ilio dating back to the backstreets of Sampaloc and the National University before Danny Ildefonso was born.

The Monkey and the Turtle, on the other hand, is a fairly recent work culled from the drawings of Rizal in the Tahanan released book, and what a treat it is to see moving pictures of the hero’s works, dubbed and animated with digital ease so that bounding over a century it becomes must viewing for children of any age, including the filmmakers two kids, Zerox and Zentrum, the future one-two punch of the animation industry ensuring another generation of Lee brothers to befuddle audiences of different stripes and cross purposes, even tortoises and porpoises.

So most likely it will be a slow train to Naga in November, to the Ateneo all ye Naguenos! And the ribbon-cutting of the Roxlee exhibit “Planet of the Noses,” where the madding crowd might or might not expect further sundry impromptu performances from artists on hand at the book launch, maybe an original composition on harmonica, jam sessions by the guerrilla unit the Brockas, perhaps a primal scream or two for poetry and the animated visual arts.

Among the entries in Animahenasyon competition are two full-length features, Dayo of the metro film fest a couple of years ago, and Kapitan Torpe from virtually out of the Los Banos blue. Orellano says the storytelling carries the day in the newer work, which is very Pinoy.

Orellano says that the guerrilla spirit, as embodied by Rox who on super 8 could make a film from scrap, has never been lost in the animation industry. He relates how one of the judges, artist Juan Alcazaren who confounded viewers at the CCP video festival many years ago with his clay animation, wanted to make films again after watching the entries in all their wildness and freshness.

Animahenasyon 2010 also has slated some panel talks on the making of RPG Metanoia, the animation entry to this year’s film fest in December, and also discussions with visitors and experts in the industry from France, the Gobelins, and the Filipino who won an Emmy for his work in The Simpsons, Jess Espanola.

Roxlee himself says that eventually he would like to do a work in 3D, but that all the advances in technology have not really changed his approach to drawing, the process of 2D, which the filmmaker vows never to leave “dahil nandun and kaluluwa.”

And also because at the end of the day it will be night, and at the end of night it will be Doris Day on the slow train to Naga, singing about cutie cutie whose bulate is like spaghetti.

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