On Global Filipinos: Sine Filipino Film Festival is launched in Toronto

Founders of Sine Institute, President Michaelangelo Masangkay and Chair Agnes Miranda at closing night Power Gala. Photos courtesy of SFF 

By Loida Nicolas Lewis

It took seven years before Michael Masangkay agreed with Agnes Miranda, his co-founder of Sine Institute to launch the first Filipino film festival also known as Sine Film Fest or SFF in Toronto.

He said it was time.  Out of a total population of 35 million, there are one million Filipinos in the Canadian Diaspora, 300,000 of them living in Metropolitan Toronto.

Thus, on April 11 to 14, 2024, SFF launched its First Film Festival in Toronto known as the center of filmmaking in Canada. Several film festivals, like the well-known Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF began in 1976), Canadian International Documentary Festival, Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Female Eye Film Festival among others, are   held every year.

However, for Michael and Agnes, the SFF will not be only one event. It took seven years for Michael to envision a sustainable Sine Film Institute where all aspects of TV and filmmaking  are taught to aspiring students through workshops and masterclasses.

The four-day SFF covered the techniques of writing, acting, directing, producing, cinematography, editing, as well as the business side of filmmaking. The masterclasses included teaching the techniques of acting in voice-over, in film and on stage.

Assisting the SFF was the Toronto Film School, led by Craig McKay, who said “The workshop today (on film post-production) was about understanding the craft of editing in a precise way in what we are trying to achieve when we are editing.”

Michael says, “Sine Institute aims to educate the talent pool of Filipino Canadians in all aspects of filmmaking because it is an expanding industry with the vibrant demand for movies and documentaries by Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV, Amazon.com, etc.”

Agnes who founded the World Financial Services and a pioneer among Filipinos in Canada, wanted to help  Filipinos interested in filmmaking. She has been a  Toronto resident since 1966. 

Agnes and the entire team were able to get additional funding from the Canada Film Festival, TD Bank, SONY, and several insurance firms. They were also supported by both the City of Toronto and Ontario Creates. 

The 10 movies shown during the SFF were Blue RoomHello, Love, Goodbye; Spider-man RAF Volume 1; Firefly; Where Is The Lie; Topakk; Your Mother’s Son and GomBurZa. Theyare all produced in the Philippines. Islands by Martin Edralin and Kahel by Filbert Wong are Filipino Canadian productions.

The seven short films are Ivory Turtle; PrimeTime Mother; Paco; Sinigang; Kalinga; To Those We Left Behind; Cycle.

The audience of Firefly laughed and cried with the motherless Tonton brilliantly portrayed by child actor Eugene Mikaela Aleta who is on a search for the island of fireflies. Firefly is now available on Amazon Prime.

Lineups stretching around Hotel X in anticipation of GMA Network’s ‘Firefly’ by Zig Dulay preceded by the short film ‘Primetime Mother’ by Sonny Calvento. 

GomBurZa, the award-winning film in the Philippines, is the bio-pic of the three Filipino priests, Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora, who were sentenced to death by garrote for their “crime” of inciting the Cavite uprising during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in the 1800’s. The audience learned a portion of Philippine history after watching GomBurZa. Carlo Mendoza, awardee as cinematographer in the Philippine equivalent of the Oscar’s, entertained questions from the audience. GomBurZa is available through Netflix.

Officers of the Sine Institute, responsible for the success of the First Sine Film Fest include co-founders Agnes Miranda (chair) and Michael Masangkay (president), Rosary Escano (vice president), with members Rhia Alcantara, BK Jimenez, Ed Joaquin, Loretta Levinson, Danny Orbillo, Francis Rementilla and Kim Villafuerte.

Thus, is born the Filipino film festival in Canada. In the USA, the San Diego Filipino Film Festival was co-founded by Benito and Emma Bautista and also Dr. Ben Camacho. There’s also a Filipino film festival in San Francisco — the longest existing Filipino film festival in the U.S., at 30 years — founded by Dr. Mauro Tumbocon. May their tribe increase.

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