MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In commemoration of the 51st Martial Law declaration, artist-activist DAKILA and its human rights education center Active Vista launched the Active Vista Human Rights Festival (AVHRF) with the first Philippine theatrical screening of Dodo Dayao’s Midnight in a Perfect World on September 21 at Gateway, Quezon City.
As the country fell again under the rule of another Marcos, Midnight in a Perfect World is a sci-fi thriller that artistically reflects the repressive landscapes of the ’70s and ’80s where there is less freedom to see, to think, to speak, to move as a person under the state’s scrutiny and control. It follows the story of mysterious blackouts hitting the city in a near-future Manila, where people suddenly disappear.
“If anything, we treat the film as a cautionary tale, of the consequences of not uncovering and struggling against the systems and structures of dehumanization,” Active Vista Executive Director Director Leni Velasco explained.
“In recent history, the return of the Marcoses to power, fueled by disinformation, historical distortion, and abuse of power, remains a glaring absurdity. Their deceptive tactics persist today, with broken campaign promises and a false image of economic progress and peace,” said AVHRF Director Alex Poblete. “This year’s festival edition, ‘Rebelasyon: Breaking the Spell of Deception,’ along with its opening activities, aims to encourage Filipino audiences to look deeper into these trickeries and unveil the truth.”
The launch also highlights the unveiling of the “Weaving Back the Threads of Our History” exhibit, a non-wearable terno dress collection inspired by Imelda Marcos’ extravagant lifestyle, marked with the names of Martial Law victims.
Meanwhile, DAKILA Campaigns Director Sunshine Serrano underscored the pressing need to expose the truths behind the government’s lies with the recent press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), where activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano revealed that they were abducted by the military.
“The uniformed officials led the public to believe that Jonila and Jhed surrendered to them, but the two activists categorically denied this. Almost eerily similar to the story of Midnight in a Perfect World, this illustrates the capacity of the government to deceive, at the very least,” said Sunshine. “In this day when NTF-ELCAC and the Terror Law exist, de-facto Martial Law in practice, what Jonila and Jhed did signifies the power of truth-telling in the face of oppressors. This is exactly what the festival and the larger advocacy of DAKILA contribute to.”
11/11: 11 festival areas on the 11th edition of the festival
Started as a human rights-themed film screening, the Active Vista festival evolved into a bigger and wider weeks-long series of events to answer the growing need for platforms of engagement, especially in a time of heightened political and societal issues in the country.
This year, the festival expanded to the regions, providing platforms for local communities to frontline their unique contexts and struggles. Aside from the national AVHRF festival in Metro Manila, satellite festivals are also simultaneously happening in Cagayan, Laguna, Quezon Province, Rizal, Albay, Negros Occidental, Iloilo City, Dumaguete City, Cebu City, and Cagayan de Oro.
“They say 11/11 is a magic number to wish upon. As 11 areas across the country hold the 11th edition of the festival, we wish for a nation where truth, historical integrity, and justice reign,” shared Leni. “This wish is not just a whisper in the air, but a resolute commitment through real-life actions to hold the tyrants accountable so that we may never again all into the hands of another.”
“In an act of national solidarity in understanding and practice, this year’s AVFest challenges itself to weave back the fragmented understanding of our historical challenges as well as highlighting stories and struggles of the regions, localities, and small communities,” she added.
Grand reveal through films, forums, and events
The AVHRF is an annual event that celebrates human rights and dignity through film screenings, exhibits, performances, forums, and events during the Martial Law declaration anniversary week. In support of Purin Pictures, AVHRF 2023 runs from September 21 to October 07.
This year’s festival edition digs deeper into the lies and exposes the naked truth with all its absurdity, spectacle, and despair. It aims to pave a path for others to seek beyond the trick of the eye, never to be fooled again.
“The 11th edition of the Active Vista Human Rights Festival invites everyone not only to keep our eyes wide open but to open a third eye. An eye that transcends the visible and obvious, to wade through the obscure and unleash the power of unwavering critical thinking. An eye that scrutinizes the government’s measures that endanger our lives, livelihoods, and ways of living,” concluded Leni. “Welcome to the Grand Reveal, where our collective act of revelation sparks a continuing quest for truth, historical integrity, and humanity.”