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Here’s why “Displaced” is a must-watch Mindanaoan film in this year’s Cinemalaya

Film ⬝ Real Jhon Castillon

“I want people to realize that every war is a war against children as what Eglantyne Jebb said. War is not a one-time event, it lingers, it grows. Continuous interventions should be provided to these affected people in Marawi,” Aedrian expressed in an interview when asked about his short film “Displaced” – a Mindanaoan film that captures the aftermath of the Marawi siege told through the point of view of the displaced children of Marawi City; three years after the tragic war had ceased.

Displaced is written and directed by the Zamboangeño filmmaker, Aedrian Araojo, and is currently included and screening in the virtual Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival under exhibition section. Displaced is one of the few Mindanaoan short films along with Shievar Oligario’s “OctoGod” that made it to the cut on one of the biggest and longest running film festivals in the country.

“When I heard that my film will be screened in Cinemalaya, I was overwhelmed. It is my pride to pave the way for the stories of these vulnerable children in Mindanao to be heard in a wider platform,” Aedrian shared. Prior to Cinemalaya, Aedrian submitted this film first and later on included to the first ever Bangsamoro Short Film Peacetival.

This filmmaker from Zamboanga, however, is no stranger to film festivals. As a matter of fact, his works have been showcased in film festivals from here and abroad including Jogja NETPAC-Asian Film Festival, FLY Film Festival - Busan, South Korea, Facine International Film Festival – USA, Salamindanaw Asian Film Festival, Mindanao Film Festival and Cinema Rehiyon. His film, Hondo (Deep), won Best Short in the 2016 QCinema International Film Festival.

“Although I now have my full-time job, I always try my best to squeeze in my passion in doing films despite my busy schedule. Ang saya kaya,” the “Displaced” director said.

Aside from filmmaking, Aedrian Araojo is also a staunch human rights advocate focused on gender and child rights. He is a full-time humanitarian and development practitioner working in conflict-affected areas in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The Middle Mag PH spoke with Aedrian Araojo and talked about “Displaced”, the importance of telling stories from Mindanao straight from the Mindanaoan filmmaker’s perspective, and why you should not miss this chance to watch this film in this year’s Cinemalaya.

Can you share to us the process of making Displaced?

My short documentary film, Displaced, is a collage of my collective personal videos I took while working as a humanitarian responder in an international child-focus organization (Save the Children Philippines). I had this opportunity to capture these digital ‘memories’ during my field visits in Marawi.

I also got the chance to interview children survivors of the 2017 Marawi siege. Upon hearing their stories, I felt the urge that these should be shared to the world, of course, with their consent.

The film is basically a series of moving images that mirror the experiences and memories of children in the aftermath of the siege, no actors, no script, just pure storytelling.

Can you share to us what your other films are? How is “Displaced” different from everything you’ve done before?

This is actually my first time to do a film tackling issues on child rights. My other films were quite different. I started as a filmmaker doing dark comedy genre. Personally, I was actually surprised to come up with this material (Displaced).

I learned a lot in the last few years of my life as a humanitarian worker. The more you are exposed to certain issues, the more you are motivated to tell relevant stories; stories that are worth telling, stories that are real.

Film festivals where this film premiered or screened? How was the audience’s reaction? 

Most of the screenings are online and I can’t really witness their reactions first-hand. However, I am quite happy to read a few tweets that my film somewhat made them feel things. Well, I hope in a positive way.

Among all the topics that you want to make a film about, why this subject matter in particular? Why is it very important to tell stories from Mindanao to be told by the Mindanaoan filmmakers?

The Bangsamoro narrative of historical injustice is based on an experience of grievances that extends over generations, particularly with respect to armed conflict and its adverse effects upon their welfare as a community as well as their experience of widespread and serious human rights violations not only in Marawi but also to other conflict affected areas in Mindanao.

Over the past decades, an untold number of people in Mindanao have been subjected to immense suffering due to vertical and horizontal violence. They have lost family members; children have been driven from their homes and have lost their education, lands and livelihoods because of the protracted war. Incidents of violent conflict and systematic discrimination and exclusion have become a collective experience and memory that I feel, we should discuss in a deeper sense. As Mindanaoans, we should be held accountable to tell these stories.

Now that this film is heading to Cinemalaya, which means larger viewership given the festival’s long-standing reputation, will this film be able to stir conversations about what’s really going on in the post-war Marawi City? Why or why not?

I want people to realize that every war is a war against children as what Eglantyne Jebb said. War is not a one-time event, it lingers, it grows. Continuous interventions should be provided to these affected people in Marawi.

My goal in this film is quite simple. I want to give these affected children a safe space to amplify their voices concerning their situation in conflict affected areas in Marawi and the entire Mindanao. The children of the Bangsamoro are exhausted and they want peace. They are tired of the unending abuses which are mostly neglected, untold. It’s time to tell their stories in their own lens.

Are you working on another film now? What’s keeping you busy in these unprecedented times?

Right now I am a full time humanitarian aid worker helping affected communities in BARMM fight this new battle they are facing, the Covid 19 pandemic. However, I still write films during my free time.

I always thank my filmmaker friends Xeph Suarez and Ryanne Murcia for being my motivators. They always encourage me to still make films despite my busy schedule to keep my passion on fire. I love you guys.

Check out the trailer for 'Displaced' here:

Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival runs from August 7 to August 16, 2020. Check out the catalogue of films here

© The Middle Mag PH