Archival Power and Philippine Vernacular Audiences: the Binisaya Film Movement

When and Where

Thursday, April 18, 2024 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Innis College
2 Sussex Avenue, Toronto, ON M5S 1J5


Bliss Cua Lim
Jasmine Trice


A lunch talk for Prof. Bliss Cua Lim's newly released book, The Archival Afterlives of Philippine Cinema. Prof. Lim will give a talk followed by a discussion with respondent, Jasmine Trice. A chapter will be pre-circulated to attendees.   

Seating is limited so please register early and for access to the pre-circulated paper. 

The contours of Philippine cinema’s archival crises are alarming: of over 350 films produced before the outbreak of World War II, only five Filipino films from the American colonial period survive, all feature-length films produced in Manila using the official national language, Tagalog-based Filipino. Of the silent period, nothing remains. The archival vacuum that surrounds vernacular or regional-language filmmaking from outside Manila is even more acute. For example, the Visayan-language films of the Cebuano film industry are considered a “lost cinema,” with only a handful of titles available, the earliest dating from 1969.

In a context of pronounced archival scarcity, the Binisaya film movement wrests archival power away from the Manila film industry to reconstitute the ongoing history of Cebuano vernacular cinema. Originating as a Visayan-language film festival in 2009, Binisaya now names a community of filmmakers, scholars, artists, and audiences. This chapter analyzes the 2013 film Iskalawags (Scalawags, dir. Keith Deligero) as a nostalgic media archive of a Cebuano boyhood lived under the cultural dominance of Manila and Hollywood; as a satirical trilingual film (in Visayan, Tagalog, and English) that overturns the Philippine hierarchy of languages; and as a valuable record of Binisaya audience-building efforts, forms of making-do that endeavor to overcome rarified film festival circulation through free, informal “guerilla” screenings in urban areas and rural barrios. The chapter contextualizes Binisaya initiatives alongside the Philippines’ three most influential film festivals – Cinemalaya, Cinema One, and Cinema Rehiyon – and previous historical models for the alternative circulation of independent and vernacular films. The chapter also touches on the controversial issue of “poverty porn” films that are often selected for festival exhibition.

Bliss Cua Lim is Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. Her first book, Translating Time: Cinema, the Fantastic and Temporal Critique, was published by Duke University Press in 2009, with a Philippine edition by Ateneo de Manila University Press released in 2011. Bliss is a member of the Editorial Collective of the journal, Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies and she also serves on the Advisory Boards of Plaridel: A Philippine Journal of Communication and Pelikula: A Journal of Philippine Cinema. Her new book, The Archival Afterlives of Philippine Cinema, recently published by Duke University Press, analyzes the crisis-ridden history of film archiving in the Philippines.

This event is part of the Critical Function Workshop series. 

Contact Information


Cinema Studies Institute, Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies at the Asian Institute