A cinematic still from the film "Basal Banar." (Photo courtesy of Aureaus Solito)

Filipino filmmaker Aureaus Solito’s feature about the sacred rituals and daily life of the Palaw’an indigenous peoples (IPs) was recently presented at the 2022 Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival (TIDF).

The film, “Basal Banar,” is a deeply personal piece by Solito, who is also known for his other works on Palawan such as “Busong” and “Baybayin”, as it documents his own re-discovery of his indigenous heritage and the IPs of Balabac. It is also vastly different from his previous works, such as “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” and “Pisay.”

The film was shot in the islands of Bugsuk, Pandanam, Marihangin, and Marinsuno, where the Palaw’ans reside.

The film, which was shot on a 16mm reel in 2002 and runs for 116 minutes, is one of Solito’s earliest works before his more critically recognized ones.

The fact that the TIDF, one of the largest platforms for Asian documentaries, is returning the film is an honor, according to Solito.

“It is magical that a documentary I made two decades ago is still being recognized and rediscovered. It is also fantastic to be included in a Philippine cinema retrospective. And pretty amazing that the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival actually borrowed the original 16mm print, since this was pre-digital age, from the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival who kept a print of my work,” Solito said in an e-mail.

He added that the issues IPs face in the film – modernization, land-grabbing, poverty – are still as relevant as ever in the present day.

“Sadly it still resonates till now. Our country has not really fully resolved its violation to its indigenous peoples. Ancestral Lands have not been returned and at present new threats are encroaching the first peoples of this country for big business,” he said.

“This film has documented truth. And I hope many years from now, when finally our country’s mind’s eye have opened, this will serve as evidence for the violation of Palawan’s absolute beautiful culture and that this land regains the justice that it deserves,” Solito added.

Solito also gave a message to young filmmakers, especially those in Palawan, to use their love of the craft to create great stories centered on the truth.

“Art is a gift. It’s a duty to God and nature. If you have this gift, use it for truth,” he added.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.