You’ll recognize it from Giuseppe Tornatore’s film, Cinema Paradiso. It’s the UP Visayas (UPV) Cinematheque in the Iloilo City campus.
It currently houses the 77-seater Cinema Exmundo, and a film museum which are open to the public.
“It’s not big like UP Diliman’s Film Center but also not as small as its Videotheque. It’s our own little intimate film theater,” said Prof. Martin Genodepa, Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Culture and the Arts and former Cinematheque faculty-in-charge (FIC). It has that old movie house feel, emphasized by refurbished seats salvaged from Allegro Theater, one of the city’s “vintage” cinemas.
Flash back: The origins
Funded by UP alumni, the Cinematheque was launched in 2008 as a UP Centennial project and inaugurated in December 2009. It later closed for repairs to the leaking roof and reopened when the work was done.
Cinema Exmundo is named after alumni donors Solomon Exmundo and Nilda Lopez-Exmundo, who, along with their son Oliver, furnished the Cinematheque’s interior. Genodepa said the Exmundos are film lovers and wanted to share that love with the UPV community. Prof. Alfredo Diaz, the present FIC, added that Cinema Paradiso is the donors’ favorite movie, which not only explains the building’s design but also the sharing of their passion for cinema.
But the Exmundos are not the only alumni responsible for the existence of the Cinematheque. Former Antique Governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez is also instrumental in the sourcing of funds for the P3-million building.
Now showing: a gathering place
Diaz told the UP Forum that Cinema Exmundo not only screens classic and independent feature films and documentaries, but is also a venue for lectures. It naturally beckons film enthusiasts in and out of UPV to come together, enjoy movies, and listen to film scholars and practitioners.
The engagement of the UPV community has improved, he said. “I’m happy that students have become very active in acquiring rights to movies that they want to be shown here. And if they’re screening it for free, we don’t charge them.” He explained that in the beginning, deciding on the films to be featured fell on the management’s shoulders.
The Cinematheque is also rented by alumni to hold private screenings and events. “It’s often nostalgia. They would watch movies that were popular during their high school or college days,” Genodepa said. Even Diaz’s high school batch has scheduled a screening of Bagets to celebrate its silver anniversary this year.
Next attraction: The museum
The Cinematheque film museum was inaugurated in 2013 and currently exhibits items like an original helmet from Ben Hur, a first issue Mickey Mouse figure, face casts of celebrities famous for their roles as movie monsters, a newspaper used in Titanic, a zoetrope, a praxinoscope, and Han Solo in Carbonite. Right at the entrance of the cinema is a huge old film projector from the Allegro Theater.
While Oliver Exmundo is not an alumnus of UP, he has been supportive of his parents’ initiative. He is recognized by UPV as a major donor and is responsible for the museum’s permanent collection. Genodepa revealed that he regularly adds memorabilia to be displayed. The younger Exmundo was a senior animator at Weta Digital and worked on visual effects for movies such as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Avatar, Maleficent, The Adventures of Tintin, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Ant-Man, among others.
Coming soon: Film workshops
When it was inaugurated at the end of 2009, future plans for the Cinematheque included the conduct of courses in digital filmmaking, film theory and history, and workshops for those who want to embark on filmmaking.
These plans have not been abandoned, UPV is simply ensuring that the conditions are right before moving on to the next stage of the Cinematheque’s development. For now, Genodepa said the building’s second level still needs work. This is to ensure an appropriate space for film-related workshops. While the timeline for the offering of more advanced courses has yet to be determined, it certainly remains part of the Cinematheque’s future.
The UPV Cinematheque is almost eight years old. Like a child of the same age, it has a lot of growing up to do before it reaches maturity. But with the support of the whole UPV community—the administration, faculty, staff, students, and alumni—things bode well for its future.
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