Alon!, an expertly-curated documentary on plastic waste written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Gabby Fernandez, has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language Documentary, Best Director of Foreign Language Documentary and Science and Education Award at the London International Cinema Festival to be held on 8 to 15 February in London, United Kingdom.
The annual week-long event celebrates the global independent film industry through a series of professional lectures, workshops and financing seminars. Showcased are premieres and screenings, and the highlight is the recognition of the year’s most promising independent and studio films from around the world. It likewise serves as an ideal platform for networking among the participating like-minded creatives and potential investors in a collaborative community setting.
It is in this venue that Alon!, produced by the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) through the Office of the Vice President for Advancement, will initiate a bigger ripple of change outside of the country. With the aim to remind everyone of the immense impact of plastic pollution, it presents the wonders of the Philippines’ growing surf tourism and its relationship with the looming environmental problems.
The film projects the issue through the lenses of the local surfers as eco-warriors who, in their own ways, are thriving to help save the environment. It showcases the breathtaking views of the six leading surfing communities namely Siargao, La Union, Baler, Mati in Davao, Gubat in Sorsogon and Sabang Daguitan in Leyte, where resurfaced pieces of trash in form of packaged commodities hold proof of the extensive presence of plastic from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao.
“It is an interesting contrast: the beauty and simplicity of the surf lifestyle against the backdrop of runaway consumerism and ubiquity of plastic waste,” noted Fernandez, erstwhile chairman of the College’s Production Design Program. “This is an issue that this generation, the students themselves feel strongly about. It is their advocacy and, for a change, it is our generation following their lead. They take it seriously — as we all should,” he continued.
“What was presented was just an outcropping of a larger problem,” Fernandez revealed. “The surfers have answers to help solve the plastic pollution of the oceans. So, in turn, we used those insights and applied them to see where the root causes were coming from.”
The documentary posits how the production team’s quest for a solution led them back to the urban landscape where the unsurmountable production of single-use plastic and poor proper waste disposal remain to be predominant.
Fernandez wished we should take the issue seriously as soon as possible. “It is killing off many of our plant and animal life — including us — and choking our planet to death. Not just Filipinos, by the way, but everyone.”
Alon! was screened in various schools including Jaime Hilario School-De La Salle Bataan, La Salle Green Hills, and De La Salle Lipa.
It started its pilgrimage to the featured surfing communities to honor the eco-warriors, with a premiere at the Lola Sayong Eco Surf Camp in Gubat, Sorsogon as part of Swellfest, an annual celebration of the start of the surf season wherein the locals immerse their guests in tours, workshops, and clean-up drives that aim to educate them on the risks of plastic.
Speaking on behalf of the local surfers of Gubat, Lola Sayong Eco Surf Camp head Noli John Mercader wished that tourists would learn how to be responsible travelers. He praised Benilde’s initiative which has helped them to spread the message. “Malawak po ang network nila at kamalayan sa epektibong biswal na mag-educate sa tao ukol sa problema sa basura at sa plastic. Totoo na ang plastic ay clear at present danger sa atin at sa kalikasan (Benilde has a wide network and visual understanding that would effectively educate the people regarding the problem on plastic waste.
It is true that plastic is a clear and present danger to us and our environment).”