When Abel and Mariel Amandy first began shooting films in 2014, they had no idea this hobby would be the catalyst that would help them step foot on American soil four years later. “I have no experience in film whatsoever. This is my first time writing a script. We had no funding. It’s just our passion to film,” said Mariel. “Every year since 2014, we always participate in this project; we buy new equipment just for INCinema.”
INCinema is a platform for aspiring filmmakers in the Iglesia Ni Cristo launched in 2012 by the Executive Minster Brother Eduardo V. Manalo. The project aims to encourage Church Of Christ members to develop and express their artistic talents through films based on Bible teachings and Christian values.” Six years later, hundreds of meaningful stories have been told by members of the Church all over the world.
The Amandys have seen first-hand how INCinema has inspired participants in using their creative gifts for God and for the Church. “Since our first movie, more and more brethren participated. They really appreciate it once they see the film,” said Mariel. “The lead (actor) at first, it was hard for him to participate in activities but after the film, he became more active and joined the choir,” Abel added.
Any filmmaker will tell you the tedious work that goes into creating something for the big screen. From writing the script, to casting, to on location shoots, then to editing, the process requires creative endurance and dedication to see a film make it to the finish line, especially when you have a full time job and families to care for. In addition, shooting in places like the Middle East, has its own unique challenges.
“It’s hard to shoot a movie but it’s especially hard in the Middle East. You can’t tell anyone this is for the Church capitalize. You can go to jail. We have to hide but brethren are still willing to participate even with all the activities of the Church,” said Abel.
But it all paid off, because on October 29, 2018, the Amandys joined other aspiring filmmakers from all over the world in attending the Excellence in Visual Media Awards International 2018 in Los Angeles at the Microsoft Theater, home of many major Hollywood award shows.
“Never would I have thought INCinema would make it to Hollywood. We thought we would just help the district but it’s in a big scale now. It’s our first time in the US. It’s hard to get here. We are a part of history. That’s enough for us,” says Abel, who does corporate videos for a living and is beyond thrilled to share this experience with his wife.
The Amandys lined up with the other delegates and walked through the red carpet before the awards show started. There they were interviewed by the different media outlets of the Church. Meanwhile, in the front entrance of the theater, three floors were lined with photo backdrops for attendees.
Ruthie Nastor, who attended the event with her husband and father was introduced to the films by the rows of movie posters featuring this year’s entries. Though she didn’t know any of the films personally, she instantly felt connected to them and beamed with pride as she walked around the galleries of posters in astonishment. “I’m so proud to see the talents of my fellow brothers and sisters who helped make these films.”
Ruthie Nastor from Long Beach, California with her husband and father takes time to admire the over 100 film posters submitted for INCinema this year.
Once the awards show was underway, all delegates took their seats and the event started with an opening prayer led by Brother Greg Worthen via live feed from the Iglesia Ni Cristo Tabernacle in Quezon City, Philippines, followed by the reading of the letter from the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, read by the Southwest California District Minister, Brother Eduardo Javier.
The hosts and awards presenters continued the show, with a cast of about 400 members performing musical numbers throughout the awarding.
The theater burst into applause and cheers, as winners for each category were read one by one. With each category, and with each drumroll before the winners were announced, Abel and Mariel eagerly awaited to hear the name of their film “Forever” announced.
And finally, they did. “For best cinematography, the winner is….the district of Qatar!” The couple jumped in pure joy and were in sheer disbelief.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since 2014!” Said Mariel, who happened to be celebrating her birthday that same day. “I’m super, super happy, and this is the best gift!”
Her husband also expressed his own disbelief. “We’re so happy because we didn’t expect this. I’m just a camera man, not a director. We started this project with a prayer and we ended with a prayer. So we asked for guidance and give thanks for the guidance.”
The Amandys are amateur filmmakers with a passion to produce meaningful films, and they share this same kind of zest with other participants in INCinema.
“The films we make, they’re not just films. It’s not just showing a message we want to tell, but it’s also to bring glory to our Almighty God,” says Emmanuel Ornedo, who directed the film “It’s Not a Date” for the District of Southwest California, who which won for Best Film Abroad.
This year, there were over 100 entries from ecclesiastical districts around the world, the most submissions since the project was launched six years ago. Chriz Jan Locayon, the director of the film, “Unsafe,” which won for Best Film, summed up the important underlying theme for every Excellence in Visual Media Award and every INCinema film, “First of all, all this we give back to our Almighty God. And I encourage everyone to bring out all our talents for the Church and for all of us.”