The international independent film community may be sprawling in size separated by continents, countries, and language but it's united by a love for film, and a desire to share that passion. That's why, during a predawn night in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, a late evening in Slovenia and Europe, and an early afternoon in the United States and Canada, hundreds of people found themselves in shock after learning of the senseless deaths of film critics Alexis Tioseco and Nika Bohinc, killed Sept. 1 as their home was robbed in Quezon City, Manila.
To speak of Tioseco, a Filipino raised in Canada who returned to Manila, and Bohinc, a Slovenian based in Ljubljana until recently, is to speak of film, cinephilia, and love; it is also to speak of how we can create deep bonds with people scattered across the globe whom we see only once or twice a year, if that, but to whom we still feel united due to a common cause. Though I was in yet another part of the world, I was fortunate to have known and counted as Alexis and Nika as friends, even though I had only seen them at festivals here and there and in their Quezon City home. Judging from a fledgling memorial on Facebook, others feel just as connected to the two. That's partly because of the closeness of the film community, and partly because of the effect they had on people.
Having returned "home" to Manila to assist with the family business, Alexis (ever the good son) found himself running it after his father passed away. His true passion, though, was cinema. It was Lav Diaz's Batang, West Side (2001) that changed his outlook on film, and a 12-page interview with Diaz that changed his future. After that the early 20-something kid with the bright eyes and brighter mind dedicated himself (or as much of himself as he could spare, after the family business) to film, and specifically Filipino film.
"While I love cinema in general, a passion that has grown exponentially over the years, I feel no need to put myself in service of that which doesn't need it [Hollywood]," he wrote in a moving article in Rogue magazine. "Philippine cinema has given much to me, and one must pay back one's debts." He became a film professor and film critic, and was the driving force behind arguably the most influential, intelligent blog on Southeast Asian cinema, www.criticine.com. In 2006 (at 25!), he was named by The Philippine Star as "one of the most important young people in the country today" for his efforts to promote his nation's cinema.
Born and raised in Slovenia (about as far from the Philippines as one can get), Nika was also one of those young protégés who make the rest of us feel guilty for pissing away our youth. In her 20s she edited Ekran, a major film magazine, and helped organized the highly-regarded Isola Cinema Film Festival. A huge admirer and promoter of American (and Californian) experimental filmmakers like James Benning, Bruce Conner, and Lewis Klahr, she was also active in the Ljubljana Film Festival and IndieLisboa, and had begun promoting Slovenian films to other festivals.
In 2007 the two met at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Both had been able, fortunately, to overcome the vast difficulties facing writers from "smaller" nations when it comes to attending festivals. There will be Americans, Brits, Western Europeans galore, Japanese, Canadians, and Koreans all over, but unfortunately very few representatives from anywhere else. Both Alexis and Nika were able to finagle funds, festival invitations, and jury memberships to help their travels. "I never expected to have the opportunity to travel for/from film, especially not on the expenses of others, but slowly the opportunities presented themselves," Alexis wrote.