Richard Soriano Legaspi

A short documentary about a musical group of children from Zambales bagged a Special Mention award in the recently concluded Kota Kinabalu International Film Festival in Malaysia.

“Maliliit na Hakbang” (Small Steps), directed by Richard Soriano Legaspi, tells the story of the You-Kalele Kids Zambales from the coastal village of San Felipe. The kids, whose plans to enter the music scene was cut short by the pandemic, struggle to keep their dreams alive amid their limitations and challenges.

“For these kids from the remote village in the coastal area of Zambales, music is their life and dreams. They are hoping to have a sustainable musical career in the future,” Legaspi shared.

The documentary’s title came from one of the group’s songs, which focuses on saving the environment and their love for nature. Last August, it also got a special citation from the 33rd Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, which is considered the longest running film and video competition in Asia.

“While they have their own struggles, they continuously sing for the environment. In their young minds and hearts more than their dreams, they know that life in this world and the nature that surrounds us are equally important to have a sustainable life,” the award-winning filmmaker added.

Since 2009, the KKIFF has showcased inspiring films not just from filmmakers in Sabah and Malaysia but also those from Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America.

Legaspi was part of the Asian Film Academy in Busan, South Korea in 2007. Since then, his films have been officially selected in different film festivals around the world. In 2013, he received the UNESCO Laureate scholarship and eventually became a resident artist of the Università delle Idee in Italy.

He also became the first Filipino artist featured in the retrospective of Monsoon Asia Film Festival 2016 in Taiwan, where he also received the Taiwan Emerald Initiative grant for his full-length documentary project in development “Halfway Home.” In 2019, he was selected for a pitching workshop and forum at the KKIFF for another project “Place, Displace, and Replace.”

This year, he completed two other short films – “Bakit Ako Sinusundan ng Buwan?” (Moon Under My Feet), one of the competitive grant winners of Sine Halaga, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Values Short Film Festival, and “Panulukan” (Crossroads), which is part of EngageMedia’s “Tech Tales: Films about Digital Rights in the Asia-Pacific.”

The documentary has also been screened as part of the Festival de Cinema de Alter do Chão in Brazil, International Happy Future Scripts Film Festival 2021 in Ukraine, 11th International Youth Film Festival in Russia, Children’s International Film Festival 2021 in the US, Bamasa Film Festival 2020 in Cebu, and the Nabunturan Independent Film Exhibition (Nabifilmex) in Nabunturan, Davao de Oro.

“Creating a documentary for children is a challenging creative initiative because I believe they are the most transparent and honest storytellers in the world,” Legaspi concluded.