MANILA – Cinemas have been forced to close as the pandemic virtually halted life as we know it, compelling everyone to stay at home and avoid any risk of infection.

It likewise put on hold highly anticipated film festivals where up-and-coming movies often emerge.

However, for the EU Delegation in Manila, this setback won't deter their efforts to bring quality European films to Filipinos.

This year's Cine Europa, the bloc's biggest film festival in the Philippines, features 19 films from 20 European countries and – adapting to the new normal – may be accessed at www.cineeuropaph.com until November 29 for free.

Rafael de Bustamante, the EU Delegation's first counselor, said the pandemic has allowed them to maximize all the digital platforms and reach out to a wider audience.

Back then, the festival was limited to a number of patrons and the cities where the films are shown.

"As we embrace the new normal, we continue our efforts to promote European culture. We shall endeavor to maximize all the digital platforms to reach out to our audiences," de Bustamante told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a recent interview.

While new challenges arise, he said, Filipinos can rest assure that the EU remains committed to sharing its culture through film.

German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel, who is promoting the German film "Sweethearts", echoed de Bustamante's sentiments.

"If you can stream something or we can provide the movies, they can be seen, not only when you're in Manila, not only on that day but throughout a longer period so it also has potential. It opened new perspectives," she told PNA.

The EU has been screening European films for several years through Cine Europa, which it describes as the "most effective tool" in reaching out to Filipinos.

This year, the EU is also streaming three value-laden animated films for families and children who will join the film fest at home.

The usual educational component of Cine Europa continues this year as professional speakers are expected to share and engage with Filipino cinephiles in various subjects ranging from directing, producing, and promoting film masterpieces. (PNA)