Friday, July 26, 2013

A Stellar and Sensory Cinemalaya

A scene from Eduardo Roy’s Quick Change
This year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival sees many mainstream celebrities featured in a new crop of 25 competing full-length and short films. The Philippine’s biggest all-digital film festival and one of the most vibrant annual film events will run from July 26 to Aug. 4 in four cities — at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in Pasay City; at the Ayala Cinemas of Trinoma mall in Quezon City; at Greenbelt 3 mall in Makati City; and at the Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City.
Expected to draw additional crowds to the already well-attended event is one of the country’s biggest and finest actresses, Vilma Santos, who stars in Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra. Also noticeable is Gretchen Barretto, who is the lead in Christopher Ad. Castillo’s horror film The Diplomat Hotel. Popular and multi-awarded comedian Eugene Domingo stars in the Leo Abaya comedy Instant Mommy. It will be the first time for the former two to be in Cinemalaya films, while Domingo, who has a theater background, has starred in Ang Babae sa Septic Tank.
Other mainstream stars gracing Cinemalaya films are not strangers to independent films—Alessandra de Rossi, who stars in Gil Portes’s The Liars; Eula Valdes and Anita Linda in David F. and Angel Aquino and Yul Servo in Adolfo Alix’s Porno. Young celebrities are also lured to taken on challenging roles that Cinemalaya films offer— Sid Lucero in David F., Jake Cuenca in Nuwebe, Lovi Poe in Sana Dati, Paulo Avelino in Debosyon, Jasmine Curtis-Smith in Transit and Nadine Samonte in Nuwebe.
The presence of mainstream actors is a testament how Cinemalaya and its products have become prominent and important through the years.
“Cinemalaya is now on its ninth year. Since 2005, we all have seen how the festival has evolved into the most exciting and influential festival in the country. It has introduced new voices in filmmaking and launched their careers nationally and internationally,” festival director Chris Millado said. “Cinemalaya has enticed the commercial mainstream to crossover and redefine their art and craft. It has hosted the emergence of an in-between world which some filmmakers in last year’s forum labelled as ‘maindie’—a liminal sphere straddling and invigorating both independent and mainstream cinema.”
Aside from celebrities, among this year’s participating directors, both emerging and established, are second-generation film directors—Christopher Ad. Castillo, son of the late Celso Ad. Castillo; Mikhail Red, son of Raymond Red; and Paolo O’Hara, nephew of the late Mario O’Hara.
Millado, who is also the artistic director of the CCP, the country’s premier cultural institution and home of Cinemalaya since the beginning, added that Cinemalaya films have become distinguished because of numerous achievements including participation and recognition in foreign festivals as well as recognition by local award-winning bodies. He mentioned last year’s entries: Auraeus Solito’s Busong, Aldolfo Alix’s Kalayaan, Jun Lana’s Bwakaw, Lawrence Fajardo’s Posas, Emmanuel Palo’s Sta. Niña, Vincent Sandoval’s Aparisyon, Paul Sta. Ana’s Oros, and Julius Sotomayor’s Dayo.
This year’s Cinemalaya films tackle diverse topics and issues, and are guaranteed to stimulate the senses as well as provoke the minds.
Millado explained the theme: “Synaesthesia. A sensorial phenomenon in which one type of stimulation produces another sensation. For example, when I think of Cinemalaya, I hear alternative rock. Playing with the words cinema and synaesthesia, we came up with ‘cinaesthesia.’ Cinaesthesia—the fusion of the senses, an intense condition brought about by watching Cinemalaya films. This year’s Cinemalaya gestures towards a cinema that entertains, elucidates and educates through the senses.”
About 70 films will be shown including those in competition. Exhibition films are categorized into sections: Ani, Cinemalaya Documentaries, Cinemalaya Premieres, Retrospective: Urian’s Best (The Gawad Urian Best Films 2000-2009), and tributes to Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Celso Ad. Castillo and National Artist for film Eddie Romero.
“The films on exhibition will feature the harvest from various local festivals in the past years from Filipino and Filipino-American filmmakers and winners from regional festivals like the Sinulog Film Festival of Cebu,” Millado said.
Aside from film showings, there will be the Cinemalaya Film Congress as well as the Philippine Independent Filmmakers’ Multipurpose Cooperative’s third Manila Film Financing Forum.
“This year’s film forum shifts its attention to the filmgoers and new audiences by tackling issues of perception, appreciation and consumption through panel discussions involving filmmakers, actors and producers involved in the competition,” Millado explained.
He added: “This year, Cinemalaya partners with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board through its chairman Eugenio Villareal. Cinemalaya is entering a special memorandum of agreement with the MTRCB to allow the festival to review and classify its owns films using the guidelines for self-regulation.”
The competition films are divided into the three: the New Breed for feature-length films by new and emerging filmmakers; Directors’ Showcase for feature-length films by established directors; and Short Films. The screenplays of these films underwent screening and judging last year after which they were provided with seed grants to make them into films. Competition winners will be announced on Aug. 4 at the CCP.

Jason Paul Laxamana’s Babagwa
The New Breed entries
Ten full-length films will compete for the New Breed category—Babagwa (The Spider’s Lair) by Jason Paul Laxamana; David F by Emmanuel Palo; Debosyon by Alvin Yapan; Instant Mommy by Leo Abaya; Nuwebe by Joseph Israel Laban; Purok 7 by Carlo Obispo; Quick Change by Eduardo Roy Jr.; Rekorder by Mikhail Red; The Diplomat Hotel by Christopher Ad. Castillo; and Transit by Hannah Espia.
Babagwa is written and directed by 25-year-old Jason Paul Laxamana, a Broadcast Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman, who hails from Angeles City, Pampanga. He has worked under directors Jeffrey Jeturian, Maryo J. Delos Reyes and Brillante Mendoza. He started by making Pampangan short films and music videos. His first feature film, AstroMayabang, was a finalist in the Cinema One Originals Film Festival 2010, where it won the Audience Choice Award and a special citation. Babagwa tells of an Internet scammer who falls in love with a wealthy spinster while trying to swindle her using a fake Facebook profile and stars Alex Vincent Medina, Joey Paras, Alma Concepcion, Kiko Matos and Nico Antonio.
David F explores the Filipino’s discrimination against dark-skinned or black people with three stories—the story of two Filipinos who want to get the reward money for capturing David Fagan, the African-American soldier who deserted the U.S. army to join the Filipino revolutionaries during the Philippine-American war in the early 20th century; the story of a Filipina who gives birth to a baby with a dark complexion during the Japanese occupation before the return of General Douglas MacArthur in 1944; and the story of a black gay impersonator in a comedy bar trying to find his father, an African-American soldier based in Clark Air Base in Angeles City. Written by Liza C. Magtoto and Palo, David F stars Eula Valdes, Sid Lucero, Art Acuña, Quester Hannah, Shamaine Buencamino, Anita Linda, Rocky Salumbides, Jess Mendoza, Mariella Castillo, Dax Martin, Will Devaughn and Mitch Valdez. This is the third feature film of Palo, who is a director in ABS-CBN 2 and a holder of a post-graduate diploma in Film and Television Production with specialization in film direction from the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune. He has worked as a scriptwriter in films and drama programs on television and as an assistant director to Filipino directors. His first Cinemalaya entry is Sta. Niña.

The poster of Alvin Yapan’s Debosyon starring Paulo Avelino
 Debosyon, written and directed by Alvin Yapan, who has a doctoral degree in Philippine Studies from the University of the Philippines and currently teaches at the Ateneo de Manila University, is about Mando, a devotee of the Nuestra Señora of Peñafrancia, patroness of the Bicol Region, who falls in love with Salome, a mysterious woman living in the forest who nurses him back to health when he injures himself in the middle of the forest at the foot of the Mayon Volcano. When he invites her to come with him to the lowlands, she refuses, saying a curse prohibits her from leaving the forest. Mando relies on his devotion to the Virgin to lift the curse. Starring Paulo Avelino, Mara Lopez, Ramona Rañeses and Roy B. Dominguiano, Debosyon is Yapan’s third feature film after Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe), which won Best Picture (Digital Feature Category) at the 33rd Cairo International Film Festival in 2009, and Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of Two Left Feet), which won the Bronze Award at the 28th Festival de Cine de Bogota in 2011 and Best Picture at the Gawad Urian in 2012. 

Emmanuel Palo’s David F
Written and directed by Christopher Ad. Castillo, The Diplomat Hotel tells the experience of a crew making a documentary on the haunted Diplomat Hotel in Baguio City. The crew is headed by Victoria Lansang, played by Gretchen Barretto, a popular news reporter who mediated a hostage crisis which went wrong and wants to redeem herself with the only assignment she finds after suffering a mental breakdown. The film also stars Art Acuña, Mon Confiado, Joel Torre, Nico Antonio and Sarah Gaugler, and is the third feature film of the firstborn son of noted filmmaker Celso Ad. Castillo, who grew up on his father’s sets. Christopher was nominated in the Remy Martin Emerging Filmmaker Award for writing and directing the psychological thriller The Sky is Falling. He also directed the drama Los Angeles 7 and several music videos. 

Gretchen Barretto portrays a journalist in the horror film The Diplomat Hotel
 Instant Mommy tells the story of Bechayda, a two-month pregnant wardrobe assistant for TV commercial production who tries to keep her Japanese lover and her dreams of a better life. It stars Eugene Domingo, Yuki Matsuzaki, Luis Alandy, Rico J. Puno, Shamaine Buencamino, Tuesday Vargas and Nicco Manalo. This is Abaya’s first film as screenwriter and director. He is a visual artist but became a short filmmaker at the UP Film Center and production designer for such films as Chito Roño’s Itanong Mo Sa Buwan and Bakit Kay Tagal ng Sandali?, Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal and Muro-ami and Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador. He also designed sets for Dulaang UP, PETA and Tanghalang Pilipino, and finished his MA in Fine Arts at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, in the United Kingdom, and his second undergraduate degree at the UP College of Fine Arts in Diliman where he is currently teaching.
Inspired by a true story, Nuwebe tells the story of nine-year-old Krista, who was sexually abused by her own father and became pregnant. Krista demonstrates unusual resilience and determination to overcome the trauma but her mother is torn between her love for her and her love for her husband. It stars Barbara Miguel, Jake Cuenca, Nadine Samonte, Anita Linda, Manny Castañeda and Archie Adamos. Its writer and director, Joseph Israel Laban, who has a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and a master’s degree in Journalism from New York University’s Arthur Carter Journalism Institute on a Fulbright scholarship, first joined Cinemalaya in 2011 with his film Cuchera. He is a managing producer for GMA News and Public Affairs where he directs, writes and produces documentaries, some of which have won awards internationally.  

Jake Cuenca in Nuwebe
 Carlo Obispo’s Purok 7 tells about Diana and her younger brother as they strive to relieve their longing for a family. It stars Krystle Valentino, Miggs Cuaderno, Arnold Reyes, Angeli Bayani and Julian Trono. Shot in his childhood neighborhood in Camiling, Tarlac, Purok 7 is Obispo’s first full-length. He is a Philosophy, minor in Communication Arts, graduate of Saint Louis University.
Quick Change looks at the lives of transgenders. It focuses on Dorina, who has a flourishing illegal cosmetic surgery business, and plays mother to Hero and wife to Uno. She feels very fortunate until his partner falls in love with another transgender. It features non-actors Mimi Juareza, Jun-Jun Quitana, Miggs Cuaderno, Francine Garcia, Natashia Yumi, Filipe Martinez, Rolando Inocencio and Sashi Giggle. Quick Change is the second full-length film of Eduardo Roy Jr., a graduate of New Era University and Philippine School of Interior Design, Eduardo Roy, Jr. His first, Bahay Bata (Baby Factory) in 2011, garnered several recognitions. His second film was supposed to be Lola Igna, which was a Cinemalaya finalist in 2012 but was pulled out because of budget constraints. It is now being co-produced by Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum.
In Rekorder, a movie pirate, who was a cameraman in the 1980s, smuggles a digital camcorder into movie theaters to illegally record films, but one night he records something else. It stars Ronnie Quizon, Mike Lloren, Buboy Villar, Earl Ignacio, Suzette Ranillo and Belinda Mariano. This is the first feature-length film of Mikhail Red, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ian Victoriano. Son of Cannes Film Festival Palme D’Or winner Raymond Red, Mikhail is the youngest director in Cinemalaya and perhaps in the whole country at 21. He worked as an apprentice to his father, and his first short film got him into an international festival at the age of 15. He has made six short films, which competed or have been screened in film festivals locally and abroad.

Mikhail Red's Rekorder
  Hannah Espia tells the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Transit, which stars Ping Medina, Irma Adlawan, Marc Justine Alvarez, Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Mercedes Cabral, and is co-written with Giancarlo Abrahan. Shot mostly in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel, the film tells about how two OFWs hide their children when the Israeli government issues a new law deporting children of foreign workers. Transit is the first feature film of Espia, a graduate of the University of the Philippines Film Institute, whose thesis film “Ruweda” won the Audience Choice Award at the eighth Cinemalaya in 2012.

The Director’s Showcase entries
Five were chose to compete in the Directors’ Showcase category—Amor Y Muerte by Cesar M. Evangelista; Ekstra by Jeffrey Jeturian; Sana Dati by Jerrold Tarog; The Liars by Gil M. Portes; and Porno by Adolfo Alix Jr.
Written by Jerry B. Gracio, Amor Y Muerte is sort of a comeback film of Cesar Evangelista, who made “pito-pito” movies for Regal Films in the late 1990s. Evangelista has been a magazine editor and talent manager. He currently teaches at the Department of Fine Arts of Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology. Amor Y Muerte, which stars Althea Vega, Markki Stroem, Adrian Sebastian and Amable Quiambao, is set an erotic drama set in the 16th century upon the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines. The different notions of love, sexuality, and religion of the native and the foreigners clash.

Cultures clash in the erotic drama Amor y Muerte
 Vilma Santos is the star as well as one of the executive producers of Ekstra (The Bit Player), a socio-realist drama-comedy on the life of Loida Malabanan, a bit player in a soap opera, affording us a glimpse of the exploitation on the marginalized laborers. Ekstra is the ninth film of Jeffrey Jeturian, who collaborated on the screenplay with Zig Dulay and Antoinette Jadaone. In 2011, Bisperas won the Best Picture in the Directors’ Showcase category of the Cinemalaya. He is currently directing the TV soap opera Be Careful With My Heart.

Vilma Santos joins Cinemalaya with Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra
 Jerrold Tarog directs the screenplay of Ramon Ukit, Sana Dati, which tells about a woman “whose wedding is thrown into disarray when a mysterious person arrives and reminds her of the man she really loves.” This is the third part of Tarog’s trilogy which include Confessional (2007) and Mangatyanan (2009).
Written by Senedy Que, Gil M. Portes’s The Liars follows a journalist as she exposes the truth about a baseball team of poor boys. The film, which is inspired by a true story, stars Alessandra de Rossi, John Michael Bunapos, Jan Harley Hicana and Jim Rocky Tangco. Portes is the most veteran of the directors with three of his films becoming entries to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign-Language Film category: The Kite (1999), In the Bosom of the Enemy (2001) and Small Voices (2002). He won the first Cinemalaya Best Director award for Two Funerals.

Gil Portes’s The Liars is based on a true story about a team of young baseball players
 Written by Ralston Jover, Adolfo Alix’s Porno, about three characters linked by pornography, stars Angel Aquino, Carlo Aquino, Rosanna Roces and Yul Servo. Alix has been a prolific filmmaker with several Cinemalaya entries.

The short films
The competing short films are “Bakaw” by Ron Segismundo; “Katapusang Labok” (Last Strike) by Aiess Athina E. Alonso; “Missing” by Zig Dulay; “Onang” by Je Tiglao; “Para Kay Ama” by Relyn A. Tan; “Pukpok” by Joaquin Pantaleon, Stephan Domingo and Immanuel Canicosa; “Sa Wakas” by Nica Santiago; “Taya” by Adi Bontuyan; “The Houseband’s Wife” by Paolo O’Hara; and “Tutob” by Kissza Mari Campano.
Made by a 19-year-old graduate of Digital Filmmaking at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, “Bakaw” follows a day in the life of kid who steals at the Navotas fish port.“Katapusang Labok” (Last Strike) shows the struggles of fishermen who deal with environmental abuse and the effects of coral harvesting while “Missing” tackles enforced disappearance. “Onang” follows a 12-year-old girl in pursuit of her dreams, while “Para Kay Ama” is the story of Hannah, a young Tsinoy who discovers and meets her a half-brother at her father’s wake. “Pukpok” is about circumcision while “Sa Wakas” is about a father trying to save the life of her daughter. “Taya” follows a child in a shanty area about to be demolished. “The Houseband’s Wife” is about an OFW family, with the OFW wife as breadwinner and the husband left in the Philippines to care for the children. “Tutob” tells about a Maranao stopped at an army checkpoint after bombings in the region.

Arnold Reyes stars in Carlo Obispo’s Purok 7 depicting a rural neighborhood in Camiling, Tarlac
 The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is a project of the Cinemalaya Foundation, CCP, Econolink Investments and Film Development Council of the Philippines. For more information, call CCP Film Office at telephone number 832-1125 local 1704 or 1705 or the CCP box office at 832-3704 or visit  

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