Pioneering indie film festival harvests honor on milestone year
Since its debut in 2005, the Cinemalaya Film Festival has churned countless independent films that reaped honors both here and abroad, becoming the springboard of new movie directors and actors for a mainstream career.
In partnership with the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the annual competitive festival aims to encourage the creation of new cinematic works by Filipino filmmakers that boldly and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity. It also seeks to invigorate the Philippine film industry by developing a new breed of Filipino filmmakers. In doing so, it has been credited more than once for saving the dying art in the last decade by inspiring stakeholders to produce more films and spawning other festivals in the indie circuit.
Through the Cinemalaya Foundation, 10 fresh talents each year — culled from hundreds of submissions from all over the archipelago — are given a seed grant in order to create the movie of their dreams and compete for the Balanghai Award. Ten directors are also chosen to showcase their works in the Short Feature Category, as well as the Directors Showcase, World Premieres of New Digital Works (the Cinemalaya/Netpac Prize) and Tributes to Past Indies Mavericks of Pinoy Cinema, among other components.
On its 15th year, the foundation reasserts its mission of making
Cinemalaya the leading independent film festival in Asia by being steadfast in its unwavering mission. Auspiciouly, giant Japanese media organization Nikkei Asian Review recognized Cinemalaya Foundation Inc. (CFI) for its pioneering endeavor with the Nikkei Asia Prize 2019 for Culture and Community to kick off this milestone year.
Founding Chairman Antonio “Tonyboy” Cojuangco, CFI President Laurice Guillen, Festival Director and Cultural Center of the Philippines Vice President Chris Millado and Monitoring Chairman Mel Chionglo received the Nikkei Asia Prize during the ceremonies held in Tokyo, Japan on May 29.
Inspired to do more and go farther in its simulataneous quest of bolstering the public’s patronage of Filipino movies, Cinemalaya’s reach is wider this year with simultaneous screenings from August 7 to 13 at selected Ayala Cinemas and Vista Malls in Manila, Pampanga, Naga, Legaspi, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao. In keeping with tradition, various venues of the CCP will also screen the year’s roster of movies at an earlier date from August 2 to 11.
Two of the 10 full-length films chosen for competition this year are helmed by a returning Cinemalaya director and a noted mainstream filmmaker, while the eight are products of worthy albeit first-time directors, including actor-model-basketeer Xian Lim.
It is with both honor and excitement that The Sunday Times Magazine presents the movies bound to reap acclaim both here and abroad in the coming edition of the cinematic goldmine that is the Cinemalaya Film Festival.
ANi (The Harvest). Directed by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro del Rosario. This entry is noted as the first science-fiction/computer-generated-image (CGI) movie in the history of Cinemalaya.
Set in the year 2050 in the State of Bicol, Philippines, Mithi, an orphaned boy, moves to a farm to live with his estranged grandfather, Mauricio. When the old man falls ill, and as the crops in their farm seem to fall ill with him, the boy embarks on a quest with his malfunctioning robot to search for magical grains that he believes can save the man’s life.
Cast: Zyren dela Cruz, Ricky Davao, Miguel Valdes, Marc Felix, Anna Luna, JM Canlas, Rolando Inocencio, Rap Robles, Victor Medina, Mio Maranan, Chryssta Cordoves, Jermaine Choa Peck.
Belle Douleur (Beautiful Pain). Directed by Joji Alonzo, who is taking on complete creative reins of this movie after producing many award-winning independent films, including “Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank” and “Pamilya Ordinaryo.”
Liz, a 45-year-old, single clinical psychologist, finds herself alone and resigned to a solitary life after her parents, who she spent her adult life looking after passed away. Through her friends’ advice, Liz begins downsizing her home and meets Josh, a young antique dealer who has been living on his own for years after losing his father and grandfather, and without much memory of his mother. With their loneliness drawing them together, Liz and Josh create a special bond.
Cast: Kit Thompson, Mylene Dizon, Marlon Rivera, Jenny Jamora, Hannah Ledesma.
Children Of The River. Directed by Maricel Cabrera-Cariaga. The only musically inclined entry this year.
Sworn to always look out for each other, Elias and his three best friends start each day with phone calls before heading out to a new adventure. But when Ted, an outsider, takes a vacation in their quaint village, it triggers a change within Elias. Distraught and confused, he seeks comfort among his friends until he gradually accepts the truth about his identity. All seems good and well until that dreaded day — and the news that came with it.
Cast: Noel Comia Jr., Ricky Oriarte, Dave Justine Francis, Junyka Santarin, JR Custodio, Juancho Triviño, Rich Asuncion, Jay Manalo, Kareen Oriarte, Jennifer Acosta, Ma. Luisa Herrera.
Edward. Directed by Thop Nazareno, whose “Kiko Boksingero” in Cinemalaya 2017 went on to earn awards and nominations in other festivals.
Edward is stuck in a public hospital where he cares for his ailing father. Estranged from his father Mario and his half-brother Renato, Edward makes the hospital ward his own playground, unmindful of the hopelessness that surrounds him. His careless attitude changes when he meets and becomes enamored with Agnes, a young patient in the hospital. Finding refuge and comfort in each other, Edward and Agnes bond and connect.
Cast: Louise Abuel, Ella Cruz, Dido Dela Paz, Elijah Canlas,
Fuccbois. Directed by Eduardo Roy Jr. of the now-famous Cinemalaya 2016 movie, “Pamilya Ordinaryo.”
Best buddies Ace and Miko are seasoned beauty pageant contenders. They live in a world where showing up in their bikini briefs is the easiest way to achieve fortune and celebrity status. But an ex-lover is threatening to expose them and shock their thousands of followers on social media.
Cast: Royce Cabrera, Kokoy De Santos, Ricky Davao.
Iska. Directed by Theodore Boborol, whose mainstream credits include Star Cinema’s “Vince and Kath and James” and “Finally Found Someone.”
Iska, a grandmother who wants to take her 10-year-old autistic grandson to a special needs orphanage, is deemed an unfit guardian by the media and the government. Despite dealing with life’s blows one after the other, she never loses her tenacity to survive.
Cast: Soliman Cruz, Ruby Ruiz, Ricky Rivero, Jonic Magno, Jomari Angeles, RK Bagatsing, Pryle Gura,Angie Castrence, Ana Abad Santos, Jade Lopez, Elora Españo, Cherry Malvar, Sunshine Teodoro, Divine Acuña, Beauty Gonzales.
John Denver Trending. Directed by Arden Rod Condez from his own script that won 2nd Place in the Screenplay Category at the 68th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.
All John Denver Cabungcal, a Grade 8 student, wants is to do well in school and bring home good grades to his family. But one day, a classmate accuses him of stealing an iPad. After his classmate’s persistent allegation, John Denver snaps and assaults his accuser. Unluckily for him, someone records the incident and posts the video on social media. In just five days, this ordinary boy’s life is suddenly overturned.
Cast: Jansen Magpusao, Meryll Soriano, Glenn Mas, Sammy Rubido, Vince Philip Alegre, Jofranz Ambubuyog, Christian Alarcon, Zandro Leo Canlog, Andy Yuarata, Ricky Perez, Renato Sagot, Enrique Sanchez, Bert Briones, Elmer Yuarata, Eldin Labris, Sunshine Teodoro, Luz Venus, Estela Patino, Joerlyn Samulde, Akia Buenaflor, Shan Estoya, Jinalyn Tandoy.
Malamaya (The Color Of Ash). Directed by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez who have collaborated in many projects in the past, notably for GMA Network.
Nora Simeon, a 50-year-old, single visual artist, feels passé. As she recaptures her prime, she finds spark with Migs, an aspiring photographer who helps reignite her forgotten passions and elicits bursts of inspiration. As she embarks on a May-December love affair, Nora fails to notice how Migs invades her space and senses and, eventually, her art and body.
Cast: Sunshine Cruz, Enzo Pineda, Raymond Bagatsing,
Pandanggo Sa Hukay. Directed by Sheryl Rose Andes who teaches documentary and digital production courses to college students.
Elena, a midwife and breadwinner, aims for a better future for her family. On the eve of her application process and job interview in Saudi Arabia, Elena finds herself in an unfamiliar territory and dances her way out — the pandanggo way. “Pandanggo Sa Hukay” is about a woman’s journey in balancing light and shadows in her life.
Cast: Iza Calzado, Charlie Dizon, Ybes Bagadiong, Diva Montelaba, Star Orjaliza, Acey Aguilar, Mercedes Cabral, Sarah Pagcaliwagan-Brakensiek.
Tabon. Directed by Xian Lim, who delineates from his established personality as actor, model and basketball player.
The death of Amang Zaldy propels his only son Ian to journey back to his hometown with his wife Erika and stepdaughter Joy, and discover the mystery that lurks behind his father’s murder. With the help of the senior inspector, Ian is introduced to three suspects that claim different versions of truths. Each vantage point leads to various revelations solving questions and uncertainties about his childhood.
Cast: Christopher Roxas, Ynna Asistio, Menggie Cobarrubias, Dexter Doria, Leon Miguel, Benjie Felipe, Lao Rodriguez, Richard Manabat, Bapbap Reyes.
* * *
AT A GLANCE
So much more in store at Cinemalaya @ 15
Lav Diaz’s “Ang Hupa (The Halt)” serves as the festival’s opening film. Starring Piolo Pascual, Shaina Magdayao, Joel Lamangan and Hazel Orencio, Ang Hupa is set in 2034 Manila after a flu epidemic and volcanic eruptions leave millions of Filipinos dead under the presidency of dictator Nirvano Navarro, and where flying drones execute dissidents onsite.
* * *
For the Short Feature Main Competition, the 10 finalists are “Disconnection Notice” by Glenn Lowell Forneste Averia, “Gatilyo (Trigger)” by Harold Lance Pialdal, “Heist School” by Julius Renomeron Jr., “Hele ng Maharlika (Lullaby of the Free)” by Norvin De Los Santos and “Kontrolado Ni Girly Ang Buhay N’ya (Girly Is In Control Of His Life)” by Gilb Baldoza.
“Sa Among Agwat (In Between Spaces)” by Don Senoc, “Sa Gabing Tanging Liwanag Ay Paniniwala (Belief As The Light In Darkness)” by Francis Amir Guillermo, “Tembong (Connecting)” by Shaira Advincula, “The Shoemaker” by Sheron Dayoc, and “‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin (Please Stop Talking)” by Josef Gacutan.
* * *
Cinemalaya will pay tribute to the industry’s great losses this year, actor Eddie Garcia, actress Armida Siguion-Reyna, and production designer Cesar Hernando who all made significant contributions to the Philippine film industry.
* * *
Film enthusiasts can continue look forward to the exhibition films in the festival’s mainstays: Dokyu, the documentary section; Best of the Festivals, which showcases the best films from local festivals; Indie Nation, a special section featuring independent films; Visions of Asia, featuring award-winning Asian and Netpac films.
* * *
This edition will also see the return of the Premiere section, where newly made films will make their screen debut.
* * *
The Retrospective section will feature not only the 2018 Cinemalaya Best Film, Audience Choice and Special Jury Prize winners, but also the best films of Cinemalaya from its inception in 2005.
* * *
The Cinemalaya Campus expands its reach to the regions with the Regional Cinemalaya Campus — a one-minute filmmaking competition for students. Dubbed Short Shorts Competition, it aims to discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of young Filipino talents from Bicol, Western Visayas and Davao City. The top 10 finalists will be screened in Legazpi, Naga, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao City.
* * *
A new component of the festival is the Mini-Versity, envisioned to spur interest on filmmaking among the youth. Those interested can have engaging conversations on various aspects of filmmaking with industry practitioners at the CCP Silangan Hall from August 2 to 11.
* * *
The closing film is “Mina Anud” directed by Kerwin Go. Starring Matteo Guidicelli, Dennis Trillo and Jerald Napoles, the story is about two local surfers who must decide if having a good future is worth risking family and freedom for.
* * *
The awards night is slated on August 11, 7 p.m. at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).
- Santa Fe Independent Film Festival celebrates its 10th year
- Singer, Songwriter, TV Producer Steph Carse Wins Best Music Video at Canadian International Faith & Family Film Festival
- Afrikana Film Festival postponed
- 'The Donut Dollies' to highlight Ashfield Film Festival
- Why Students Love These Indie Film Studios
- Put these standout documentaries from the Toronto film festival on your to-watch list
- Putting the Austin in Austin Film Festival
- Austin Film Festival Review: Undercliffe
- Austin Film Festival Review: The Black String
- Austin Film Festival Review: Empathy, Inc.