Haven’t seen anyone don a Written and Directed by Quentin Tarantino t-shirt in forever? Well, fret no further, mga ka-indie, mga ka-make it hard, Maxim, at kapwa *clears throat* Alipin ng Sining; it is Cinemalaya season yet again!
On August 3, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival formally began festivities at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Opening night of the festival culminated with a screening of Erik Matti’s frenetic, high-octane thriller BuyBust. (Spoiler alert: it’s totally worth seeing if only for that scene involving Brandon Vera and a pair of gardening shears. Brutal siya, fam.)
Following the theme “Wings of Vision,” the 14th edition of Cinemalaya features 10 full-length films competing for the grand awards.
Through the 10 released trailers, we acquainted ourselves with the films, and listed 10 reasons why you should give them a shot. Kita-kits sa mga Tanghalan!
Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon
Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon by Carlo Enciso Catu follows Teresa, a lady at the twilight of her life. Currently living with her longtime partner Celso, she receives a call from her estranged husband Benedicto who is seeking forgiveness from her and their son Chito.
Go see this because: Kung Paano leaves us to ponder. This strange couple, exchanging scornful glances, never touching, uttering no sounds; the wordlessness is intriguing, and reels you in to find out. We can’t help but note the resemblance of Dapithapon to the French drama Amour (2012), which deals in unsettling detail the consequences of the adage, “kahit maputi na ang buhok ko.” A note to the loverbirds—best not make any lofty promises you can’t keep!
Synopsis from Cinemalaya: In Kuya Wes by James Robin Mayo, a man working in a money transfer company finds himself “in a relationship” with a regular client, a woman who suffers from marital woes.
Why you should watch it: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kuya Wes take a turn for the sinister (which, as fans of the sinister, we see as a good thing.) The part of the tottering romantic seems almost tailor-made for the diminutive Alcasid; his movements are meek, the precision of his smile unsettling. It is reminiscent of Martin Freeman’s Lester Nygaard from Fargo, who, after a lifetime of repressing raw emotion, is driven to wanton violence. It would be interesting to see Kuya Wes take this path, and see how effectively director James Robin Mayo lets his story unravel.
Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Mamang by Denise O’Hara delves into the story of an old woman battling a slowly fading mind while living with her unmarried middle-aged son.
Go see this because: Mamang is not the only film in the full-length feature category to take on decay. Like Pan de Salawal, it deals with an old-timer, played here by Celeste Legaspi, who is fed up with the business of living. Mamang is constantly in pain, and she’s scared that she’s losing her marbles. She is tempted by naked, chiseled youth, and is only able to give bemused responses. We’re excited to see this unfold in dark, comedic fashion.
Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Liway by Kip Oebanda is about a notorious NPA rebel in Negros whose beauty is legendary and her tactics, unparalleled.
Why you should watch it: There are films that pride themselves in the fleeting suspension of reality. The Vice Ganda’s of this world don’t care much for the leering film critic in the dark, and continues to laudibly play up to their strength. It is this same unapologetic approach to filmmaking that is apparent in director Kip Oebanda’s Liway, which goes a different direction. Oebanda revels in reality instead of suspending it. Without going too much into detail, the story is drawn from his own mother’s experience as an imprisoned rebel commander under Marcos.
Synopsis from Cinemalaya: In ML by Benedict Mique Jr., Carlo meets Colonel, an old resident in their village who was a soldier during the Marcos regime. After learning how the Colonel cruelly tortured student activists, Carlo’s life changes when he experienced all the Martial Law cruelties one night.
Why you should watch it: We’re a bit worried that ML will turn out a bit didactic, but we should give it a chance. Its intentions, we’re sure, are noble. And, more than ever, kids these days need an education on the atrocities of Martial Law. Let’s just hope this doesn’t translate into a campy film. We’re rooting for you, ML!
Pan De Salawal
Synopsis from Cinemalaya: Pan De Salawal by Che Espiritu is about Sal, a lonely panadero. He is suffering from chronic kidney stones, and wants nothing but to die. Sharing his sick, gray life along the riles are his neighbors: a barber with severe pasma, a former beauty queen with emphysema, a Cariñosa dancer paralyzed by stroke, and a macho meat vendor with tumor in his breast. They are all battling for dear life, hoping a miracle comes.
Why you should watch it: Why am I alone and rotting in this world, laments director Che Espiritu’s dejected protagonist Sal in great despair. In a chance encounter with a lively young girl, Sal finally sees a faint glimmer of hope. While a formula we’ve seen in a number of dramas, the colorful cast of characters peppered throughout the trailer should, hopefully, be worth the price of admission.
Synopsis: When eight-year-old Maya was walking home one day, she is stopped by a school “service” purporting to ask for directions. She accepts an offer of a ride home, but the service doesn’t stop at her place.
Why you should watch: While there are many elements at play, School Service deals most prominently with the trials of poverty, and how we are tempted to corruption because of it. We see Ai-Ai delas Alas as a ringleader for child beggars, who also defrauds people into giving her spare change by telling sob stories. It should be interesting to see how these characters hold their ground amid these trials.
Synopsis: Liza, reeling from the loss of her lover, is invited back to the home of his ex-husband and children.
Why you should watch: We have one simple rule: We see Nonie Buencamino in something, we watch it. If somehow that doesn’t prove enough, the trailer shrouded in mystery probably should. We come to realize that Liza is immediately unwelcome in her new home. Her own kids don’t think of her too fondly, and they groan upon learning she’s sticking around for a bit. It would be difficult to assess the strengths of this film based from such a short trailer, but if Iza Calzado’s and Nonie Buencamino’s respective track records should hold any ground, it would be a safe bet to think that Distance will be bringing in the goods.
Synopsis: Lester Quiambao is a hired killer. In a fit of emotion, he exacts revenge on his former lover.
Why you should watch: Picture a screenwriter, hair disheveled, with rings around their eyes, animatedly pooling together two years of headlines to serve as source material for a script. In other words, The Lookout screams current affairs. Whether or not it makes a bungle of a job out of its commentary remains to be seen, but we should watch all the same for the, uh, entertainment.
Musmos na Sumibol sa Gubat ng Digma
Synopsis: In the thick of violence between their two families, two young people meet and fall in love.
Why you should watch: The waters are calm, and the reverent wailing of voices in the background indicate earnest, even passionate, spirituality. There is more to this film than the trailer leads on, of course. We will meet someone we know, assures the old man, except he never bothers to say whom. The synopsis belies all this, as we know that there will be death and rancor soon to come. We know that these two children will fall in love regardless, like children do everywhere else, war, weather, and turmoil be damned.
The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will run from August 3 to 12 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and at selected Ayala Cinemas.