Cinemalaya 2013

Could it be that 2013 is the year that indie becomes the new mainstream?

With this year’s entries, I noticed a streak of mainstream actors starring in local indie films. I have nothing to whine about them crossing over, especially if it could help stimulate the Philippine film industry. I just can’t help but wonder.

Last year, I was rooting to see Bwakaw, a comedy-drama film about an old lonely man caring for his dog whose name is which the title is based. Due to schedule conflicts, I wasn’t able to do so. I tell you, it is one of my biggest regrets. I can’t find a copy of the movie anywhere! So this time, I made it a point to watch as many Cinemalaya films as I can.

For the past few years, I have been meaning to partake in this festival but only this year was I able to really get the chance and motivation to wake up early in the morning and travel 20 kilometers (QC to Makati) just to be with friends and earn some culture points together. And so far, my expectations show a ratio balance between the good and the bad.

Out of the 15 movies being showcased in the malls, I get to watch four. I know it’s not enough to give a general feedback, but percentage-wise, it should probably suffice.

Ekstra (The Bit player)072913_ekstra-embed
By Jeffrey Jeturian
Category: Directors Showcase
Rating: 9/10

Told in a manner of a day in the life, Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) deals with her big dreams of one day becoming a lead star albeit the little to almost no chances that come her way.

Ekstra is a bold revelation of how bit players are treated on and off cam and how they cope with life through a minimal fee.

Vilma Santos portrayed the lead role naturally and realistically even if it is far from being her. The star for all seasons successfully dimmed her light to make way for Piolo Pascual and Marian Rivera who were the lead stars of the TV soap being shot, yet staying effective even on instances which requires her to not speak at all.

The paradox of Vilma’s character in itself is one thing, but the composition and delivery of the film is another.

More than just a glimpse, the movie offers an immersion of what and how it is like to live and fight for your dream despite instances leading to its demise. I loved the movie so much that I recommended it to my grandmother and to everyone I talk to, even if they are not fond of watching Cinemalaya. Yes, I loved it that much.

Instant Mommyinstant-mommy
By Leo Abaya
Category: New Breed
Rating: 5/10

Due to Eugene Domingo’s history of good quality films such as Kimmy Dora, Here Comes the Bride, and Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, we made it a point to watch Instant Mommy. Although the trailer leaves only one of the two things: “is she pregnant or is she not?” premise, it still made me wonder on whether the movie would make me laugh or cry, even.

Boiling down to the conclusion, there are hits and misses. The gist is how to sustain a fake pregnancy, which makes a very enticing plot. The workaround solutions were catered in action packed scenes and conversations between Yuki Matsuzaki and Eugene Domingo’s character are natural, to the point that the Japanese actor even learned how to speak some Tagalog words. I liked that Eugene portrayed a refreshingly new character which is more realistic, proving that she can do more than make the audience laugh. Toward the end, there’s a downward spiral from action to sober.

Now with the misses, one strong point to consider is the continuity in the scene where Bechayda (Eugene Domingo) rode a taxi from Holiday Inn to Intercontinental Hotel; most parts of that scene should have been omitted as it only became a laughing stock from the audience who is familiar with the place. It’s irritatingly effective.

The movie in general is not good, not bad, not right –just okay.

The Diplomat Hotelthe-diplomat-hotel-cinemalaya-2013
By Christopher Ad Castillo
Category: New Breed
Rating: 3/10

If a movie has a distinct style of story-telling, a unique technique that touches even the tiniest sensibilities of a stubborn audience, a realistic portrayal of actors, plus and more importantly, a good story to tell, then it is, by no doubt, a good movie. This movie, unfortunately, lacks most of the things I listed above that I regret giving a YES on watching a suspense-horror movie like this that wasn’t even my cup of tea, to begin with.

For my regrets, let me count thee.

The Diplomat Hotel started with a good tease, enough to build up the climax through the effective acting of Gretchen Barreto (Victoria Lansang) as a reporter trying to regain her place in the industry after recently being held in the mental institution due to a life-changing incident while on-the-job. Minutes went by and the promise of the first few minutes of the film became dragging and senseless further blurring the genre between an action-psycho film and a suspense-thriller.

The ending was abrupt. No hanging, no closure, no anything. It will only make you question the point of it all.

Although one thing commendable about the film was, aside from the main actors trying to give something out of their poorly motivated characters, was the lesson it was trying to deliver: fear exists only in our minds; we are our own enemy.

I don’t know what the list of criteria are for this film festival but this movie is surely one thing I’d want to ask for my time back (read: not just money, time). Quick post-production editing is evident in the film with the presence of failed subtitles and sound bytes. If getting a blurred message is the goal of this film, then by all means, cross that one off the list. If not for curiosity and proof if what I’m saying here is true, I suggest you to just watch other entries than this one.

Sana Dati
Category: Directors Showcase
By Jerrold Tarog
Rating: 10/10

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition but certainty is absurd,” said in the intro of the film.

I have always been a fan of love stories but this film is far from what I imagined it to be. Focusing mainly on Andrea’s (Lovi Poe) struggle between a haunting past of could-have-beens and a doubtful future with a man she barely knows, the story will continuously and consistently make the audience wonder and hurt at the same time.

Shown in a non-linear order, Sana Dati is composed of beautiful cinematography, sincere acting from the actors, and a storyline that has an unhurried pace that is certainly not boring.

It’s a film full of twists and teasers.

Due to the constant hanging of the film, some revelations made me feel like I know what the ending would be by successfully tugging my heartstrings and causing water to build up in my eyes, but I was wrong.

From the bit players up to the lead actors, every character gave a remarkable portrayal that even if some roles were made just in passing, they still left an impression.

Lovi Poe was a beautiful revelation here, displaying intense emotions through low-keyed acting. This is one of her best, so far. Meanwhile TJ Trinidad as the husband-to-be, was a man of honor, dignity, and patience. He knows what he wants and is determined to get it. I am deeply affected by the character that these two portrayed. The confusion, the fears, the tension composed of mere glances, meeting of brows, and sighs, what more could I ask for? (Oh, a theatrical release!)

Also commendable was the mysterious aura that Paulo Avelino displayed. He served as the trigger of both the good and the bad. As for Benjamin Alves, he is more than just a pretty face. There’s a particular scene that involves him which is just heartbreakingly painful, I sobbed.

Sana Dati is a film that reminds us that there is no formula for love; that a wedding is not a mark of the beginning nor end of love; and that love is not just a commitment, but a choice to make despite all uncertainties.

This film, in levels I cannot emphasize more, deserve a theatrical release. It’s the best among those I’ve watched, it should reach a wider audience.

Four more days left to watch the entries! Be sure not to miss it! For Screening Schedule, you may check Cultural Center of the Philippines’ PDF version HERE.

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