MANILA, Philippines - After nine years, several snafus skirted, and over 100 films recognized here and abroad, Cinemalaya is back, and Supreme has assembled a quick-and-dirty guide to this year’s full-length entries.
Babagwa (The Spider’s Lair)
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Starring: Alex Medina, Alma Concepcion, Joey Paras, Kiko Matos
What’s it about? A group of Internet scammers use a fake Facebook profile to con a very wealthy spinster (Alma Concepcion).
Why watch it? With films like Catfish exposing the creepy side of social networking, this one takes it up a notch by adding a web of phone sex, lies, and video chat.
Director: Emmanuel Palo
Starring: Eula Valdes, Sid Lucero, Art Acuña, Quester Hannah, Shamaine Buencamino, Anita Linda
What’s it about? Set in different decades, it features three stories, all of which are connected to an African-American soldier named David Fagan.
Why watch it? It tackles race issues and bigotry in the Philippines, things we Filipinos normally brush off as offenses committed only by foreigners.
Director: Alvin Yapan
Starring: Paulo Avelino, Mara Lopez
What’s it about? Mando (Avelino), a devotee, gets injured in the woods and falls for a woman named Salome (Mara Lopez). As he tries to win her over, he learns of a curse holding her back.
Why watch it? Based on his Cinemalaya track record, Yapan has never failed to give us strong female characters, a taste of Philippine folklore, and lessons in subtlety.
Director: Leo Abaya
Starring: Eugene Domingo, Yuki Matsuzaki, Luis Alandy, Rico J. Puno
What is it? Bechayda (Domingo) is a wardrobe assistant with a little problem: She’s pregnant. To keep her Japanese lover, she cooks up a plan that doesn’t go all too well.
Why watch it? It’s produced by Kris Aquino and stars Eugene Domingo. Having that on paper, something deliciously campy is bound to happen.
Director: Joseph Israel Laban
Starring: Barbara Miguel, Jake Cuenca, Nadine Samonte, Anita Linda
What’s it about? A nine-year-old gets impregnated by her own father, causing a ripple effect that changes the lives and attitudes of everyone in their family.
Why watch it? Jake Cuenca plays the father, a far cry from the roles he often takes on. The film is also based on a true story.
Director: Carlo “Arc” Obispo
Starring: Krystle Valentino, Miggs Cuaderno, Arnold Reyes, Angeli Bayani
What’s it about? It’s an idyllic tale of a brother and sister who find comfort and joy in each other as they piece together what happened to their family.
Why watch it? Though it stars indie heavyweights Angeli Bayani and Arnold Reyes, they make way for two amateur child actors, whose charm and rawness could pull you in.
Director: Eduardo Roy Jr.
Starring: Mimi Juareza, Jun-Jun Quitana, Miggs Cuaderno, Francine Garcia
What’s it about? Dorina thinks she’s living the life, running an illegal cosmetic surgery business. But when her lover starts falling for another transgender woman, things start falling apart.
Why watch it? The film’s thesis on beauty is compelling; adding transgendered characters makes it all the more complex. If done right, the risks Roy took might just pay off.
Director: Mikhail Red
Starring: Ronnie Quizon, Mike Lloren, Buboy Villar, Earl Ignacio, Suzette Ranillo
What’s it about? During one of his illegal stints, Maven (Quizon), a film pirate, records something in a theater that instantly goes viral.
Why watch it? Apart from finding out what viral video is, Red’s also been consistently good, proving his knack for filmmaking through his portfolio of shorts.
The Diplomat Hotel
Director: Christopher Ad. Castillo
Starring: Gretchen Barretto, Art Acuña, Mon Confiado, Joel Torre, Nico Antonio, Sarah Gaugler
What’s it about? A film crew camps out by the ruins of the old Diplomat Hotel to shoot a documentary. Over the course of their stay, strange things start revealing themselves.
Why watch it? Aside from being the only outright thriller of the batch, the film also stars Gretchen Barretto, who’s been away from the big screen for over half a decade.
Director: Hannah Espia
Starring: Ping Medina, Irma Adlawan, Marc Justine Alvarez, Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Mercedes Cabral
What’s it about? OFWs Moises (Medina) and his neighbor Janet (Adlawan) hide their children, in light of Israel’s decree to deport the kids of foreign workers.
Why watch it? It offers us a quick cinematic tour of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel, as well as a glimpse into the lives of our kababayans working there.
Amor y Muerte
Director: Ces M. Evangelista
Starring: Althea Vega, Markki Stroem, Adrian Sebastian, Ama Quiambao
What’s it about? It’s an exposition on sex, passion, and religion in the 16th century, following the lives of the Indios and their Spanish colonizers.
Why watch it? It’s a period piece that gets a bit raunchy at parts. Similar foreign films have been done, so it’s interesting to see where Evangelista takes this one.
Director: Jeffrey Jeturian
Starring: Vilma Santos, with cameos by Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, Cherrie Gil, and Eula Valdez
What’s it about? It’s about Loida (Santos), a teleserye extra, who spends her days dreaming of her big break while working with the country’s best small screen bidas and contrabidas.
Why watch it? Vilma Santos, duh. If that’s not enough, co-writing with Jeturian is Antoinette Jadaone, the woman responsible for another “extra” film, Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay.
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Starring: Lovi Poe, Paulo Avelino, TJ Trinidad, Benjamin Alves
What’s it about? Andrea (Poe) stalls her big wedding when a guy with a camera shows up and reminds her of a love she once had.
Why watch it? What’s better than one leading man? Lovi Poe gets three of them. Plus, fans of Tarog can finally watch the final film completing his Camera Trilogy.
Director: Gil Portes
Starring: Alessandra De Rossi, John Michael Bunapos, Jan Harley Hicana, Jim Rocky Tangco
What’s it about? The film’s centered on the lie surrounding a little league baseball team from Smokey Mountain, and the journalist (De Rossi) who exposes the truth.
Why watch it? The film reunites Alessandra De Rossi and Portes in reimagining an actual scandal, where a Filipino little league team cheated their way to victory.
Director: Adolfo Alix Jr.
Starring: Angel Aquino, Carlo Aquino, Yul Servo
What’s it about? Three different individuals are linked together by their own personal struggles with and involvement in pornography.
Why watch it? Angel Aquino, Carlo Aquino, and Yul Servo are in a movie about porn. It’s risqué, but Alix has always had a flair for making controversial topics beautiful onscreen.