Teacher pitted against student in Cinemalaya

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A veteran director finds  himself up against a fellow filmmaker, who practically started his career under his wing, in the 2013 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, which runs from July 26 to Aug. 4.

Director Gil Portes got a bit nostalgic as he stood on the same stage with the younger Adolf Alix Jr. during the unveiling of this year’s batch of five finalists for the Directors Showcase (the category for directors who have commercially-released films in their career) at the CCP, one of the venues along with Greenbelt 3 and Trinoma for the festival’s screenings.

“I feel so old. Adolf was still in college when I first met him. He volunteered to promote Puerto Princesa (in 1997). Ngayon kasama ko na siya. I’m so glad I’m here competing with him,” said Portes before quipping, “but I hope I’ll win.”

They virtually became like teacher and student as it was with Portes that Alix got his start in the film industry as screenwriter. Alix told The STAR, “I’m just very happy to be in the same section as direk Gil. I started with him and I wrote some of his films. I’m very happy.”

Alix first worked with Portes as a co-writer on the latter’s multi-awarded Mga Munting Tinig (2002), followed by Beautiful Life, Homecoming and Mourning Girls. Portes has been directing since the ’70s and has amassed more than 30 movie titles to date. Alix has since transitioned from scriptwriter to one of today’s shining stars of independent filmmaking. His most recent work Death March was entered in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival in France.

In this year’s Cinemalaya, both auteurs explored entirely different subjects, but are somehow similar in terms of the relation of their films to reality. 

Portes described his entry The Liars as a “journey to the truth.” The Liars, written by Senedy Que (also a frequent writing collaborator of Portes), was roughly seven years in the making.

The director said, “We’ve long dreamed about this, but it never really materialized (until now). We even submitted this to Cinemalaya before, but it was not chosen. I remember last year during the deadline, Senedy called me up, ‘Direk, would you want to submit The Champions (that was the initial title)?’ Sabi ko, one hour matatapos na ang deadline, and he goes, ‘No, I’m here already at CCP, just come here and sign it.’ I went to CCP, signed the application form and the rest is history.” 

Inspired by an actual event in the ’90s, The Liars is the fictionalized retelling of the fast rise and equally fast downfall of a Filipino baseball team of poor, young boys who went to compete in the US. Topbilling The Liars is Alessandra de Rossi as the relentless reporter who unearths the “scam.” Also in the cast are Arnold Reyes, Sue Prado, Cris Villanueva, Princess Manzon, Nanding Josef and a group of boys from a little league baseball team.

Alix, on the other hand, will showcase Porno, starring Angel Aquino, Carlo Aquino, Rosanna Roces and Yul Servo. The film takes a look at the thriving “underground porn industry” in the Philippines.

“I haven’t done a film like this and I think it’s my most daring film. It’s about the underground porn industry in the Philippines, so it’s going to be a bit daring in terms of what (audiences) will see,” said Alix.

He actually began developing the film in 2009. “We did research that in third-class hotels in the Philippines, they put CCTV cameras, so unknowingly, all the couples that go inside the motels are caught on tape. These are compiled and turned into (sex video) scandals. So, to make the videos viable to the market, they get people to dub it.”

“I’m very fortunate that my actors agreed to participate in the film. Angel Aquino plays a transsexual here. It’s very interesting for her,” he added.

Both directors have tapped stars they have also relied on in the past, such as Alessandra who played lead in Portes’ Mga Munting Tinig, and Angel who starred in the acclaimed Donsol, Alix’s first foray as a director and first Cinemalaya entry in 2006.  

But Angel and Alessandra are just some of the mainstream actors in this year’s Cinemalaya. The roster of stars is led by Vilma Santos who headlines Jeffrey Jeturian’s Ekstra (The Bit Player), another Directors Showcase entry. Others contending in the Directors Showcase are Amor Y Muerte, an erotic period piece set in the 16th century before the Philippines was “subjugated by the Spanish,” by director Cesar Evangelista with writing from Jerry Gracio; and the bittersweet “love story and anti-love story” Sana Dati, which is directed and written by Jerrold Tarog, featuring Lovi Poe, Paulo Avelino, TJ Trinidad and Benjamin Alves.

While the Cinemalaya spotlight remains focused on the directors as well as the writers, this increasing stellar presence is very much welcome.

Alix said, “It’s good to know that after nine years, Cinemalaya has remained to be a strong festival, which features different kinds of films from different directors. Now, what’s also good about it is that it has become more accessible because there are a lot of mainstream stars who have come in and joined the films. So, I guess it’s good because it’s now balanced.”

The other main competition of the annual Cinemalaya is the New Breed category for up-and-coming filmmakers. For more details and schedules of screenings, visit cinemalaya.org. Cinemalaya is a project of the Cinemalaya Foundation, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Film Development Council of the Philippines and Econolink Investments, Inc.











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