Audience-friendly New Wave films
(The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - “They are very well-done films with kiliti. They are, in a way, audience-friendly, and very interesting,” describes screening committee member Mel Chionglo of the New Wave full-feature entries for this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). “We hope the audiences will appreciate all of these films.” After all, a film production is for the audience consumption regardless of its artistic wrapping and trimmings. The entries will be shown from Dec. 17 to 24 at Glorietta 4 and SM Megamall cinemas.   

Leading the pack is Magkakabaung (The Coffin Maker), directed by Jason Paul Laxamana and starring Allen Dizon.

“I think it’s the purpose of a film,” says direk Jason Paul of his film’s death theme, which many Filipinos avoid talking about even in intimate conversations. “It should, at least in my opinion, show new things or things that the (audiences) fear about. Walang sense na gumawa ka nang pelikula dun sa comfortable at alam mo na. (There’s no sense in making a film on the safe side).”

The story, which is about a coffin maker (Allen) who accidentally kills his daughter (played by his real-life daughter Felixia Crysten), was conceptualized a year ago. Jason Paul shares that the idea was broached to him by film producers Ferdinand Lapuz and Dennis Evangelista. Romeo Lindain and Romnick Tejedor are the other producers under ATD Entertainment Productions. 





“It has a social commentary aspect,” the director says. “Ever since (I did) Babagwa for Cinemalaya, I decided not to be conscious that (my film) should have a social commentary. I will focus on the story. It will be a residue if there’s a lesson (in it) and it’s up to the audience to find out.” What Jason Paul can assure everyone is the film’s clear narrative, “pero nag-iba pa rin ako ng style. Every scene was shot in a single take without a cut.” This shooting process is tedious both for the actors and crew, who have to be on their toes to “mount” the scenes without any hitch. If there’s any glitch, things have to be done from the top. 

Playing the title role is Allen, who recently won the Best Actor award at the third Hanoi Film Festival for his performance in Magkakabaung. It also bagged the Best Asian Film/NETPAC plum. “I’m always open to new roles,” Allen says. “What is amazing about my work is, I can play all the good and bad characters.” His character is the focal point of the narrative, told from a straight-forward manner but with a touch of magic realism towards the end. The daughter’s condition makes the storytelling moving. 

“(The magic realism) could be (in the form of a) ghost or an idea of illusion,” says Jason Paul. “The script was written in a realistic way. There are random events, which do not necessarily mean anything in the story. They just happen for no particular reasons. As a filmmaker, my goal is for the audience to understand the story. If it fails the communication process, the film fails.”

Maria Diane Ventura’s Mulat (Awaken) is also in competition. Before gracing the Metro Manila Filmfest, it was screened at the International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM), where it won Best Director (Global Feature) for Diane and Best Actor for Jake Cuenca who plays Jake, the man of Sam’s (Loren Burgos) dreams.

Diane says the film is a multi-faceted story about the evolution of love. The tale begins when Sam calls off her engagement due to a tumultuous relationship. She is on a personal journey, finding herself and happiness. Along the way, Jake comes along and her recurring nightmares, which reflect a possible schizophrenic tendency, haunt her.

From personal journey (Magkakabaung and Mulat), journalist Arlyn dela Cruz takes on the life warring clans face. Maratabat explores the cultural and political dimensions of it. The film was inspired by Arlyn’s tale as a journalist and this explains why the narrative seems to be close to what we have been hearing in the news. The film titillates the audience’s imagination with its teaser, “Some kill for pride. Some live for pride.”

Ato Bautista reveals the realm of the mind in Gemini. The psychological thriller is about a woman tormented by the “thing of the past” that she and her twin made.

The “affairs of the heart” is also explored by Zig Dulay in his Mother’s Maiden Name, starring Zsa Zsa Padilla and Nico Antonio. The story banks on the mother-and-son relationship, seeking for an expression.

MMFF also gives space to students and animators. Competing in the student short films category are Kalaw of Asia Pacific Film Institute; Kubli (Far Eastern University); Siyanawa (Southern Luzon State University); Bimyana (De La Salle College of St. Benilde); Ang Soltera (De La Salle Lipa); and Bundok Chubibo (University of the Philippines).

An Maogmang Lugar, Cherry, Gymsnatch, Isip Bata and Shifter are the finalists in the animation category.  

“The audiences are growing,” says Jason Paul of the new wave and independent market. “I can liken (watching an indie movie) to reading which transports you to another world. The audiences are looking for new world to experience. If they get the same stories from commercial (movies), they look for some alternatives. The indie provides alternatives for the audiences.”

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