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Cinemalaya continues to break new ground despite pandemic
Glenn Barit, James Fajardo, Jonnie Lyn Dasalla and Myra Aquino
STAR/ File

Cinemalaya continues to break new ground despite pandemic

Jerry Donato (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2021 - 12:00am

Short films take the center stage anew in this year’s edition of Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.

The filmmakers behind the official 13 entries have bravely faced the new-normal challenges in telling stories that reflect the present and the past, the personal and the social. The craft of filmmaking claims its space and persists even set against a global health disruptor.

“These filmmakers are impassioned because they made movies in the middle of the pandemic,” said director Joey Reyes, head of the Cinemalaya Monitoring and Competition Committee in a virtual media call, which also announced that the screening of entries, through KTX.ph, will run from Aug. 6 to Sept. 5. “It takes not only a lot of courage but the passion and dedication in order to pursue and fulfill such dreams to make such note-worthy films.”

The new breed of directors proves that filmmaking adapts to the changing landscape or new conditions like the pandemic, added direk Reyes. “It did not diminish the quality of films and as a matter of fact, it boosted the innovation which (was) very much manifested in the works of our young filmmakers.”

Marc Misa, Kevin Ayson and Arjanmar Rebeta

Aiming to secure the Balanghai Best Film award are (with brief descriptions of their films based on the information given to media members) An Sadit Na Planeta (The Little Planet), directed by Arjanmar Rebeta, a documentary that follows the journey of a young man in a little planet; Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-Asa at Panlasa (The Lost Hopes and Flavors) of Kevin Jay Ayson, another docu with the pandemic as a background, about finding “pagkaing iloco” (Ilokano food); Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi of Shiri de Leon, a tale of a virginal old woman, who is at the verge of changing her perspective about men; Ate O.G. of Kevin Mayuga, whose focus is on the “unexpected and uplifting experience” of an aging house help; Beauty Queen of Myra Aquino, a woman’s struggles and search about herself after losing her father during World War II; and Crossing of Marc Misa, about a desperate robber, who is in a dilemma of either becoming a hero or victim to a robbery.

Alphie Velasco, David Olson, Enrico Po and Jean Cheryl Tagyamon

Also competing are Kawatan sa Salog (A Toy in the River) of Alphie Velasco, a narrative that sees a mischievous child learning the importance of time and life; Kids on Fire of Kyle Nieva, the discovery of a prepubescent boy about the power of his sexuality while in a religious camp; Looking for Rafflesias And Other Fleeting Things of James Fajardo, about a Philippine folklore creature tikbalang that transforms itself into a teenage boy with the intention to refute rumor that links horse demons to civilian killings; Maski Papano (I Mask Go On) of Che Tagyamon and Glenn Barit, the adventure of a disposed facemask-turned-humanoid in search of its owner; Namnama En Lolang (Grandmother’s Hope) of Jonnie Lyn Dasalla, about how a grandmother and her grandson face the pandemic and find solace in each other; Out of Body of Enrico Po, story of a young model in a commercial shoot; and The Dust in Your Place of David Olson, about a comic strip artist, whose career and relationship (with her writer) are on the line.

When asked about the creativity and authorship of this year’s filmmakers, Chris Millado, Cinemalaya festival director, said: “It (the short film) begins from sometimes situations that you never thought could give birth to a wonderful story… Most of the time, it starts with a very simple premise and then from the simple premise, it just brings you to a whole world of meaning. Anduon, of course, yung craft of building and creating a whole world in just five or 10 minutes and making that whole journey complete through their storytelling.” The works of these emerging filmmakers show how adept they are at digital filmmaking, according to Chris.

Kevin Mayuga, Shiri de Leon and Kyle Nieva

Aside from commending their talent, it’s again the filmmakers’ braveness and boldness that also caught and earned everyone’s attention and respect.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen how many of our filmmakers have struggled to finish their digital movies,” said Cultural Center of the Philippines president Nick Lizaso, “considering that they merely have limited time and budget, searching for convenient location shoots, while observing proper health protocols… I’m still impressed and proud of what this year’s indie filmmakers of the short features have achieved. For that, I’m grateful to the Cinemalaya Foundation for giving Filipino artists the opportunity to present their cinematic creations.”

More than showcasing the filmmakers and their works, Cinemalaya is also known for breaking new ground in terms of themes, techniques and even the positionality and purpose that directors take. The sense of social responsibility seems common among the new directors. Laurice Guillen, Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc. president, said it’s the way filmmakers link their stories somehow to important issues close to people’s heart.

With film as one of the country’s powerful entertainment media, the actress-turned-director shared, “the realization that film really has the power to disseminate, to share the culture from the different regions of the Philippines and from the Philippines itself to show our difference, our variety and also our oneness and films have a way of really being effective in engineering change… that perhaps out of this, out of the ruins of this (pandemic)… we (build) our culture in a way that is more sensitive to the Filipino people.”

During the media conference, Laurice hoped that the full-length features will be presented next year when audiences can watch the narratives on the big screen.

“Once again the shorts take the limelight as the full-length filmmakers are given more time to continue filming their entries during these challenging times,” said she. “We will be showing them in 2022 when we hope to hold the festival live once again.”

With the film festival’s diverse and engaging line-up of short films, Cinemalaya continues its creative calling to discover new filmmakers, present their voices and break new ground in telling cinematic stories.

(For details, visit the CCP and Cinemalaya websites or follow the official CCP and Cinemalaya social media accounts.)

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