From Romblon to Berlin: Cinemalaya’s ‘Huling Palabas’ to compete at the Berlinale

Charmie Joy Pagulong - The Philippine Star
From Romblon to Berlin: Cinemalaya�s �Huling Palabas� to compete at the Berlinale
The 19th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival entry ‘Huling Palabas’ is set to compete at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival, also known as Berlinale, under the annual filmfest’s Generation 14plus category. The event will take place in Germany from Feb. 15 to 25.

MANILA, Philippines — The 19th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival entry “Huling Palabas,” which earned Best Director award for Ryan Espinosa Machado and Best Performance of a Supporting Actor for Bon Andrew Lentejas, is poised to compete at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival or Berlinale under its Generation 14plus category. The event will take place in Germany from Feb. 15 to 25.

The 90-minute film is set in 2001, in the town of Romblon, Philippines, during a time of transition from VHS to VCD. According to its logline, it follows the story of a young boy searching for his long lost-father. His reality becomes mystified when two movie-like characters appear in his hometown.

“Huling Palabas” cast members include Shun Mark Gomez, Cedrick Juan (2023 Metro Manila Film Festival Best Actor for his portrayal of Fr. Jose Burgos in “GomBurZa”), Jay Gonzaga, Serena Magiliw, and Senandra Gomez.

In an interview with The STAR, the film director said he is still in awe of how the film has traveled from the small town of Looc, Romblon to Berlin, Germany.

Even before joining the Cinemalaya, Machado recalled that he and the rest of the production team were eager to try their luck in film festivals abroad.

“We took note of festival deadlines, and after the film premiered at PICC (Philippine International Convention Center), Ferdy Lapuz, one of our producers, began sending screeners to some A-list festivals in Europe. Not long after, we started receiving rejection emails. It was disheartening but my creative producer, Cris Bringas, would always tell me that we’d make it to a big one,” he shared.

“Kanakan Balintagos, whose debut film premiered at Berlin in 2006, suggested that I submit ‘Huling Palabas’ to Berlinale. He connected me with some people he knew in Berlin, and we were able to submit the film with a waiver code! On Jan. 9, I received an email from the programmer stating they wanted to invite ‘Huling Palabas’ to the Generation 14plus competition.”

So when Machado received an email saying that “Huling Palabas” made it to the list, he got emotional as he continued reading the rest of the message. “I jumped out of bed and ran around the house shouting. My sister, who was doing the laundry, got scared with the sudden yelling, thinking something bad had happened to me,” he recalled.

“Since this is the first time we’ve been invited to compete at an A-list festival, I don’t have any expectations. I’m hoping, however, that people will enjoy the film. I would love to see how they respond to our story,” he went on.

Machado is excited to see the audience’s reactions, especially the teenagers and students, when they watch the film. He’s also looking forward to seeing the other films participating in the festival and meeting filmmakers from around the world. They are scheduled to fly to Berlin on Feb. 16.

‘Huling Palabas’ director Ryan Machado says even before Cinemalaya, he and the rest of the production team were eager to try their luck in film festivals abroad.

If ever the film will win the prestigious award at the festival, he will dedicate the victory to the people in his hometown in Romblon.

“The fact that ‘Huling Palabas’ was chosen to compete at this year’s Generation 14plus is already a win for me. I’m always grateful for everyone who made the film possible. It’s my love letter to my hometown; I always dedicate the film to them,” he offered.

According to the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Pham Ngoc Lan’s film “Cu Li Never Cries,” which is co-produced by Filipino company Epicmedia Productions, Inc., will also be screened in the Panorama section.

Filmmakers Don Eblahan, Grace Simbulan, Achinette Villamor, and Whammy Alcazaren at the Berlinale Talents will also attend the event to represent the Philippines.

Filipina producer Bianca Balbuena and filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz will also be there to serve as mentors for Berlinale Talents’ Short Form Station and Sound Studio, respectively.

Filipino representatives, Cy Igne, Jane Gonzales, and Tim Villanueva will also participate in the Berlinale Co-Production Market’s Visitors Programme.

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