fresh no ads
Fun times at the digital |


Fun times at the digital

WONDERBLOG - Ping Medina -

The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is upon us! In case you’ve had too much popcorn and Hollywood movies, Cinemalaya is the film festival that spurred the independent film movement here in Manila. The indie film scene exploded back in 2005, headed by the film Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, the story of a pubescent boy experiencing first love with an adult man.

The film Maxi was the darling of festivals all over the world, where director Aureus Solito accepted awards in major hobnobbing spots like the Sundance Film Festival and Berlin International Film Festival. It had a good chance of getting into Cannes, probably the most prestigious international film fest in the world, but sadly missed the deadline.

It also holds the greatest distinction of being the first indie film to be widely distributed in the pirated shores of Quiapo market. It was a popular film that made good money in SM Cinemas, playing to full theaters all over the country, amid an industry where it’s already a miracle to just break even. In places like Zamboanga, where the term “indie film” is met with a blank stare, even the locals know about the story of this gay kid who fell in love with the wrong guy.

I was a lucky bastard to be part of this landmark film. My mother, who ironically discouraged me (an understatement) in my younger days, sent me an e-mail about an audition for a film penned by Michiko Yamamoto, one of the best screenwriters of this generation. With luck and preparation, I landed the precious role of Kuya Bogs, the protective and loving brother of young Maxi.

It was truly a phenomenon at that time. We would sneak in during the regular screenings, and every time, the audience would be laughing and crying to the colorful life of young Maxi. It was like the horrifying success of sleeper hit The Blair Witch Project, one of the first independent digital movies in the States, except the audience was cheering and applauding at the film’s end. I’ve never seen that kind of appreciation before.

Although the Cinemalaya is responsible for the birth of local digital cinema, I must say the labor pains were endured by filmmaker Jon Red. It is a little-known fact that his film Still Lives is the first full-length digital ever produced in the Philippines. He also spearheaded a campaign pushing for the digital medium at the Mowelfund Institute years before the conception of Cinemalaya.

But the Cinemalaya has become the home of orphaned stories that mainstream studios are not willing to gamble on yet. I repeat, yet. It continues to be a vessel for new and exciting stories that have yet to be told. And it’s a venue for aspiring actors willing to endure monetary pains for love of the craft.

It paved the way for directors like Brilliante Mendoza — who won best director for Kinatay at Cannes last year, edging out legendary names like Ang Lee and Quentin Tarantino — and arthouse prodigy Raya Martin, the first Filipino filmmaker to be accepted as a Cannes scholar at the Cinéfondation Résidence. In the commercial scene, there’s the classic comedy Kimmy Dora starring the impeccable Eugene Domingo, which went on to become a box-office hit despite not having the usual big studio backing and TV ads.

In the first Cinemalaya batch, my favorite was Big Time, a hilarious caper film about a bunch of idiots trying to pull a heist. In this year’s batch, some of the notable trailers I’ve seen are Rekrut by Danny Añonuevo and Vox Populi by Dennis Marasigan. And after a two-year absence (I guess they got tired of my indie boy face), I am part of this little film called Mayohan by Dan Villegas.

Aside from the young blood, there is also a category for the old-timers. In the Director’s Showcase category, competing film masters are Mario O’Hara (Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio), Mark Meily (Isang Pirasong Buhay), Joselito Altarejos (Pink Halo-Halo), Joel Lamangan (Sigwa) and Gil Portes (Two Funerals).

If you are a curious person willing to expand horizons, the Cinemalaya Film Festival will be running from July 9-18 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Roxas Boulevard.

* * *

Buy Maximo Oliveros DVDs from me! Kidding.

vuukle comment











Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with