8th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 1   7 comments

The biggest Philippine independent film festival has already begun, and this year marks the 8th edition of Cinemalaya. I’ve been going back and forth at the CCP for the last few days, so I can watch all the participating movies both in the New Breed and Directors Showcase categories. Here’s the first of my four part Cinemalaya reviews:

MGA MUMUNTING LIHIM
Director: Jose Javier Reyes
Starring: Judy Ann Santos, Iza Calzado, Janice de Belen, and Agot Isidro
Competition: Directors Showcase

When Mariel (Santos) died, she left a box to her best friend Carla (Calzado) containing all of her diaries back when she started writing one. As Carla reads all of them, secrets between her, Mariel, Sandra (Isidro), and Olive (de Belen) started to affect their friendship.

This is Jose Javier Reyes’ first foray into indie filmmaking, and this shows some potential. I have issues with the treatment of the movie as a whole, and the sound seems to inconsistent at times. However, whatever issues you have with the film won’t bother you that much when you focus on the two greatest aspects of the movie: the writing and the acting. Reyes’s lines seem straight out of his personal journal as well, and it’s pretty obvious that he has a lot of inspiration when he was writing this. While one may think that it may be exaggerated, I claim to say that it is rather truthful. The other strength lies within the acting; the four leads can carry the whole film on their shoulders and yet remain as interesting. The chemistry was prevalent, and whether it was Iza’s stares, Judai’s facial expressions, Agot’s delivery, or Janice’s cussing, it was all very natural. Part of me thinks that they did cast lesser known actors as it’s difficult to hold up with this great ensemble. That alone is worth the ticket. All in all, it was a very realistic portrayal of friendship that is relatable to everyone.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

KAMERA OBSKURA
Director: Raymond Red
Starring: Ping Medina, Joel Torre, Nanding Josef
Competition: Directors Showcase

A man locked inside a cell for many years finally makes his way out and as he gets to see the reality of the world when he mysteriously traveled a building with a video camera in hand as he sees activities of betrayal and corruption left and right.

I admit that this is the film that I’m excited the most; thus, it has the highest expectations I have for the whole festival, and it certainly did not live up to its expectations. For one, the potential was there; but the treatment was pretty redundant especially the first and last scene where they almost used the same script, as I feel it did not gel well with the rest of the film. For a silent film, I find it too loud with all the unnecessary sound effects used. Add the fact that it was too wordy as well. I also had issues with the too much “in your face” with the message that it wants to deliver. Still, there were also great spots that the film possesses. One, Pen Medina was charismatic in the lead role and suits with the direction Red wants to be in to. Even his son Ping Medina (who played the young Pen) was a treat albeit short appearance. I also like the visuals of the film, as they were detailed, and parallel to the message it wants to present. For what it’s worth, this one suffers from some issues but still brings in a pretty much enjoyable film watching experience.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

INTOY SYOKOY NG KALYE MARINO
Director: Lemuel Lorca
Starring: JM de Guzman, LJ Reyes, Joross Gamboa
Competition: New Breed

Intoy (de Guzman), now living alone, learns that the love of his life Doray (Reyes) is the town’s prostitute. Now he tries his best to earn an extra amount of money so they can both start life anew, until a new set of unsolvable problems lead their way.

At times, the movie tends to be pretty formulaic with the sequence of events happening in the film. I also noticed some repetitive shots in various scenes in the movie. However, the heart and soul of the film is Intoy himself. JM de Guzman was captivating and heartbreaking as the lead character. You can feel the energy, the enthusiasm, the heartbreak, and the innocence in his face. He was perfectly casted, and he definitely delivered. LJ Reyes was also excellent as Doray Langaw, and his chemistry with de Guzman is palpable. I also particularly liked how they made Kalye Marino as another character in the movie bringing it to life and translating it to the audience. The movie somehow can’t prevent itself from going poverty porn at times, but I totally bought the emotions they showed especially the one between the two leads.

Rating: 3 / 5

KALAYAAN
Director: Adolf Alix Jr.
Starring: Ananda Everingham, Zanjoe Marudo, Luis Alandy
Competition: Directors Showcase

A soldier living alone in Kalayaan Islands deals a daily repetitive schedule as he spends his last few remaining days in the middle of the Erap impeachment trial.

I was surprised to learn that this is already Adolf Alix’s 20th movie, but seeing this shows that he has already mastered his craft and has achieved growth if you go way back to his earlier films. I actually find this film very therapeutic; each scene brings you right where the character is, and the good thing about it is that it lingers. I particularly liked how we just go with the flow with Victor (Everingham) feeling for him, understanding him, and living with him. Once the characters of Zanjoe Marudo (who definitely brought humor and comedic relief) and Luis Alandy, we tend to get more intrigued, yet understand the life that they are living in Kalayaan Islands. This one has part fantasy, part horror, and part comedy, but the sum is greater than all of its parts. I really like the¬†cinematography, and the musical score above everything else. Once the credits rolled, you feel that you’ve known enough yet you ask some more. This is probably my favorite film for this year’s festival, and for the year (so far) as well.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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