Now on its tenth year, Cinemalaya continues its tradition of showcasing the potential of Philippine cinema with its annual film festival that has been the venue for some of the most promising filmmakers and a reminder of the greatness of the veteran ones. And as it celebrate its first decade, there’s no other way to go but up as this year combines some of the biggest stars from Nora Aunor to Richard Gomez and newer ones like Mara Lopez and Martin del Rosario to name a few. Within the next few days, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the 15 films participating this year both in the New Breed and Director’s Showcase categories. Let’s begin with the first three!
1st KO SI 3rd
Director: Real Florido
Cast: Nova Villa, Freddie Webb, Dante Rivero, Ruby Ruiz, Lara Morena, Ken Chan
Competition: New Breed
Days after she retired from her work, Cory (Nova Villa) is still adjusting from her new lifestyle staying at home with her husband Andong (Dante Rivero). Mostly bored and irritable, her attention shifted upon realizing that Third (Fredi Webb), her first love and childhood sweetheart is back in town. The film then went back and forth in portraying their early days together and how they react to each other four decades after.
1st Ko si 3rd was the first film I’ve seen from this year’s batch, and it couldn’t have been more fitting to begin with it. The film was charming all throughout with its very natural and grounded humor in portraying a post mid-life crisis (if that type even exists) of a newly retired woman. The number 1 plays a significant theme in the movie, as it is through these one time incidents that led to where Cory is now: her first love, their supposed first date, the first man she met after, their first bonding together. For Cory, the first option really matters, and now that she had the opportunity to have a second one is where her conflict lies. The good thing however, is that in this love triangle, no party is a villain; it wasn’t merely black or white thus, we understand these harbored feelings that Cory has. Writer and director Real Florido managed to come up with characters (Cory surely reminded me of my own grandmother) and situations (revisiting your first love, how your life changes once you retire) that are relatable which made the whole film feel organic. Given that, Nova Villa was able to raise the material even higher with her performance here. Sure one would expect that she’ll nail the comedic parts effortlessly, but her performance certainly wasn’t just that. She was both funny and heartbreaking, sometimes even simultaneously. 1st ko si 3rd might have old characters in its forefront, but it’s appeal is far more beyond that. It’s bittersweet and charming, and I won’t be surprised if this crowd favorite went on to win the Box Office New Breed category.
Director: Giancarlo Abrahan
Cast: Eula Valdez, Nonie Buencamino, Martin del Rosario, Sandino Martin, Max Eigenmann
Competition: New Breed
UP professors Jimmy (Nonie Buencamino) and Issey (Eula Valdez) has been married for decades now, but both are aware of how dysfunctional their relationship is. Issey knows that Jimmy still can’t let go of his previous flame Lorena, who suddenly went missing many years ago. After going to a writer’s workshop in Makiling, coincidentally with her god son Gab, things have changed between Issey and him, and not long enough, has made a crack on the couple’s marriage as well.
To say this film is interesting might be an understatement. Its portrayal of what I call a “functional dysfunctional relationship” is so raw and mysterious that you’ll be captivated by it, probably the way Jimmy was captivated of Lorena’s fate. In Dagitab, the dynamics of a relationship was complexly portrayed by highlighting that some relationships probably require more of patience and acceptance and less of intelligence and romance. There is a certain poetic approach with how lines are written and thrown here, and I don’t think I have grasped them all yet after watching, but I’m smitten. As if I’m not sold yet with that, the visual aspects of the film are really stunning. There’s one scene where the characters of Eula Valdez and Martin del Rosario are just lying on the sand and you see the waves surrounding them, and it reminded me of that moment in Michel Gondry‘s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when Joel and Clementine were just lying on the snow watching the stars. I adored the use of Side A’s “Tuloy Pa Rin Ako” in the near end of the film as a statement of how the lives of these characters were amidst what happened to all of them. The performances of Nonie Bucamino, Eula Valdez, and Martin del Rosario are not the type of acting that win awards here in the country, but I’ll surely reserve a spot for them in my personal year end list since they’ve perfected the combination of confidence and craziness required of their characters. I really think I’ll catch this another time before the festival ends, as I think it’s a film that will ignite more insights when seen repeatedly, but needless to say, this did not disappoint and it will likely end up as one of my favorite entries from this year.
Director: Milo Sogueco
Cast: Mylene Dizon, Ricky Davao, Dennis Padilla, Barbie Forteza, Bing Pimentel
Competition: New Breed
Upon learning that her father who she had a rocky relationship with has died, Imelda (Mylene Dizon) tried to pick the perfect shoes for his once esteemed master shoemaker dad (Ricky Davao). It is within this agenda that Imelda reminisces the ups and downs and memories of her parents during the heydays of their shoe making business back when she was still a child.
Mariquina feels a bloated MMK episode for me, and while I’m aware that using that comparison usually connotes something negative; in this particular case, I tend to disagree. After all, the film revisits the life of Imelda starting from her childhood in depicting how things have changed between her and her father. Is it melodramatic? Well one can easily accuse of it as such. But what’s far more interesting in it is how it never lets the melodrama take over by injecting humorous punches during the more dramatic scenes. It was careful and aware enough of its material to know where to control the drama. And that’s rare to happen since in the hands of another writer, they would have highlighted the drama more. I particularly liked the witty use of symbolism in here with the color of the shoes and who owns what. Those small clever details aren’t necessarily a big deal for most, but I’m fond of them. It is also commendable how director Milo Sogueco managed to make use of space — literally. There’s a continuous shot of a young Imelda bringing a pair of shoes from the third floor of their warehouse down to their basement and we just follow her go around juxtaposed with the present day where the current Imelda does the same in her fabric business. If anything, I guess the part that bogged it down a bit for me was the last act where it seemed like it just went on and on in putting the closures one after the other. Also, the acting in here is particularly strong. I’m aware that it was Judy Ann Santos who was supposed to play the title role, but her close friend Mylene Dizon was fantastic in it. I’m also happy that Ricky Davao was finally maximized again since he is one fantastic actor and while he has played supporting roles for quite some times, this is probably his best since 2001’s Minsan May Isang Puso. The teen Imelda, anchored by a good performance from Barbie Forteza who was quite a revelation since she had the longest flashback in the movie. This is the second Jerrold Tarog written film in Cinemalaya where in a pair of shoes played a meaningful part in the film. Maybe a shoe trilogy to complete it in the future perhaps? 🙂
There you have it! The reviews of the next four filmswill be posted on Tuesday morning. Do not forget that you can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl