Archive for the ‘Cinemalaya X’ Tag

Cinemalaya X Final Recap   6 comments

After eight days of going back and forth from CCP, I’ve finally finished all 15 films of the New Breed and Directors Showcase categories as well as the 10 short films that comprise the 10th Cinemalaya Indepedent Film Festival. Here’s my final rankings of the films (with my corresponding thoughts on it by clicking the link):

Ranking of the 10 New Breed Entries:
1. Sundalong Kanin (Janice O’Hara) – 4.5/5
2. Dagitab (Gian Abrahan) – 4.5/5
3. #Y (Gino Santos) – 4/5
4. Mariquina (Milo Sogueco) – 4/5
5. Children’s Show (Derick Cabrido) – 3.5/5
6. 1st ko si 3rd (Real Florido) – 3.5/5
7. Bwaya (Francis Pasion) – 3/5
8. K’Na, the Dreamweaver (Ida Anita del Mundo) – 2.5/5
9. Ronda (Nick Olanka)- 2/5
10. Separados (GB Sampedro) – 1/5

Ranking of the 5 Directors Showcase Entries:
1. Hari ng Tondo (Carlos Siguon Reyna) – 3.5/5
2. The Janitor (Mike Tuviera) – 3/5
3. Kasal (Joselito Altarejos) – 3/5
4. Hustisya (Joel Lamangan) – 2/5
5. Asintado (Louie Ignacio) – 1.5/5

Ranking of the 10 Short Film Entries:
1. Asan si Lolo Me? (Sari Estrada) – 5/5
2. Nakabibinging Kadiliman (Paolo O’Hara) – 4.5/5
3. Mga Ligaw na Paruparo (JE Tiglao) – 4/5
4. Lola (Kevin Ang) – 3.5/5
5. The Ordinary Things We Do (David Corpuz) – 3/5
6. Padulong sa Pinuy-anan (Even Villarba) – 2.5/5
7. Indayog ng Nayatamak (Joris Fernandez) – 2.5/5
8. Eyeball (Thop Nazareno) – 2/5
9. Ina-tay (Chloe Veloso)- 2/5
10. Tiya Bening (Ralph Quijano) – 2/5

NEW BREED CATEGORY PREDICTIONS:

1. Best Sound
Will Win: “Children’s Show”
Could Win: “Bwaya”, “K’Na, the Dreamweaver”
Personal Pick: “Children’s Show”

2. Best Original Music Score
Will Win: “K’Na, the Dreamweaver”
Could Win: “Children’s Show”, “Sundalong Kanin”
Personal Pick: “Mariquina”

3. Best Editing
Will Win: “Children’s Show”
Could Win: “Sundalong Kanin”, “Bwaya”
Personal Pick: “#Y”

4. Best Production Design
Will Win: “K’Na, the Dreamweaver”
Could Win: “Bwaya”, “Mariquina”
Personal Pick: “K’Na, the Dreamweaver”

5. Best Cinematography
Will Win: “Bwaya”
Could Win: “Children’s Show”, “Dagitab”
Personal Pick: “Ronda”

6. Best Screenplay
Will Win: Janice O’Hara, Denise O’Hara, “Sundalong Kanin”
Could Win: Jerrold Tarog, “Mariquina″, Real Florido, “1st Ko si 3rd”
Personal Pick: Gian Abrahan, “Dagitab”

7. Best Performance of a Supporting Actor
Will Win: Ricky Davao, “Separados” or “Mariquina” (if placed here)
Could Win: Dante Rivero, “1st Ko si 3rd”, Miggs Cuaderno, “Children’s Show”
Personal Pick: Ricky Davao, “Mariquina”

8. Best Performance of a Supporting Actress
Will Win: Barbie Forteza, “Mariquina”
Could Win: Gloria Sevilla, “Children’s Show”, Ruby Ruiz, “1st Ko si 3rd”
Personal Pick: Coleen Garcia, “#Y”

9. Best Direction
Will Win: Janice O’Hara, “Sundalong Kanin”
Could Win: Roderick Cabrido, “Children’s Show”, Francis Pasion, “Bwaya”
Personal Pick: Janice O’Hara, “Sundalong Kanin”

10. Best Performance of an Actor
Will Win: Nonie Buencamino, “Dagitab”
Could Win: Buboy Villar, “Children’s Show”, ensemble of Separados (God forbid)
Personal Pick: Nonie Buencamino, “Dagitab”

11. Best Performance of an Actress
Will Win: Angeli Bayani, “Bwaya”
Could Win: Aiai delas Alas, “Ronda”, Nova Villa, “1st Ko si 3rd”
Personal Pick: Eula Valdez, “Dagitab”

12. Special Jury Prize
Will Win: “Children’s Show″
Could Win: “Sundalong Kanin”
Personal Pick: “Dagitab”

13. Best Film
Will Win: “Sundalong Kanin”
Could Win: “Children’s Show″
Personal Pick: “Sundalong Kanin”

DIRECTORS SHOWCASE CATEGORY PREDICTIONS

1. Best Sound
Will Win: “The Janitor”
Could Win: “Asintado”, “Hari ng Tondo”
Personal Pick: “The Janitor”

2. Best Original Music Score
Will Win: “Hari ng Tondo”
Could Win: “Kasal”, “The Janitor”
Personal Pick: “The Janitor”

3. Best Editing
Will Win: “The Janitor”
Could Win: “Hari ng Tondo”
Personal Pick: “The Janitor”

4. Best Production Design
Will Win: “The Janitor”
Could Win: “Asintado”
Personal Pick: “Hari ng Tondo”

5. Best Cinematography
Will Win: “Asintado”
Could Win: “The Janitor”
Personal Pick: “Kasal”

6. Best Screenplay
Will Win: Bibeth Orteza, “Hari ng Tondo”
Could Win: Aloy Adlawan, Michael Tuviera, “The Janitor”, Ricky Lee, “Hustisya”
Personal Pick: Joselito Altarejos, Zig Dulay, “Kasal”

7. Best Performance of a Supporting Actor
Will Win: Rez Cortez, “Hari ng Tondo”
Could Win: Rocco Nacino, “Hustisya”, Dante Rivero, “The Janitor”
Personal Pick: Miggs Cuaderno, “Asintado”

8. Best Performance of a Supporting Actress
Will Win: Liza Lorena, “Hari ng Tondo”
Could Win: Rosanna Roces, “Hustisya”, Sunshine Dizon, “Hustisya”
Personal Pick: Sunshine Garcia, “The Janitor”

9. Best Direction
Will Win: Michael Tuviera, “The Janitor”
Could Win: Carlos Siguion Reyna, “Hari ng Tondo”, Joel Lamangan, “Hustisya”
Personal Pick: Michael Tuviera, “The Janitor”

10. Best Performance of an Actor
Will Win: Arnold Reyes and Oliver Aquino, “Kasal”
Could Win: Dennis Trillo, “The Janitor”, Robert Arevalo, “Hari ng Tondo”
Personal Pick: Arnold Reyes, “Kasal”

11. Best Performance of an Actress
Will Win: Nora Aunor, “Hustisya”
Could Win: Aiko Melendez, “Asintado”
Personal Pick: Nora Aunor, “Hustisya”

12. Special Jury Prize
Will Win: “Hari ng Tondo”
Could Win:  “Kasal”, “Hustisya”
Personal Pick: “The Janitor”

13. Best Film
Will Win: “The Janitor”
Could Win: “Hari ng Tondo”
Personal Pick: “Hari ng Tondo”

You can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 5   2 comments

And we’ve finally reached the end. After almost a week of being in CCP, I’ve finally managed to see all 15 films in competition this year both in the New Breed and Director’s Showcase category. As a reminder, here are the four earlier parts of my Cinemalaya coverage:  Part 1 (which has Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina”), Part 2 (covering Francis Pasion’s “Bwaya“, Gino M. Santos’ “#Y“, and GB Sampedro’s “S6parados”), Part 3 (includes Ida Anita del Mundo’s “K’na the Dreamweaver“, Joselito Altarejos’ “Kasal“, and Louie Ignacio’s “Asintado”), and Part 4 (which is composed of Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya“, Michael Tuviera’s “The Janitor“, and Derick Cabrido’s “Children’s Show“). As for the last three films of the fest…

Ronda

RONDA
Director: Nick Olanka
Cast: Aiai delas Alas, Carlos Morales, Carlo Aquino, Perla Bautista, Julian Trono
Competition: New Breed

Ronda follows a typical work night for policewoman Paloma Arroyo (Aiai delas Alas) and her partner as they catch thieves and arrest minor prostitutes while going around the metro. The only difference is that her son, Leo, has been missing for days now after telling that he’ll do a school project with one of his classmates.

The film opens with a long continuous shot of a roaming police car getting in and out of random streets maybe to further highlight what’s it like to be in Arroyo’s day work. This seemed like a really long set up for something but there really isn’t anything to look forward to. In between these, we encounter some interesting breaks such as Carlo Aquino’s thief role, Angeli Bayani’s nagging persistent reporter, and Bernardo Bernardo’s pimp to minors, but then again, they’re just that. They’re breaks in between something which wasn’t totally established. Then we’re reminded again that Arroyo still has to look for her son. And that she cares, but no establishment of such has been made for a compelling side story. In the end, when the film finally decided to move the story forward, it suddenly stopped. Whether these two stories are related nor if they’re bound to be connected in the first place, I really have no idea which leads me to believe that the film would have benefited from a balance of some sort in order to either make the first part more solid or the latter part more memorable — neither of which the film achieved to do. I get it though that one of the film’s selling points is Aiai delas Alas’ serious acting, which she really nailed here especially in the last part.  But I think her countless Maalaala Mo Kaya drama episodes have already proven that, so I wasn’t really “shattered” per se by her more serious approach here (which was really subdued). If anything, my main consolation with it were the shots of Manila’s arresting visuals at night that showed the gritty and raw side and it takes a pro to showcase such.

2/5

Hari ng Tondo

HARI NG TONDO
Director: Carlos Siguion Reyna
Cast: Robert Arevalo, Cris Villonco, Rez Cortez, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Aiza Seguerra, Ciara Sotto
Competition: Directors Showcase

When wealthy man Ricardo Villena (Robert Arevalo) was informed that he’s close to bankruptcy, he decided to go back to his roots and take his runaway bride niece Anna (Cris Villonco) and college drop out nephew Ricky (Rafa Siguion-Reyna) to Tondo to learn how to grow a pair of balls, even if it’s against his offspring’s consent.

Movies nowadays rely on the flashy visuals or twist-y storytelling in order to ensure that they’d be spared from “copycat” or “same old same old” comments. But what’s faulty in that equation is that it doesn’t really need those as long as you’re aware of the limits of your material. That’s probably the biggest asset of Carlos Siguion Reyna’s comeback film Hari ng Tondo. The film, which even borders on too staged at times, doesn’t attempt to be a deeper, more cathartic version of anything. Its approach was direct to the point, and it effectively worked. Sure there are cliches here and there, and the film can’t help itself but to be too much of a Glee episode (during its peak) at times, but these things fit the material and what you get is an earnest depiction of its situations. This is a film that can be picked and tortured to pieces, but how it prevented such is by attempting to be heartfelt and genuine. I can’t help but somehow mirror the situation of Ricardo to the overall appeal of the film. Both the lead character and Siguion-Reyna tried to take a risk by going back to an old route that might or might not work, and the end result just speaks for itself. This is a crowd pleasing film whose cheesy approach will appeal aims to both serious critics and casual movie goers. The ensemble was commendable, and the songs here were really catchy. Dare I say, that by far, the local feel good film of the year.

3.5/5

Sundalong Kanin

SUNDALONG KANIN
Director: Janice O’Hara
Cast: Marc Abaya, Enzo Pineda, Isaac Aguirre, Elijah Canlas, Akira Morishita, Angelo Martinez, Nathaniel Britt
Competition: New Breed

Set in the 40s before the Japanese conquered the country, Sundalong Kanin is about four young lads who all wanted to be a solider when they grow up. The said invasion left an impact on the thinking process of the children when they learned what a soldier really is about.

Indeed, save the best for last. My last film from this year’s competition turned out to be the surprise I’m waiting for. Every year, I wait for that one breakout hit that will just sweep me off my feet like that of last year’s Transit and Purok 7. And I should have already seen it coming that it will be a film that has children on the forefront. Sundalong Kanin is one of the lesser buzzed entries in the film fest, as it has no big stars in it nor the “cool” image some entries had. But what it has up its sleeve is a heartbreaking coming of age tale of what happens when you’re confronted by your dreams at an early stage in your life. Director Janice O’Hara’s approach of opening the film in a somewhat comedic manner before seamlessly shifting to serious made the whole transition more effective. When children are already awaken of the actual concept of the one thing they have wanted, it becomes a battle of reality versus expectation. The film is aware enough to highlight the difference between such and the conflict and impact it leaves to these children. What’s more fantastic about the movie is despite running on a limited budget, none of it looked cheap. The four children ensemble also didn’t disappoint with all of them getting their own moments. Sundalong Kanin is one of the festival’s best entries, and the good word it has received by far is really well deserved.

4.5/5

And that’s it for Cinemalaya X. Whew I finished it earlier than expected. Dagitab and Sundalong Kanin were my favorites from this year with #Y, Mariquina, and Hari ng Tondo as the other solid entries. Both Children’s Show and 1st Ko Si 3rd were good as well. The rest ranged from good but flawed to outright horrible. On Sunday, I will be posting a complete recap of this year’s films including my rankings, picks, and predictions on who’ll end up winning at the awards ceremony.

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 4   7 comments

You’re still reading Tit for Tat’s Cinemalaya X coverage, and we’re now on the fourth of our short review capsules. As a reminder, you can check the my three previous posts with  Part 1 covering Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina”, Part 2 Francis Pasion’s “Bwaya“, Gino M. Santos’ “#Y“, and GB Sampedro’s “S6parados”, and Part 3 which has Ida Anita del Mundo’s “K’na the Dreamweaver“, Joselito Altarejos’ “Kasal“, and Louie Ignacio’s “Asintado.” Now let’s add three more films in the list.

Hustisya

HUSTISYA
Director: Joel Lamangan
Cast: Nora Aunor, Rocco Nacino, Sunshine Dizon, Rosanna Roces
Competition: Directors Showcase

Biring (Nora Aunor) has worked for a long time now as Vivian’s (Rosanna Roces) right-hand assistant. The former usually takes care of delivering messages and money that they earn from their human trafficking business. But after an incident in which Vivian frames up Biring, they’re all by themselves at that point.

Hustisya starts strong in which we follow a day in the life of Biring as she does her usual businesses. She switches and delivers money to church officials, politicians, other businessman, and in the middle of it, throws money in the air on top of the Manila City Hall Clock Tower. But it is the supposed game-changing incident of frame up when the film just rolled downhill. At this point, it’s now a parade of the usual Lamangan schtick which probably is his vision of a political statement. He doesn’t dip so much into these so called issues but instead, stays content with just enumerating them. And that’s what he has been doing for the past few years with his foray into such. I don’t doubt that Lamangan can pull off these political statement films (I’m a big fan of 2001’s Hubog as for starters), but Hustisya falls into this lazy OMG-important angle which was the same template as in Dukot… and Sigwa… and Patikul… and Lihis… and even Burgos. The thing that makes Hustisya further down the drain is that there’s a scene in the near end where Biring is walking and hallucinating into a random Manila alley seeing all these “things wrong with out society” and by that time, the last thing we needed is another in your face reminder of such. Nora Aunor is always dependable though, and she knows how to make fun of this role. You can see her totally committed but has a grasp of when to make things light as the situation calls for such. It doesn’t hold a candle to any of the previous Lamangan/Aunor collaborations, and it’s probably her weakest since her 2012 comeback. That said, the less said about the film overall, the better.

2/5

The Janitor

THE JANITOR
Director: Michael Tuviera
Cast: Dennis Trillo, Richard Gomez, Ricky Davao, Derek Ramsay
Competition: Directors Showcase

The Janitor is based from the infamous 2008 RCBC bank robbery that happened in Cabuyao, Laguna which claimed the lives of 10 victims. In the film, Crisanto (Dennis Trillo) was a suspended policeman tasked to be a hitman and eliminate the people responsible for the said bank incident.

For the most part, The Janitor is really entertaining as its approach to the retelling of the incident is straight to the point. But then again, straight to the point can be too straight to the point that it now borders on formulaic. And that’s how the first 3/4 of the film ended up. The format goes something like “torture the lookout”, “let him speak another name”, “hitman goes for that name.” Lather, rinse, repeat. It is undeniably entertaining but can easily get tiring. In between, we witness Crisanto’s domestic problems with his pregnant wife, his non-believer father, and his disabled mother. Once again, lather, rinse, repeat. The film tried to pull off a shift in its storytelling by the last act, and while it indeed changed the monotonous approach of the film, it wasn’t really successful as well in achieving the same impact. There were clearly some notice-able goofs between the film’s concept of day and night with two scenes suddenly changing time frame in a snap, and  that can be really bothering. Other than that, Dennis Trillo is a hoot in this role and made me remember how versatile he is as an actor. It’s probably his best Cinemalaya effort yet among his three films in this festival’s history (2009’s Astig and 2012’s Ang Katiwala). I would have love to see more of his interaction with Derek Ramsay, as I felt their moments were too abrupt given how much they play off each other’s strengths. While one can’t help but wish that the film’s approach wasn’t totally by the numbers, it’s hard to deny that the film itself is really entertaining, and the potential for thrilling action films to come back is really present.

3/5

Children's Show

CHILDREN’S SHOW
Director: Derick Cabrido
Cast: Buboy Villar, Miggs Cuaderno, Gloria Sevilla, Allen Dizon, Nathan Lopez
Competition: New Breed

Inspired by true events, the film focused on brothers Jun (Buboy Villar) and Al (Miggs Cuaderno) who in between pedicab driving earn money by participating in an underground wrestling for teenagers ran by a syndicate. The film focused on how they both try to survive with their grandmother a midst the harsh realities of their poverty stricken life.

As early as the breakthrough of independent film by the mid-aughts, poverty porn is one of those recurring themes. And I know that most of you are gonna go like “WHY. POVERTY.PORN. AGAIN. UGH”, but Children’s Show isn’t really all that. If anything, it flips the usual schtick and injects with it something optimistic and new. The film itself tends to overdo the drama with the situations these brothers are dealing, but it doesn’t forget to counter the despair with the comedic elements (both intentional and otherwise). The movie gives a feel of “the little movie that could”, and it indeed does. The way the film goes back and forth to hopeful and depressing is mostly smooth, and its intensity really crosses the brink and just a little bit beyond. There’s a certain amount of rawness with the two lead actors’ deliveries that make it more affecting than expected, and it just pulls you in. The rest of the ensemble is great as well, and the cinematography is top notch here. I really like the color palette used in the film specifically the underground boxing place and the whole squatters area which reeked of dirty and gritty (and reminded me of Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty music video (I know it’s terrible and I’m sorry but I can’t help insert this. Lol)). If anything, I’m a bit half baked on the slow mo too polished fight scenes. On one hand, it’s really a cool moment for the film, but on the other, I really don’t think its needed anymore. Six days in the fest, and I’m really waiting for a surprise from this year’s batch that’s devoid the hype, and this is certainly one of those.

3.5/5

Last three films (finally whew!) to be posted on Saturday morning before malls open so you’d have a complete guide on what to watch and what to skip if you’re running low on time and/or budget. 😉

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 3   5 comments

It’s only Wednesday, but I still haven’t caught much sleep from the continuous back and forth travels to CCP since Saturday for the 10th Cinemalaya Indepedent Film Festival. After sharing to you my thoughts on Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina” which you can see here and the one covering Francis Pasion’s “Bwaya“, Gino M. Santos’ “#Y“, and GB Sampedro’s “S6parados” which you can read here, it’s time to add three more films on the list: one New Breed and two Directors Showcase entries.

K'Na

K’NA THE DREAMWEAVER
Director: Ida Anita del Mundo
Cast: Mara Lopez, RK Bagatsing, Alex Medina, Erlinda Villalobos, Bembol Roco, Nonie Buencamino
Competition: New Breed

Young T’boli woman K’Na (Mara Lopez) was poised to be the answer to the warring clans of her village by being anointed to “weave” the patches between the two camps. In the process, she must sacrifice her true love to be the heroine of her people.

I guess it is best to begin my thoughts by praising how the entire cast learned T’boli language and how the whole film used such. It is very refreshing to the ears to hear a whole complete film spoken in T’boli which further exemplifies the rich culture that our country has. The movie’s also really pretty to look at giving this epic scope like feels even if there were a few goofs in it (most notably, there’s a scene where they’re supposed to be rowing in the middle of the waters and the two boaters keep on paddling but it’s obvious that they’re just on the same place). Upon thinking, the “dreamweaver” tag connected to K’na is both literal and figurative. Weaving is a part of the T’boli culture, but then the weaving can also mean of the ending of the village clan wars. If anything, I wish they’d focused more on the T’boli culture rather than the romance. There’s nothing wrong per se about the tale of romance featured in the movie, but it would have ended up with a different effect had it tried to do other instead. I really commend how Mara Lopez continues to choose projects that fits her like a glove. She certainly has this innocent yet mysterious presence that is arresting, and that suits her strengths. I guess  K’Na sits right in the middle of the fest for me. It’s definitely not a clunker nor it’s one of the real breakouts of this season. That said, I’m eager to see what Ida Anita del Mundo does after this.

2.5/5

Kasal

KASAL
Director: Joselito Altarejos
Cast: Arnold Reyes, Oliver Aquino, Rita Avila, Ruby Ruiz, Maureen Mauricio
Competition: Directors Showcase

Director Paolo (Oliver Aquino) and lawyer Sherwin (Arnold Cruz) play a gay couple whose already cracked relationship was put to the test once again when they attended Sherwin’s sister’s wedding in Batangas. In here, they were reminded of the reality of where gay people place in our ever so conservative society.

When you think about it, Kasal‘s premise lives in the harsher reality that a wedding, of all possible events, will further test the relationship of a gay couple when they’re deprived of such in their own country. Where the film completely succeeds is its sincerity in depicting such. I could have lived without the unnecessary additional statements (that of indies and commercial filmmaking as for starters), but when the film shifts back its focus to its main message, it delivers. I’ve noticed that director Joselito Altarejos tends to prolong most of his scenes , and while most parts of it worked and lingered (the initial romance scene, the whole wedding preparations), there were others that didn’t (the initial scene, the stopover fight). A material like this one needs actors who are willing to show off themselves, and I’m not solely referring to the physical demands of the roles. Arnold Reyes is a topnotch here. His role as the closeted of the two as he was put into a really uncomfortable position during their whole visit to his family is just remarkable. I’m quite bothered by Oliver Aquino’s line delivery since it seems like he struggles with this long take approach and couldn’t keep his momentum during their confrontations, but I’d give him props since they share some real passionate chemistry and you could at least see him trying. While Kasal is far from perfect, there is a level of honesty it earns with its attempt, and that’s enough to recognize the overall effort.

3/5

Asintado

ASINTADO
Director: Luisito Ignacio
Cast: Aiko Melendez, Jake Vargas, Miggs Cuaderno, Gabby Eigenmann, Rochelle Pangilinan
Competition: Directors Showcase

In the middle of the preparation for the annual Taong Putik Festival, young lad Tonio (Jake Vargas), considered as literally the brightest kid in their place, was offered to be an unintentional drug courier of the village chairman Carias (Gabby Eigenmann). When one of his deliveries went awry, his mother Julia (Aiko Melendez) steps up to fix things right.

Remember when I told you about Mariquina being a rare case of a good melodrama? Now I guess it’s time to show you what a bad melodrama is. In Louie Ignacio’s first film since 2005’s Lovestruck, his foray into the indie film making is really spotty to say the least. Asintado seems like a late entry from Ignacio to join the poverty porn bordering on social commentary bandwagon that has already gotten old many years ago. Much of it feels contrived and tries way too hard to be taken seriously whether it’s the darker complexion of the characters, their appear one time slash disappear another accents, the situations of the characters up to the pivotal resolution part. There’s also a disconnect between the intended reaction of the people involved from the actual reaction of the people watching. Punchlines fell flat and those obvious attempts at comedic effect failed while serious breakdown moments elicited loud laughter from the crowd. Maybe it’s because of the film’s sudden tonal shifts that really doesn’t sync. It’s really hard to sympathize with Tonio too since he’s one disaster after the other. Is the character even worth redeeming for? I don’t think so. The only good thing worth mentioning here is that Miggs Cuaderno continues to deliver fine work regardless of the material. Last year, he was in two of the better films of the festival (Purok 7 and Quick Change). This year, the first I’ve seen of his works is a bad one, but he manages to rise out of it (I mean he’s better than the whole cast of s6parados combined). Asintado just feels outdated and the problem is I can’t even pinpoint a “time” when this stuff actually fits.

1.5/5

Nine down, six more to go. I understand that it’s taking me quite some time to finish this because I’ve also been watching a lot from the Retrospective showings and most of those are one time screenings. But the next batch will have four films in it on Friday morning. 🙂

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 2   5 comments

Still celebrating the first decade of Cinemalaya Indepedent Film Festival this week, Tit for Tat continues its rundown of the 15 films participating this year both in New Breed and Director’s Showcase. We began with Part 1 yesterday which turned out to be a good batch of starting films which include Real Florido’s “1st Ko si 3rd“, Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Dagitab“, and Milo Sogueco’s “Mariquina“. Today, we add three more films (all part of the New Breed category) in the mix.

Bwaya

BWAYA
Director: Francis Xavier Pasion
Cast: Angeli Bayani, Karl Medina, RS Francisco,
Competition: New Breed

Based on a 2009 incident in Agusan del Sur about a 12-year old girl who was attacked by a crocodile the day after her birthday, Bwaya remained as truthful as possible in keeping the details of the incident intact. The film focused on the span of ta few days from victim Rowena’s birthday up until the searching and aftermath of the incident.

No doubt about it, the story is affecting and probably one of too good to pass up stories to tell especially in the big screen. It was a larger than life incident that left an impact to everyone who heard about it. That said, I’m really not entirely sold with some of the approach used in it. In Pasion’s previous Cinemalaya entry Jay, the use of a documentary/mockumentary treatment was fitting to know the characters deeper. In here though, I find the actual interviews to the real parents a bit odd and out of place. Every now and then, we’ll hear some commentary from the parents of Rowena and I felt that they were unnecessary, since the writing has already done an effective job in narrating the story. The parallelism of the water crocodiles to the land predators weren’t as effective as well with the use of a red herring that didn’t really work out. However, what faults I find in its approach were almost made up by the fantastic visual scenes in the film. Those wide aerial shots of the rivers and the boats are just breathtaking to see, and given the difficulties and circumstances of shooting there, it was really impressive. Angeli Bayani continues her streak of great performances; her portrayal of Divina is both heartbreaking and vulnerable. And her commitment to the role is really astounding as she shifts from calm and quiet to shout-y and big in a snap. Overall, Bwaya for the most part is moving, even if I obviously had some issues with it.

3/5

Hashtag Y

#Y
Director: Gino M. Santos
Cast: Elmo Magalona, Coleen Garcia, Sophie Albert, Kit Thompson, Slater Young
Competition: New Breed

As Miles’ (Elmo Magalona) attempt of suicide failed, we then follow the lives of four friends from the millennial generation in their adventures which also served as a commentary to what it;s like to be a part of Y generation.

Some parts comedic, some parts dramatic, but definitely cathartic, director Gino M. Santos clearly has a vision of what this film wants to achieve. His humor in dealing what is a sensitive topic for most, reminded me of a crossbreed between Alexander Payne in Election and Wes Anderson in Royal Tenenbaums, is one of the film’s strengths. While one can easily accuse him of having style over substance, I’ve felt that the energy he has shown in his first feature The Animals (a 2012 Cinemalaya entry in the New Breed too) is now more contained this time around, and it compliments the tone of the film. The social commentary isn’t preachy as well, nor is it totally alienating despite probably going inside the theater thinking that it will solely cater to the millennials. And hand it to his mostly newbie cast to deliver. He did it with Albie Casino, Patrick Sugui, and Dawn Jimenez (Dawn Balagot back then) in The Animals, and he does the same in his quartet of actors here. Kit Thompson was ever so playful as the high libido-ed Ping who jerks off his feelings literally and figuratively. Sophie Albert playing the most toned down of the four as someone who still has reservations about her virginity. Then there’s Coleen Garcia’s, who’ll probably give Emma Watson a run for her money in The Bling Ring, as Janna who says what you want to hear and moreso, what you don’t want to hear. Elmo Magalona’s Miles is the main character in it. At first, I was bothered with his narration, but then I think it suits his character. There’s a well directed car scene near the end that has the four characters in it, and what a great ensemble that was. There’s also an (intentional? unintentional?) Mean Girls homage in the film, and at that point, it’s as if I need another reason to love the film. Now after doing two features, Gino M. Santos gives an energetic boost to a mostly complacent field right now. If he somehow ends up representing this younger generation, I actually think that it is more than deserved.

4/5

s6parados

S6PARADOS
Director: GB Sampedro
Cast: Alfred Vargas, Ricky Davao, Victor Neri, Anjo Yllana, Jason Abalos, Erik Santos
Competition: New Breed

Trying for some paradigm shift here by focusing it to the guys, S6parados tells the story of six (as if it isn’t obvious enough) men who all wants to be separated from something. Victor Neri is separating from his wife due to sexual incompatibility, Ricky Davao ends their 26 year marriage thinking it’s now time to unleash his inner self, Jason Abalos wants to start a new life away from his drug addicted live in partner, Anjo Yllana feels trapped to his marriage as his wife wants her to stop from being a seaman, Erik Santos is a battered husband to his over paranoid wife, and Alfred Vargas wants to free himself from his over religious wife.

At this point, I’m bound to have a clunker no? Incidentally, it happened in my sixth film for this year, S6parados, which gave a new meaning to the word overload. I’m pretty certain you got tired from reading the synopsis above because it’s too many stories, too little development. The thing with S6parados is that it is already outdated; there’s nothing about it that we have already seen before, probably even better versions of these stories. And one of the film’s faults is that it did not really present anything new for such “perspective.” Basically, it’s like throwing pies on a wall waiting which of them will stick.  I guess I’ll give them some props for at least even attempting to do the simultaneous multi-linear storytelling (flawlessly pulled off by Transit last year), but then again, all of it just feels contrived and forced that you wouldn’t even bother. The ensemble is probably one of the few saving grace of this film (if you can even call it as such), and even then, you know there’s only too much they can do to save this. Just think of it as a failed spin-off to Desperate Housewives. Separate Husbands perhaps?

1/5

There you have it! The reviews of the next four films will be posted on Wednesday morning. Do not forget that you can also follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

10th Cinemalaya Film Festival Review: Part 1   6 comments

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

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.

3.5/5

Dagitab

DAGITAB (SPARKS)
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.

4.5/5

Mariquina

MARIQUINA
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? 🙂

4/5

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