By: Mabel Villanueva
The Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will be having its first hybrid setup as it gears up for an online and outdoor cinema screening experience this coming August 6 to September 5. With the theme “navigating currents”, the festival is looking to ride the “social currents” as it ventures towards new platforms on its 17th year featuring 13 short films competing for the Balanghai trophies.
One of the finalists is An Sadit na Planeta by Arjanmar Rebeta, which follows the story of a young man who wakes up alone on a small planet. Meanwhile, Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-Asa at Panlasa by Kevin Jay Ayson is a documentary on the quest of finding “pagkaing Iloco” or Ilocano cuisine during the pandemic.
There are also films about the elderly and aging like Shirl De Leon’s Ang Pagdadalaga Ni Lola Mayumi which follows a virginal old woman who hires a callboy to change her perspective about men, while Ate O.G. by Kevin Mayuga talks about a struggling, aging house helper who’s stuck with her two teenage employers in the middle of the lockdown.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are films about youth and coming of age like Alphie Velasco’s Kawatan sa Ilog about a mischievous child who learns the value of time and life as he finds his way back home to his father, and Kyle Nieva’s Kids on Fire which tells the story of a prepubescent boy who becomes confused between divine calling and his emerging sexuality during a religious camp.
The festival also features films that explores inner struggles such as Myra Aquino’s Beauty Queen which follows a young woman trying to find herself after losing her father during World War II. Meanwhile, a desperate security guard turned robber is forced to choose whether he should become a hero to his victims or fall victim to a robbery himself in Crossing by Marc Misa.
The lineup also features shorts with fantastical elements like Looking For Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things by James Fajardo which narrates how a tikbalang transforms into a teenage boy to disprove the rumor that horse demons are killing civilians in the mountain. Another is Che Tagyamon and Glenn Barit’s Maski Papano where a disposed facemask turns into a humanoid and starts to look for its previous owner.
Other films include Enrico Po’s Out of Body which takes the audience to a macabre commercial shoot with a young model; David Olson’s The Dust in Your Place which puts career and friendship on the line when a comic strip artist tells her writer the truth about his relationships; and Jonnie Lyn P. Dasalla’s Namnama En Lolang which finds a grandmother and her baby grandson facing the harsh reality of the pandemic together.
The films will be screened at KTX.ph, with curated films being available for viewing at Vimeo and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Facebook page. Aside from online streaming, viewers will also be able to watch the films in “Cinema Under the Stars”, a hybrid drive-in cinema which will be open on the grounds of the CCP at Liwasang Ullalim, where everyone is welcome to watch whether they’re in vehicles or just out for a stroll (following health and safety measures, of course).
Meanwhile, Cinemalaya’s central mainstays remain such as the Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, Visions of Asia, IndieNation, and its other components such as the Cinemalaya Retrospectives and Cinemalaya Campus, among others. In addition, the film festival will also pay tribute to the main contributors of the Philippine film industry, including director Mel Chionglo, former head of the Cinemalaya Competition and Monitoring Committee with the screenings of three of his best films.
Now on its 17th year, Cinemalaya continues to be a the forefront of the independent filmmaking in the country and pursuing its mission to encourage the creation of films by Filipino filmmakers. Aside from its annual film festival, the selection committee also created the Cinemalaya Film Lab for its 2023 edition after noticing the need to unearth new cinematic voices and develop a growing audience for independent cinema. This three-month-long film-laboratory mentorship program will be happening on September to November 2021.