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Cinemalaya is bigger at 5

By Nickie Wang/ Manila Standard Today

The much-awaited opening of the 2009 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition pushed through last July 17 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines amid the torrential rain that flooded some areas of the metro. Just like the previous editions of Cinemalaya, the filmfest furthers and highlights its hallmark: there’s a story for everyone to enjoy.

Cinemalaya Cinco, which is being tagged as the “big, small film festival”, is featuring the following sections, namely, Competition, World Premieres and NetPac films, Lino Brocka Retrospective, Kids’ Treats, Gay/Lesbian films, The City in Focus, Women in Indies, Off Center, Documentary and Ani: Best of Last Year.

The actual exhibition of competing films runs for nine days before it culminates tomorrow, which is also the day of the awarding ceremony.

“The success of Cinemalaya for the past five years would not have been possible without the unwavering support of many organizations and individuals,” said CCP president Nestor Jardin.

Cinemalaya has been a venue to innovative short and feature films for independent filmmakers and its previous editions received strong reception from the audience. Last year, almost 30,000 people went to the CCP to watch the exhibition and competing films.

“For the next 10 days, thousands of indie film enthusiasts will flock the CCP to watch 20 films with stories that are not dictated by the constraint of big [film] studios,” Jardin furthered, supporting the strong audience interest and reception gained by Cinemalaya.

The festival’s annual question that also serves as a challenge, “Anong Kwento Mo?” is answered by 10 digital films competing in the full-length category. These are 24K by Ana Agabin, Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe by Alvin B. Yapan; Astig by GB Sampedro; Colorum by Jon Steffan Ballesteros; Dinig Sana Kita by Mike E. Sandejas; Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno; Last Supper No. 3 by Veronica Velasco and Jinky Laurel; Mangatyanan by Jerrold Tarog; Nerseri by Vic Acedillo Jr.; and Sanglaan by Milo Sogueco.

Competing in the short film category are: Behind Closed Doors by Mark Philipp Espina, Blogog by Rommel “Milo” Tolentino; Bonsai by Alfonso “Borgy” K. Torre III; Hulagpos by Maita Lirra Lupac; Latus by John Paul S. Seniel; Musa by Dexter B. Cayanes; Si Bok at ang Trumpo by Hubert Tibi; Tatang by Jean Paolo “Nico” Hernandez; Ugat sa Lupa by Ariel Reyes and Wat Floor Ma’am by Mike Sandejas and Robert Seña.

The winner of the full-length feature category will receive the Cinemalaya Balanghai trophy and an additional grant of P200,000. Each full-length feature category finalist was given an initial P500,000 production grant. The winner of the short feature category will receive P100,000 and Cinemalaya Balanghai Trophy.

Film Congress

Another major event of Cinemalaya Cinco is the Cinemalaya Film Congress held at the CCP Little Theater. With the theme “Linking Digital Highways,” the Cinemalaya Film Congress aims to discover the major centers of independent filmmaking in the country.

The congress also intends to assess the artistic achievement of cinematic works produced in the last five years, to invite indie filmmakers from the different regions to speak about the state of indie filmmaking in their areas, and to establish a network of indie filmmaking centers to consolidate all efforts to create, promote and market indie films both here and abroad.

Manila in Black and White

The opening night of the 2009 Cinemalaya saw the Philippine premiere of Manila. Directed by Adolfo B. Alix Jr. and Raya Martin, it was first screened in the 62nd Festival de Cannes and the 31st Moscow International Film Festival. Co-producer and lead star Piolo Pascual presented the film and gave a short remark, which was applauded by hundreds of fans who were present at the event.

Manila pays tribute to Lino Brocka’s Jaguar (1979) and Ishmael Bernal’s Manila By Night (1980). Thus, the film is divided into two stories or parts showcasing the city’s landscape both by day and by night.

Contemporary moviegoers dislike the idea of a film being shot in black-and white. But Manila, which is shot on 16-mm black-and-white film before being transferred to 35mm, attempts to build a statement of artistic style but the issue of financial constraint is more considered because the film lacks the technical pulling power to involve the audiences.

For the first part, Piolo portrays a drug addict named William in honor of William Martinez who played the lead role in Manila By Night (but this segment depicts Manila by day). After a drug bust, he visits some of his pals who could satisfy his addiction to prohibited drugs but to no avail. While in the middle of his effort to score drugs, he tries to reconnect with his loved ones. The character is always seen running and wandering around, which is apt to describe the entire first part of the film. Most of the scenes are left suspended and lacks proper transition that guides the audience into the next scene.

The other half of the film, which is the night segment, sees Piolo as a bodyguard named Philip. The character pays homage to Philip Salvador who played the lead in Jaguar.

This second part is introduced by an opening credit that appears from nowhere. Some might think that it is still part of the first segment because of the established fact that most scenes in the first part of the movie jump into another scene without fitting transitions.

This time, however, the story is more comprehensible, it is perfectly narrated. Here, Piolo is a poor guy who works as a faithful bodyguard to a politician’s son who turns his back on him after a heated altercation. The squabble forces him to seek refuge in a mucky slum area where he meets his unfortunate end.

Both characters show how Piolo can deliver and act convincingly, but the technical part of the film does not convince the audience that Manila can make resounding critical and commercial success. In more than one occasion, the shaky hands of the cameraman in capturing simple shots tells us that this film has a lot more to work on.

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