Cinemalaya 2016 breaks the surface

The annual Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival has created a unique niche. As it glorifies an unorthodox way of storytelling, sans the gloss of mainstream cinema, it has turned into a mecca for political, dark, artsy, edgy, and socially relevant films. Thanks to the “creative control” given to the filmmakers, which workers in mainstream cinema have not enjoyed.  

To go beyond entertaining and to encourage active and critical viewing, stimulate discussion about the topics film entries depict, the 2016 Cinemalaya was launched last week at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theatre Lobby with a promise of a bigger festival, introducing new sections and additional features.

From left: Alex Diaz, Janine Gutierrez and Benjamin Alves in Atom Magadia’s “Dagsin,” which literally means gravity 

Now on its 12th edition, the biggest gathering of independent film workers and aficionados in the country carries the theme “Break the Surface,” which marks the return of the much talked about section of the festival, the Full-Length Feature Category.

Each year, 10 finalists receive each a half a million-peso grant as seed money from Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc. for the production of the films. But last year, the festival officials announced they were postponing the competition for the full-length category, which was divided into two: the New Breed that caters to novice filmmakers; and Directors’ Showcase, which features the works of veteran film directors.

Bela Padilla in “I America” a dramedy about a complex half-Pinay, half-Caucasian lady looking for American living in Olongapo City

This year though, there will be no subcategories in the main competition. The finalists, which were announced during the awarding ceremony for Cinemalaya Shorts in 2015, received production grants of P750,000.00 each. And the nine entries (J.E. Tiglao’s Maselang Bahaghari, which is one of the Main Competition entries, dropped out of the contest last month) that will vie for the Cinemalaya Award in the main category are:  Ang Bagong Pamilya Ni Ponching by Inna Miren Salazar and Dos Ocampo, Dagsin by Atom Magadia, Hiblang Abo by Ralston Jover, I America by Ivan Andrew Payawal, Kusina by David Corpuz and Cenon Palomares, Lando at Bugoy by Vic Acedillo, Jr., Mercury Is Mine by Jason Paul Laxamana, Pamilya Ordinaryo by Eduardo Roy, Jr., and Tuos by Derick Cabrido.

Cinemalaya will also offer the following sections this year:  Festival’s Best, Asian Showcase, Documentaries, Tribute to Francis Pasion, and Cinemalaya Institute showcase.  The Cinemalaya Campus, a major component of the Festival, will be held on Aug. 9 to 10 at the CCP Little Theater.  The Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, which is considered the longest-running independent film competition of its kind in the ASEAN/Asian region, will have its 28th run during Cinemalaya.

“Tuos” tells the story of a woman (Nora Aunor) chosen to keep an age-old tradition alive must now choose between her granddaughter’s (Barbie Forteza) life and a belief that shackled her in solitary confinement

At the official launch of the annual indie film festival, Chris B. Millado, Cinemalaya festival director, said Cinemalaya would feature the participation of young celebrities as Cinemalaya Navigators They would engage the audiences in conversations about the Cinemalaya films.

Millado also added that Cinemalaya, through the Japan Foundation, would partner with Eigasai Japanese Film Festival.

Allen Dizon (left) with Camilo Apugan (right) in a scene from “Lando at Bugoy,” a film by Vic Acedillo, Jr.

“As allied festivals, Cinemalaya and Eigasai will encourage film exchange, help in the promotion of both events, and contribute to audience building and film education,” he told the press during Cinemalaya’s media launch at the CPP Main Theater Lobby.

To date, Cinemalaya has supported and promoted the production of 127 full feature independent films and 106 short films. Many of these films have won awards in local and international competitions and festivals. Through the annual festival, Cinemalaya has showcased over 1,000 works by independent filmmakers including feature films, shorts, documentaries, Filipino film classics, and art films.

Cinemalaya runs in Metro manila at its main venue on Aug. 5 to 14 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines and at satellite venues in Makati (Ayala Cinemas in Greenbelt 3 and Glorietta) Quezon City (Trinoma and UP Town Center) and in Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.  The film festival also sails to Cebu for its run in the south on Aug. 9 to 14 at Ayala Mall.

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