“In other countries, they have four seasons. In this part of the globe, we have two: the dry season and the Cinemalaya season.”
This was how Cultural Center of the Philippines Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado enthusiastically described Cinemalaya, the forerunner of independent film festivals in the country, whose annual launch usually takes place during the Philippines’ annual bout with rains, strong winds, typhoons and flash floods.
Now on its 12th edition, indie cinephiles may think that the Cinemalaya is all out of cards with which to entice new audiences and encourage old-timers, but its organizers think otherwise.
Of course, the main attraction continues to be the competing movies made by talented and passionate artists of the country—the reason behind Cinemalaya’s renown.
Bouncing back from 2015’s surprising break from the full-length film competition, 2016’s line-up boasts of a complete genre of comedy, drama, romance, suspense, action, and fantasy. According to Millado, this is also the case for the short feature category.
Making the finalists’ circle for full length films are: Inna Salazar Acuna and Dos Ocampo’s Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching, a tale of a naïve and religious text scammer who accidentally cons a rich family into thinking he is their late relative’s estranged son; Atom Magadia’s Dagsin, the story of a venerated atheist judge who slowly yearns to believe in after life to meet his late wife; Ralston Jover’s Hiblang Abo, a story on the struggles of four men in their twilight years, confined in the home for the aged; Ivan Andrew Payawal’s I America, a dramedy about the struggle of a half-American and half-Pinay in acquiring her passport and US Visa so she can meet her father in America for the first time; and David Corpuz and Cenon Palomares’ Kusina, the story of Juanita who made the kitchen her sanctuary from birth till death.
Also in competition in this category are Vic Acedillo Jr.’s Lando at Bugoy, a drama on a 40-year old high school dropout who tries to regains his teenage son’s respect by returning to school; Jason Paul Laxamana’s Mercury is Mine, which follows the owner of a failing eatery and a young white American man who suddenly approaches her for work; Eduardo Roy Jr.’s Pamilya Ordinaryo, a portrait of a young family who lives on their in the chaotic streets of Manila; and Roderick Dela Cruz Cabrido’s Tuos, a tale of a woman who must choose which among her granddaughter and her village’s tradition must she keep alive.
The feature category, on the other hand, has 10 movies in its lineup including Rommel Tolentino’s Ang Hapon Ni Nanding; Jose Ibarra Guballa’s Ang Maangas, Ang Marikit at Ang Makata; Noah Del Rosario’s Bugtaw; Richard Cawed’s Butas; Mon A.L. Garilao’s Fish Out of Water; Cyrus Valdez’s Forever Natin; Isaias Herrera Zantua’s Get Certified; Ogos Aznar’s Mansyong Papel; John Relano, Patrick Baleros and Luis Hidalgo’s Nakauwi Na; and Isabel Quesada’s Pektus.
While the above films are the main offerings of Cinemalaya, Millado said they have more come-ons up their sleeve.
“At this year’s Cinemalaya, you can attend two festivals in one, with Eiga Sai films screening for free at the festival,” Millado informed.
With the theme, “Breaking Surface,” Cinemalaya has partnered with the five-year-old Eiga Sai Film Festival to bring two award-winning Japanese films, Ken and Kazu by Hiroshi Shoji and August in Tokyo by Ryutaro Nakagawa.
Adding flair to this year’s festival is the Asian Showcase which will feature highly regarded films from India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Krygyzstan, Turkey and China.
There is also a tribute to Francis Pasion, the late Cinemalaya director who passed away in March. His winning entries to the competition—Bwaya, Jay, and Sampagita—will be shown during the festival’s run.
Yet another reason to catch Cinemalaya is the Special Screenings section, which will feature 2016 Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear winner Lav Diaz and Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Jaclyn Jose.
The audience can experience the works of Lav, either sitting through the eight-hour marathon screening of Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, or the 16-minute bliss of the film, Ang Araw Bago ang Wakas. Similarly, they can see for themselves why people are raving about Jaclyn with the screening of her movies Itanong Nyo sa Buwan and Private Show.
Not only that, Millado has also revealed the innovations in this year’s edition: a “green carpet” screening of the biking advocacy film Lakbay to Love at the CCP front lawn; and Cinemalaya Campus with young celebrity navigators.
“This is an innovation, which we hope will bring in young audiences for film appreciation. Two young actors will be present in selected screenings and will be practically mediating for young audiences,” Millado said, giving details of Cinemalaya Campus.
But perhaps the biggest announcement came when Millado shared that they are expanding the festival’s reach. Besides showings at the CCP, Cinemalaya will also be screened in Glorietta, Trinoma, Fairview Terraces, UP Town Center, Solenad in Nuvali, and—for the first time—Ayala Center Cebu.
“We hope to keep expanding in the coming years. Hopefully by 2019, we will be at least in 10 major cities in the Philippines,” Millado finally noted.
To date, Cinemalaya has co-produced 110 full-length feature films and exhibited more than 1,200 independent films. It has also attracted more 600,000 audiences during its two-week festival runs at CCP and Ayala Cinemas alone. These numbers are sure to rise what with a bevy of new features for 2016.
Cinemalaya will run from August 5 to 14 at CCP and partnered venues in Luzon, and from August 9 to 14 in Cebu.