In 2015, renowned Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza and Solar Entertainment Corporation head Wilson Tieng shared a vision to provide the brightest and most creative minds in the country the means to bring their untold stories to life. Thus was born the first Sinag Maynila Independent Film Festival.
Now on its second edition, Sinag Maynila 2016 is steadfast as ever in fulfilling its mission as it introduced to media five deserving directors whose works have been chosen for production under the festival’s grant and supervision.
They are Jay Altarejos (TPO), Adolf Alix Jr. (Mrs.), Ato Bautista (Expressway), Mes De Guzman’s (Dyamper), and Gino Santos (Lila), who in turn shared the spotlight with the cast and crew of their respective films at an official presentation at SM Aura Premier in Taguig City.
Of this year’s batch, The Manila Times singles out Altarejos and Santos for bravely departing from film genres, which have gained them a strong following in the thriving indie scene, to nurture their artistry in exploring new themes.
From gender equality to domestic violence
Despite the highly publicized accusation of neophyte actress Dalin Sarmiento against Jay Altejeros [for alleged physical abuse and slander in the workplace], the director is going ahead with showing the very movie where the entire controversy took place.
And whether or not there is truth to the actress’ complaint, there is the undeniable irony that Altejeros’ film is centered on violence against women.
As expected, the award-winning film director was mum on the issue but was generous in providing The Manila Times ample information about TPO—the movie’s title and the acronym for “temporary protection order.”
TPO follows the life of Teresa (Mara Lopez), a battered wife and mother in the hands of her husband, Miguel (Oliver Aquino). When their son Miguelito begins receiving beatings as well, Teresa is forced to seek a TPO against her husband.
Asked why he decided to tackle violence against women (VAW) for the silver screen, the director replied, “Because violence against women is very prevalent [in the country]. [Beyond this the movie] not only focuses on the abused but also the abuser, because I believe there will be no victims if there are no abusers.”
TPO officially marks Altarejos’ departure from the theme of gender equality after releasing nine films featuring gay subjects and their various realities. His last title, Kasal, competed and won Best Film at the Director’s Breed category of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in 2014.
Despite this move, Altajeros is still confident in getting the support of the LGBT community for TPO, which apparently, is the first of a trilogy on the subject of violence against women.
“What matters to me is that I am able to satisfy my craving in directing a good film, according to my standards. Winning—as cliché as it may sound—is just a bonus,” he added.
Besides participating in Sinag Maynila, Altarejos is busy directing a movie for Taiwanese producers who sought him after being impressed with Kasal.
From youth-oriented to horror-thriller
At 26-years old, director Gino Santos believes that he should already begin evolving as a filmmaker.
Thus, even as observers may opine he should meg a few more youth-oriented films and add on to his successful outings in The Animals (2012), Island Dreams (2013), and #Y (2015), he has dared to cross-over to the horror genre for Sinag Maynila 2016 with Lila.
“Lila became a challenge for me because I had never done a full-length horror before. But as a director, I have to evolve and graduate from one genre to another. I don’t want to be boxed in,” he told The Manila Times.
The film stars Janine Gutierrez as Jess, the protagonist who runs away from her past and moves into a new house. There she finds an old diary, whose writings become real. Starring opposite Gutierrez is Enchong Dee.
Filming Lila—which was originally a school project back in college—is a dream come true for Santos, just as being selected for Sinag Maynila.
“I interned for director Brillante’s film Captive in 2012. I was his PA [personal assistant]and I was the one who brought food to Angel Aquino [the movie’s lead actress]. So pretty much, you can see that I started from the bottom and worked my way up. I started with Direk Brillante and learned a lot from him. Now, I get to use all that in his festival which he founded, and I have him as producer of my film,” enthused the young director.
Asked how he feels to be in a select circle of some of the country’s most veteran indie filmmakers for Sinag Maynila 2016, Santos replied, “Nagugulat ako at pressured syempre. These guys have been to all of the festivals that I haven’t been to, and it’s an honor to be here with them today.”
Nothing less can be expected from the three other directors competing in Sinag Maynila, with their action and drama entries.
Mes De Guzman’s Dyamper is interesting story about three friends who would wait along Dalton Pass at the crack of dawn so they could jump into the back of delivery trucks, steal some goods, and sell them at a wet market to survive.
When one of them accidentally nicks a pack of drugs from a van, the trio of friends find themselves in a dangerous chase with the owners. The film stars Carlo Aquino, Alchris Galura and Tim Mabalot.
Ato Bautista, on the other hand, is showcasing a film noir in Expressway starring Aljur Abrenica and Alvin Anson. The movie tells the story of an old-timer syndicate named Ben (Anson) who has one last assignment left before he can go into his much delayed retirement. While on the mission, he finds himself working with neophyte Morris (Abrenica), who turns out to be a trigger-happy sadist.
Finally, the lives of two women intertwine in Mrs. by Adolf Alix Jr. Seventy-year-old Virginia, portrayed by Elizabeth Oropesa, is the keeper of the family’s ancestral house, with her companion Delia, an ever loyal maid played by Lotlot de Leon. While Virginia is still haunted by the disappearance of his son, fate suddenly gives Delia a boyfriend and the possibility of a new life.
All five titles will be shown at the 2nd Sinag Maynila run from April 21 to 26.