In today’s cinematic landscape of romantic comedies, horror flicks and dramatic pictures, one genre seems to have been overlooked: children’s films. Lesser movies seem to be made for the education, development and entertainment of kids.
Enter Spears Films, the production arm of Spears Activation and PR, that puts children’s films in the spotlight with “Children of the River,” one of the competing full-length features at the 15th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
Written and directed by Maricel Cariaga (ToFarm film “Pitong Kabang Palay” and the Sinag Maynila 2017 Best Documentary “Journeyman Finds Home: The Simone Rota Story”), “Children of the River”tells the story of young Elias whose life becomes more exciting when a certain Ted vacations in their provincial town. Together with his three best friends, their eagerness turns into dread when they receive news about their soldier fathers who are all stationed in Mindanao.
Cinemalaya 2017 Best Actor Noel Comia, Jr., who plays Elias, headlines the cast composed of Juancho Triviño as Ted; Rich Asuncion as Elias’ mom, Elvy; with Ricky Oriarte, Dave Justine Francis, Junyka Santarin and JR Custodio. Award-winning actor Jay Manalo plays a very special role.
Maricel reveals that Marawi siege in 2017 inspired her to do “Children of the River.”
“But instead of writing about soldiers and their battles, I went ahead and wrote about the stories of their families. When your family member is fighting in a war and you know that any time, you may get a call that something has happened to your loved one, how do you live your life? How can you manage to live everyday knowing your loved one may die any time?” Maricel noted.
“So, Children of the River is a story of four friends trying to live a normal life while battling their own demons and while their fathers are fighting in a pointless war.”
“Children of the River” is the fifth children’s film from Spears Films’ executive producer Albert Almendralejo. His advocacy began in 2009 with “Bakal Boys” (“Children Metal Drivers)”, a heart-tugging docu-drama about kids who scavenge for scraps. Bakal Boys reaped acclaim in various local and international film fests; it also won the Netpac Prize at the 2009 Cinemalaya.
The production outfit would make three more after that: “Little Azkals,” a documentary on young Filipino footballers who trained in UK; “Tumbang Preso,”a thriller on human trafficking through teenage labor; and “Journeyman Finds Home,” a documentary following Azkals football player Simone Rota’s search for his biological mother.
“These are films about young people and how to improve their well being,” remarks Albert. While he also desires to produce other genres (Spears Films is one of the producers of another Cinemalaya film, the sexy romance “Malamaya”), Albert will always strive to create material for and about children.