MIKHAIL RED’S “coming-of-age thriller” Birdshot opened the 13th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival at the “peak of the southwest monsoon and unpredictable weather,” as Cinemalaya Foundation Chair Laurice Guillen said in her speech during the festival’s opening rites at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on Aug. 4. Birdshot won Best Picture in the Asian Future category of the Tokyo International Film Festival last year.

Cinemalaya, which was established in 2005, aims to “discover, encourage and honor cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers,” according to cinemalaya.org.

There have been a flurry of activities at the CCP since opening night leading towards the Cinemalaya Awards Night at the CCP Main Theater on Sunday, Aug. 13.

“The biggest indie film festival in the Philippines” — according to a press release from the CCP — features 12 short films and nine full-length movies, whose openings were graced by actors, actresses and other celebrities.

Emerging as a crowd favorite among the full-length films is Treb Monteras II’s Respeto (Respect), which follows an aspiring rapper who seeks the help of an older poet.

Indie film director Sigfreid Barros Sanchez (Lasponggols, Ang Mga Kidnapper ni Ronnie Lazaro) hailed Respeto for everything “solid” about it: story, acting, cinematography, editing, sound design, and scoring.

The other full-lenth movies in competition are: Zig Dulay’s Bagahe (Baggage), about how OFW women who come home pregnant are abused by their own countrymen; Joseph Israel Laban’s Baconaua, about a sleepy fishing village that wakes up to find thousands of apples on the beach after a strong squall, an indication of another invasion; Thop Nazareno’s Baguio-set Kiko Boksingero, about an orphan who aspires to become a boxer, and in the process, meets a has-been boxer who turns out to be his estranged father; Nerissa Picadizo’s Requited, about a sick motorcyclist who goes on one last adventure during which he meets a woman he desires; Iar Lionel Arondaing’s Sa Gabing Nananahimik ang mga Kuliglig (Clouds of Plague), about a priest who finds himself having to choose between the mandate of the church and his obligations as a citizen; Mes de Guzman’s Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha (The Family That Doesn’t Weep), in which Sharon Cuneta searches for “a family that doesn’t weep” who can help her reunite with a lost loved one; Perry Escano’s Ang Guro Kong ’Di Marunong Magbasa (My Teacher Who Can’t Read), which follows some schoolchildren who turn in their books for guns after the disappearance of their teacher; Sonny Calvento’s Nabubulok (Decaying), about a foreigner who takes flight when his wife goes missing.

The finalists for short feature are: Set A — Carlo Francisco Manatad’s Fatima Marie Torres and the Invasion of Space Shuttle Pinas 25, Carl Adrian Chavez’s Sorry For The Inconvenience, Jean Cheryl Tagyamon’s Lola Loleng (Grandma Loleng),

Karl Glenn Barit’s Aliens Ata (Maybe Aliens), Juan Carlo Tarobal’s Islabodan (Free Men), and E. del Mundo’s Manong ng Pa-aling (Man of Pa-Aling); and Set B — Antonne Santiago’s Juana and the Sacred Shores,

Jaime Habac, Jr’s. Maria, Arvin Belarmino and Noel Escondo’s Nakaw, P.R. Patindol’s Hilom (Still), TM Malones’ Bawod (Bent), and Marvin Cabangunay’s and Jaynus Olaivar’s Nakauwi Na (Home).

Apart from screenings at the CCP’s main theater, the films are also being shown at the Little Theater, Studio Theater, and CCP Dream Theater. The films in competition may also be viewed at selected cinemas at Greenbelt 1, Glorietta in Makati City; UP Town Center, TriNoma, and Fairview Terraces in Quezon City; and MarQuee Mall in Angeles, Pampanga.

In keeping with the theme “See the Big Picture,” Cinemalaya is also screening out-of-competition films in a number of categories at the CCP. Documentaries are being shown in “Dokyu”; the best animation features in “Animahenasyon”; independent films in “Indie Nation”; the best movies from other local film festivals in “Best of the Festivals”; award-winning Asian and NETPAC films in “Visions of Asia”; and the winning films from Cinemalaya 2016 in “Digital Classics and Retrospective.”

Meanwhile, the “longest-running independent film competition of its kind in the Asian region,” Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, showed “the best of the best, with films competing in various categories.” Pre-selected entries were screened from Aug. 5 to 7.

There were also tributes to director Gil Portes and actress Lolita Rodriguez, with several of their films screened.

On Aug. 5, 15 finalists pitched their screenplays to potential film producers and investors in the 2017 Cinemalaya-DGPI (Directors’ Guild of the Philippines, Inc.) Film Pitch. Rollin Codollo Obina won Best Pitch for his screenplay Ang Pag-Uulyanin ni Olivia Mendoza which was recently featured at the CCP’s Virgin Labfest in a staged reading. The other finalists were Cha Escala, Dennis Marasigan, Martika Ramirez Escobar, Rae Red, Pabelle Manikan, Jarell Serencio, Mikey Red, Carlo Enciso Catu, James Robin Mayo, Keith Sicat, Che Espiritu, Dexter Hemedez and Allan Ibanez, Marc Stanley Mozo, and rock musician Ely Buendia.

For more information on Cinemalaya and its films, contact the Media Arts Division at 832-1125 loc. 1705, 1712, visit www.culturalcenter.gov.ph, or follow the Cinemalaya official Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. For ticket inquiries, call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704. — Susan Claire Agbayani