Arts & Leisure

CineFilipino: going beyond rom-coms

Posted on March 15, 2016

THERE’S MORE to Filipino movies than romantic comedies. Proving this is the second installment of the CineFilipino film festival -- running from March 16 to 22 at select cinemas -- where story is king and diversity rules.

“Let’s prove that Filipino movies are not just about rom-coms and that there are rom-coms that offer even greater substance than their theme song,” said film competition director Jose Javier Reyes.

He acknowledged the importance and existence of other festivals including Brillante Mendoza’s Sinag Maynila, Quezon City’s QCinema, and Cinemalaya, but he said: “There’s no competition [between the festivals]. But it only opens new doors to new voices and gives opportunities to new directors. CineFilipino is palatable to any audience... it is not insulting their intelligence.”

Unitel Productions, in partnership with the MVP Group of Companies, organizes the film festival.

“The essence of the story will always be at the core of CineFilipino, and with this year’s various categories, moviegoers are offered a more enriching experience,” said film festival director and Unitel Productions President and Group COO, Madonna Tarrayo.

The festival’s competition categories are: feature-length films; documentaries; TV series; short features, and; online and mobile content. But only the feature-length films, short features, and documentaries will be shown in cinemas with ticket priced at P180 and P100 for students. Where the rest will be shown is yet to be announced.

The participating cinemas are Gateway Cineplex, the Edsa Shangri-La Cineplex, the Greenhills Theater Mall Cinema, New Port Cinemas, Robinsons Galleria Movieworld, Robinsons Manila Movieworld, Robinsons Metro East Movieworld, and Festival Cinemas.

“[The festival hopes to have] more Lav Diaz and more Brillante [Mendoza],” said Mr. Reyes, referring to two of the countries most recognized independent film directors. “But moreover, more intelligent movies, not only in independent films, but more especially for the mainstream industry,” said Mr. Reyes, who directed the 2015 rom-com box-office hit My Bebe Love: #KiligPaMore.

He added: “Diversity is a word often used and overused, but in this case, it is most appropriate. We can see even from the trailers of the films that it is very diverse in the sense that the themes cut across an entire spectrum, from a boy undergoing the trauma of his first semester down to a lesbian tattoo artist who wants to bear a child.”

Mr. Reyes was referring to two of the nine full-length entries: 1st Sem and Ned’s Project.

Directed by Dexter Hemedez and Allan Ibanez, 1st Sem is about the love-hate relationship between a mother (Lotlot de Leon) and her son, who suffers from #sepanx (separation anxiety) a day after starting to pursue an education in Manila. He insists in studying in his hometown but his mother refuses, and their relationship soon starts to fall apart.

Ned’s Project is a story of lesbian tattoo artist (Angeli Bayani) and her dream of bearing a child. She joins a talent reality show for lesbians in the hopes of making enough money to finance the needed artificial insemination. The film’s director, Lemuel Lorca, said the story came to him over bottles of beer, when a friend confided that she wanted to have a child.

The directors, who were granted P2 million each to create their films, said the Filipinos should watch the films because the stories talk and tackle the lives of anybody who has experienced failed relationships and frustrations. Some stories also even touched the plights of the LGBT community.

The other full-length entries are:

Ang Taba ko Kasi (directed by Jason Paul Laxamana; starring Cai Cortez, Mark Neumann, and Ryan Yllana), about a fat girl who, wanting to lose weight, enrolls in a night swimming class, and finds herself even more motivated when she sees her hot instructor. Soon, she’s torn between two men: the instructor who wants her to lose weight and a plus sized friend who accepts her as she is.

The film is “a light rom-com that’s grounded on reality,” said its director, Mr. Laxamana. “I want to show a protagonist who’s not an object of ridicule. This is my story, and everybody’s. After all, we all have insecurities.”

A Lotto Like Love (directed by Carla Baful; starring Martin Escudero and Isabelle de Leon), about two people who are polar opposites but whose interests converge; thanks to lotto. Kayela (De Leon) asks a random guy, Itot (Escudero), for numbers to fill her lotto ticket -- which turns out to win the grand prize. But on their way to claim the prize, they lose the bag containing the winning ticket while avoiding thieves and must find a way to retrieve it.

Ang Tulay ng San Sebastian (directed by Alvin Yapan; starring Joem Bascon and Sandino Martin). On midnight of Good Friday, while on a provincial rode after dropping off a patient; a nurse and a driver recount ghost stories to keep themselves awake. But traditions have it that it’s bad luck to tell scary stories on a Friday because they might come true. Indeed, the two men find themselves encountering the ghost stories they just told each other. Will they be able to cross past the San Sebastian bridge in time?

Buhay Habangbuhay (directed by Paolo Alessandro Herras; starring Iza Calzado, Meryll Soriano, Ricci Chan, Jake Macapagalas, and Rocky Salumbides). When homemaker Sandy (Calzado) dies during a cooking accident, she decides to stay on Earth and dutifully wait for her husband to die so they can move on together in the afterlife. While waiting, she learns to accept her husband’s new life and new wife. But when he eventually dies, he is nowhere to be found, and it dawns on Sandy that she waited in vain. Her journey now begins as she moves on from her past life, albeit as a ghost.

Straight To the Heart (directed by Dave Fabros; starring Carl Guevarra, Gwen Zamora, Ricci Chan, Vincent de Jesus, Nico Antonio, Kiko Matos, Dina Padilla, Cris Lomotan, and Gilleth Sandico. A friendly gay hairdresser falls into a coma after a violent fight with an ex-boyfriend, and wakes up from the coma as a straight man -- an arrogant, sex-obsessed man who offends his close friends and disrespects his lesbian best friend. He and his friends then struggle to find the true meaning of love and friendship.

Star na si Van Damme Stallone (directed by Randolph Longjas; starring Candy Pangilinan, Acey Aguilar, Sarah Brackensiek, Ebong Joso, Isaac Aguirre, Paolo Pingol, and Jadford Dilianco). Based on true story about a single mom who raises a child with Down Syndrome named Van Damme Stallone. When he tells her he would like to be a TV artist, she works to fulfill her son’s dreams.

Sakaling Hindi Makarating (directed by Ice Idanan; starring Alessandra De Rossi, Pepe Herrera, Teri Malvar, JC Santos, and Karen delos Reyes). Devastated when her fiancee calls things off two months before the wedding, Cielo receives a mysterious series of handpainted postcards and sets off on a journey by land and sea to seek the writer. “Beyond the love story, it aims to show the beauty of the Philippines. Bago ibang bansa, sa atin muna (Before you travel abroad, discover the country first),” said the film’s director.

The winners will be announced at the CineFilipino’s Awards Night on March 19 at Teatrino Greenhills. -- Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman