Arts & Leisure

By Susan Claire Agbayani, Contributor

Cinemalaya: extras, children, con artists


Posted on July 30, 2013

Part 1

THE CINEMALAYA Film Festival is ongoing until Aug. 4, with screening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Cinemas 3 and 5 of Greenbelt 3 in Makati, Cinemas 1 and 2 of Trinoma in Quezon City, and Cinema 4 of Alabang Town Center in Alabang. Being shown are films in three categories: the Directors’ Showcase (featuring films by veteran directors), New Breed (for directors who have had three or less commercial films), and Shorts.

WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, we live in a world ruled by technology. Be that as it may, we hold on to old-fashioned values of unity and love in all its permutations.

The much-awaited annual Cinemalaya Film Festival opened last Friday with Baby Ruth Villarama’s full-length documentary Jazz in Love about a Filipino whose German boyfriend (whom he met through Facebook) visits his hometown in Mindanao.

In Cinemalaya’s New Breed category, the film Babagwa (Spider’s Lair) sees a young man take on a false identity on Facebook (FB) where he preys on vulnerable, lonely and well-off women and gays, convincing them to part with their hard-earned money by invoking imagined emergencies in the family -- then he blocks them on FB, gets rid of his pre-paid SIM, and starts again.

In Rekorder, another New Breed entry, director Mikhail Red shows that Big Brother has descended upon us. Through the film, he in effect tells us how the camera -- whether we like it or not -- rules our lives for better or for worse.

Interestingly enough, many Cinemalaya entries tackle the lives of children: what happens to them when a parent dies (Emmanuel Palo’s David F, Christopher Ad. Castillo’s Diplomat Hotel, both New Breed entries, and JE Tiglao’s Onang and Relyn Angkuan Tan’s Para Kay Ama, both short films); when a parent leaves for work abroad and they are left in the care of other people (Paolo O’Hara’s short The Husband’s Wife); when they are left to fend for themselves and are therefore doomed to a life of crime ( in the short films Bakaw by Ron Segismundo and Taya by Adi Bontuyan, and even Rekorder).

The short film Para Kay Ama is the story of Hannah, a Chinese-Filipina whose Chinese father dies and supposedly left everything -- including a successful business -- to her. During the funeral however, she has to face a half-brother she doesn’t know exists, for the first time.

In the funny short Pukpok, Joaquin Adrian Pantaleon, Immanuel Canicosa and Stephan Domingo take us by the hand and go through that rite of passage that practically every Filipino boy has to go through: tuli or circumcision.

And worth noting is how themes of a father’s love for his child or children are explored in films Rekorder, Transit, Nica Santiago’s short Sa Wakas, and The Houseband’s Wife, as competently portrayed by Ronnie Quizon, Ping Medina, Raul Morit and Paulo O’Hara, respectively.

Hannah Espia, who shone last year with her excellent non-linear short Ruweda, this year joins the league of New Breeds, essaying the OFW experience in Israel in Transit and showing how parents go to great lengths to keep the family together at all cost. This film is reminiscent of Julius Sotomayor’s Dayo, a Cinemalaya entry some years ago which was shot in Guam.

There are stories of courtship, love, marriage, faithfulness and infidelity such as Jerrold Tarog’s heartwarming Directors Showcase entry Sana Dati where Lovi Poe goes through a roller-coaster ride of emotions as she recalls a lost love when she meets a mysterious man on her wedding day, and what she decides on and does beyond this day.

Jeffrey Jeturian’s entry to the Directors Showcase, Ekstra -- which is about extras on a telenovela -- is reminiscent of Sigfreid Barros Sanchez’s Lasponggols (which tackled the lives of members of the film crew), and Antoinette Jadaone’s Six Degrees of Lilia Cuntapay (about the life of real-life extra Lilia Cuntapay). Interestingly enough, Jadaone is one of Ekstra’s three writers.

The film gives us a view behind the camera of a telenovela production, and shows how TV extras are commodified. But it also shows what a tight unit the extras are, and how they remain hopeful and positive in the face of life’s adversities, as noted no less than by its lead star Vilma Santos who plays one of the extras.

Film historian Teddy Co remarked that, Vilma Santos is probably the biggest star ever to grace a Cinemalaya film.

After doing the documentary-like Bahay Bata years ago, this time Eduardo Roy, Jr. makes us follow the secret lives of trannies and their addiction to cosmetic enhancements.

In it we are confronted with a number of moral dilemmas -- as what transsexual Dorina (Mimi Juareza) faces when she learns that what she has been injecting her "patients" with is not collagen after all, but something potentially harmful; when the internet scammer (Alex Vincent Medina) decides to walk away and forge a new life; and what popular news reporter Victoria Lansang (Gretchen Barreto) desperately does to get the story done, at all costs, and at the expense of her TV crew.

Not surprisingly, many of the shorts tell issue-based stories. Apart from the OFW experience, these include incest; teenage pregnancy; abortion; juvenile delinquency; involuntary disappearances of activists; profiling due to ethnicity, race or religion; and small fishermen’s decreased fish catch due to the intrusion of bigger boats, both local and foreign.

We get a history lesson through Emmanuel Palo’s David F., which focuses on obscure chapters in the country’s history that involve African-Americans and their role in our struggle for freedom. It is set at the turn of the 20th century, the Japanese Occupation, and 2013.

There are a number of must-see films in the three categories, because of the stories, their direction, or their actors -- or all of the above. Here are my choices:

New Breed:

• Babagwa. Because the strength of the film is the story itself. You never know what will happen next. There is a surprise, funny but painful ending. One of the favorites of the audience.

• Purok 7. Because even if I haven’t seen it, everyone I have bumped into who has seen this film gives it a thumbs-up. Purok 7 is a real place, and the story is based on real people.

• Rekorder. Because at 21, director Mikhail Red seems to be surpassing the achievements of his famous father Raymond (an indie filmmaker since the 1980s) at that age; and he shows so much promise. Then there is the quiet, sensitive portrayal by hitherto-unknown actor among Dolphy’s progeny, Ronnie Quizon.

Directors’ Showcase:

• Ekstra. Because it’s a laugh-a-thon from start to finish. And it stars Vilma Santos, of course! And its extras include Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, etc. Also, "Quotable Quotes Queen" Cherrie Gil throws some of the most memorable lines in the film such as: "I wasn’t born yesterday. I was born beautiful. You, you were just born. Period."

• Sana Dati. A quiet film. It has a simple story, but it warms the heart.


• Shorts B (the short films are shown grouped together) which is made up of Pukpok -- a clear audience favorite, it tackles what would otherwise be an uncomfortable subject with much fun, humor and sympathy; Onang -- the cinematography, breathtaking vistas; and, The Househusband’s Wife -- because it features a very common phenomenon among Filipino families now: skyping.

Also noteworthy are:

• Babagwa. The script by Jason Paul Laxamana

• Diplomat Hotel. The production design by Whammy Alcazaren

• Transit. The cinematography by Ber Cruz and Lyle Sacris; the music by Hannah’s father Mon Espia (composer of Labuyo’s "Tuloy Pa Rin."). Revelation: Jasmine Curtis-Smith

• Rekorder: the acting of Gretchen Barretto

• Sana Dati: the acting of Lovi Poe and the funny Ria Garcia. The screenplay by Ramon Ukit. The music by Jerrold Tarrog.

• Ekstra: The screenplay of Zig Dulay, Jeffrey Jeturian, Antoinette Jadaone. The direction of Jeffrey Jeturian. The acting of real-life director Marlon Rivera.

• Para Kay Ama: The acting of Che Ramos (as expected)

• Pukpok: the script by Immanuel Canicos and direction of Joaquin Pantaleon

Notable acting in different films: Art Acuña (David F and Diplomat Hotel) and Nico Antonio (Babagwa, Diplomat Hotel, Sana Dati).

For more information, call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704 or visit the CCP Web site and the Cinemalaya Web site Regular screening price is P150. One day passes cost P500. The Films in Competition (FIC) Pass costs P2,000, and the All-Access Festival Pass is P3,000. There is a Series pass for the Forum (P300, one-day; P500, two-days; P250, two-days for students). Senior citizens, government employees and military officials get 20% off on regular ticket prices.

To be continued...