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Porn stars, gravediggers, gay beauty queens, and drug addicts featured in Sinag film fest entries

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THE Sinag Maynila International Film Festival is back for its fifth year, promising to present “diverse and compelling” film starting April 4 in select cinemas. This year’s festival will have five full-length feature films, 10 short films, and five documentaries.

“This [year] marks the film festival’s fifth year and we’re happy to celebrate it alongside the centennial of Philippine cinema,” Wilson Y. Tieng, President and CEO of Solar Entertainment said in his remarks read by Solar Pictures General Manager Butch Ibañez during the film festival’s press launch on March 7 at the Podium in Mandaluyong City. “We’re very proud of Sinag Maynila’s humble contribution to the movie industry for the past five years, not just in recognizing Filipino talent but more significantly in pushing the boundaries of Philippine cinema.”

Sinag Maynila is the brainchild of Mr. Tieng and prominent Filipino director Brillante Ma. Mendoza, with the idea of creating a festival that “not only inspires but educates and enlightens Filipino movie audiences,” according to the film festival’s website.

“Sinag Maynila has come to represent the Filipino filmmakers’ dream of the world stage and as we continue to provide that unique opportunity, we hope for Philippine cinema catches the global interest it so deserves,” Mr. Tieng’s remarks continued.

This year, the five full-length films in competition include Zig Dulay’s Akin ang Korona, a comedy about a small local gay beauty pageant show whose organizers and the participants take too far; Ronald Carballo’s Jesusa, about the titular character who sinks into drug addiction.

Also in the lineup is Joselito Altarejos’ Jino to Mari, about two sex workers hired to do a pornographic film who are made to do acts they did not agree to. “[The film] posits the question, ‘if you take away a person’s dignity, what is left of them?,’” Mr. Altarejos said during the launch. He added that the film also explores how society views pornographic actors and sex workers.




Meanwhile, Daniel Palacio’s Pailalim tells the story of a gravedigger who is pushed to the limit when his daughter becomes critically ill and he is then forced to steal from a newly buried corpse. “This is a very delicate film. I hope the film serves its purpose and the voices will be heard,” Mr. Palacio said at the event.

Pailalim is a 2017 film and has already won a Special Mention, Fedeora Award at the 65th San Sebastian International Film Festival in Spain that year. Mr. Palacio said that he is happy the “film has come home” after doing the international film festival circuit over the past few years.

Finally, Ralston Jover returns to Sinag Maynila after winning four awards at last year’s festival for Bomba. Mr. Jover and Bomba actor Allen Dizon reunite for Persons of Interest, about a man with two personalities. “Persons of Interest tackles the dualities of life, heaven and earth, rich and poor and injustice and justice. But what if the truth hurts so much that you’d rather believe lies, especially if it concerns your loved ones?” said Mr. Jover.

Sinag Maynila is also presenting 10 short films: Bisperas by Ralph Quincena, Dana Jung by John Rogers, Dude Pare Bro by Lorna Cerdan, Kiss by Harlene Bautista, Kilos by Marjon Santos, Marian by Brian Patrick Lim, Memories of the Rising Sun by Lawrence Fajardo, Nagmamahal, Sal by Jeff Subrabas, Ngiti ni Nazareno by Louie Ignacio, and Panaghoy by Alvin Baloloy.

Competing in the documentary category are At Home by Arjanmar R. Rebeta, Entablado by Lie Rain Clemente and Nori Jane Isturis, Hope Spots by Joseph Dominic Cruz, Hyatt: Mga Kuwento, Lihim at Katotohanan by Jayvee V. Bucsit, and Tata Pilo by Dexter Macaraeg.

Mr. Mendoza said that this year’s crop of short films and documentaries is “amazing” and that the festival will be announcing the international jury members in the coming days.

“This year, our selection of films in competition in the full-length, short films, and documentary sections as well as our special screenings are diverse and compelling and we’re excited for the local and international audiences to appreciate a new take to the Philippines’ world,” said Mr. Tieng in his statement.

Sinag Maynila’s will open on April 3 with Lakbayan, the omnibus work probing the state of the Philippines by Mr. Mendoza, Lav Diaz, and National Artist for Film Eric de Guia (Kidlat Tahimik) which premiered at last year’s Busan International Film Festival.

The closing film will be Journey, an Asian Three-fold Mirror Project by the Japan Foundation and directed by Daishi Matsunaga, Degena Yun, and Edwin (an Indonesian who goes by one name).

The film festival will also hold a forum in April with Joanne Goh who is the Chairman of the Malaysia International Film Festival, and Young-woo Kim, the programmer of the Busan International Film Festival. There will also be a film editing workshop conducted by John Anthony Wong, managing director of Edge Manila Creatives. The festival will also be holding an environmental film screening and forum by The Plastic Solution, an environmental program whose aim is to create a plastic-free Philippines.

The film festival awards night will be on April 7. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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