The stars shone on Cinemalaya

Susan Claire Agbayani
Here's what went on that night that Filipino indie films ruled the world

DIRECTORS' SHOWCASE BEST ACTRESS/Supporting Actress Iza Calzado (Mga Mumunting Lihim); New Breed Best Actress Ama Quiambao (Diablo); Directors’ Showcase Best Actor Eddie Garcia (Bwakaw); New Breed Best Supporting Actress Anita Linda (Santa Niña); New Breed Best Supporting Actor Joross Gamboa (Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino); and Directors’ Showcase Best Supporting Actor Art Acuña (PosaS). Calzado won the award with Judy Ann Santos, Agot Isidro and Janice de Belen. All photos by Jude Bautista

MANILA, Philippines – Seasoned performers dominated the awards for Best Performance by an Actor or Actress at the Cinemalaya 2012 Awards Night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) last Sunday, July 29. 

Eddie Garcia won the Best Actor honors at the Directors’ Showcase Category for his role as an aging gay man with only a pet dog for a companion in the Jun Lana-megged “Bwakaw.”

Ama Quiambao was accorded the Best Actress Award in the New Breed Category for her role as a woman with 5 sons; none of whom live with her in a big, decrepit house in the province that has seen better days in Mes de Guzman’s “Diablo.” 

Anita Linda was anointed Best Supporting Actress, also in the New Breed Category for her having played the senile and demented grandmother of Coco Martin in Manny Palo’s “Santa Nina.”

The rest of the acting awards were bestowed on the casting ensemble of Judy Ann Santos, Iza Calzado, Agot Isidro and Janice de Belen in Jose Javier Reyes’s “Mga Mumunting Lihim,” both Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress for the Directors’ Showcase.

Joross Gamboa, Best Supporting Actor for his role as the friend of Intoy in Lemuel Lorca’s “Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino”; and Kristoffer King, Best Actor as Makoy in Paul Sta. Ana’s “Oros” — both for the New Breed Category. 

DIABLO TEAM FROM LEFT: production designer Cesar Hernando, director Mes de Guzman, actors Ama Quiambao, Althea Vega and Arnold Reyes

“I am 88 years old,” revealed Anita Linda to the obviously-awed audience who had grown accustomed to watching her in many indie films. 

“I feel so wanted, cared for and loved. Kapag nasa set ako, may umaakay sa akin sa kaliwa at sa kanan. Halos hindi na nga sumasayad sa lupa ang paa ko… I feel so content; I feel so warm inside,” she said. 

In his acceptance speech, Garcia remarked, “Kung hindi dahil sa inyo, patay na (siguro) ang industriya. Thank you for the much-needed oxygen sa naghihingalong pelikulang Pilipino!” 

Incidentally, a lot of the films — even the short films — tackled death and dying as a topic or subject. 

ALESSANDRA DE ROSSI of Manny Palo’s “Santa Niña” with Sony brand activation officer Christopher Sol

It is worth noting that after years of movies about poverty, this year, two entries in the New Breed category tackled the lives of the upper middle class, a milieu that’s closer to the lives of most of the filmmakers and the bulk of the audience anyway. 

Another fact that’s worth noting is the rise by 12% of the audience the Cinemalaya attracted this year: from 58,000 viewers in 2011, to 65,000 viewers in 2012, and with additional theaters not just in Glorietta (Makati) but in TriNoma (Quezon City) as well, says festival director Nestor O. Jardin.

CIARA SOTTO IN A hot pole dancing performance at the Cinemalaya awards night

Before we finally bid Cinemalaya 2012 goodbye, let us enumerate the lessons that this year’s social-media-driven festival taught us:

1. Filmmakers need not indulge in poverty porn. They can actually mine their own lives or those of their family or friends right where they are: right here, right now. Check out “Ang Nawawala,” “The Animals” and “Ang Mumunting Lihim.”

2. Let’s give Pinoys something to laugh about! A laugh-a-ton wouldn’t hurt! In future Cinemalaya festivals, let’s have more of the likes of “Last Supper #3,” “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” and “Bwakaw.” Laughing is good for the heart (and our sanity too!)

3. There are other compelling images apart from coffins or caskets, and other holidays aside from Holy Week. Enough already! This has been going on for years!

4. Casting (or miscasting) could spell the success (or failure!) of your film. And if the role is that of a carpenter, please make sure that he really looks and dresses like one.

It pays to seek out a great ensemble of actors. Where to find them? Theater companies, of course. Sometimes, some of them are former child stars who eventually went through an awkward stage and had a hard time getting good roles. Turns out, sometimes all they need is someone who would harness their being gems in the rough.

Watch Carlo Aquino (of “Akala mo lang wala, pero meron, meron” fame) in “Diablo,” Joross Gamboa in “Intoy Syokoy” and Jodi Sta. Maria in “Aparisyon.”

5. Music always works, especially with a big chunk of the population: the Y-O-U-T-H. A killer soundtrack goes a long way. Listen to the songs of “Ang Nawawala.”

6. In the final analysis, it’s still the premise, the story that counts. A good story will push the film forward to where it’s supposed to go: to greater heights. Watch out for “Aparisyon,” “Santa Nina,” “Posas,” “Mga Mumunting Lihm” and “Bwakaw.”

7. Filmmakers: Never forget the old adage, “show, don’t tell.” There’s such a thing as subtlety. Minimal or no dialogue could even be more powerful, such as the sampalan scene in “Aparisyon.” It’s a sampalan scene like no other.

8. Never underestimate the power of the short film. So short a film could change people’s lives! Interesting shorts: “As He Sleeps,” “Balintuna,” “Pasahero,” “Ruweda” and “Ulian.”

9. There’s always something for everyone. Be kind to the kids: will you just please, please stop showing butts? Let’s shatter the myth that indie films are nothing but “kabaklaan” or nudity.

10. If you are a filmmaker and you want to make it to film festivals abroad, remember these two words: Target audience.

Those who missed this year’s Cinemalaya still have the chance to catch a few of the films and the directors this August 1-14 in Cinemalaya Goes UP.

Until next year, folks! –

Susan Claire Agbayani is a freelance writer and media consultant. While she currently writes for several local publications, she also contributes to the Singapore-based personal finance web site for women, Susan has been writing for almost 30 years on music, art, culture, literature, business, politics, the academe and entrepreneurship.