‘Plus’ factor in Cinema One Originals Filmfest 2013

Ira Agting
Cinema One launches 15 full-length fils to be screened from November 11 to 19 in Glorietta, Trinoma, and Robinson's Galleria cinemas

Photo from the festival's Facebook

MANILA, Philippines  On its 9th year, the Cinema One Originals Film Festival has grown its roster of films from 6 titles in 2005 to 15 full-length movies in 2013.

Starting last year, the film entries were split into two categories, Plus and Currents, based on the movies’ blockbuster potential and market appeal. According to Cinema One channel head Ronald Arguelles, entries in the Plus categories are the “most commercial” of all the entries. Films in the Plus category may possibly reach out to a wider audience than those in the Currents.

Five films in the Plus category were each awarded P2 million grants, while the 10 selections in the Currents category were each given P1 million.

In 2012, only 3 films were part of the the pioneer batch of Plus category movies. Arguelles said that the festival seeks to do away with the Currents category and double the Plus entries in celebration of the festival’s 10th anniversary in 2014. Next year, 10 films are set to receive the P2 million grants.

Arguelles said the festival differs from other film fests in terms of its “risky” selection process, creating an “unpredictable line-up.” He emphasized that the process was free from “agenda, framework, or template” in choosing concepts.

Discovering talent

The Cinema One Originals selection process, Arguelles said, gave way to the then undiscovered talents of now multiawarded filmmakers Jerrold Tarog (“Confessional”), Richard Somes (“Ishmael”), and Rico Ilarde (“Altar), among others. 

Among the most-lauded entries since the festival’s beginning include “Sa North Diversion Road” by Dennis Marasigan (2005), “Huling Balyan ng Buhi” by Sherad Anthony Sanchez (2006), “Confessional” by Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Dahis Antipuesto (2007), “Imburnal” by Sherad Anthony Sanchez (2008), “Wanted: Border” by Ray Defante Gibraltar (2009), “Layang Bilanggo” by Mike Dagñalan (2010), “Ka Oryang” by Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena (2011), and “Pascalina” by Pam Miras (2012).

This year’s festival will run from November 11 to 19 in Glorietta, Trinoma, and Robinson’s Galleria cinemas. The festival will also hold two campus tours and a showing of a digitally restored version of Eddie Romero’s 1970s award-winning film “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon?”

Here are the films for the Cinema One Plus category:

“Alamat ni China Doll” by Adolfo Alix Jr

27-year-old Hellen, who lives with her grandmother in an island in the South, is intent on graduating from high school and starting a new life. Her plans are derailed when she comes across a published article detailing the “truth about China Doll.” She struggles to make sense of the revelation as she is confronted by her past.

The film stars Angelica Panganiban, Cesar Montano, Anita Linda, and Phillip Salvador.

“Blue Bustamante” by Miko Livelo

First-time film director Miko Livelo laughs that this may be first PG-rated indie film. Actor Jun Sabatyon said that the film may be an alternative for those tired of heavy socio-political dramas or gay films.

“Blue Bustamante” was inspired by Livelo’s fondness of ’90s Pinoy comedies and Japanese anime. The film, shot in Japan, narrates the story of a jobless Overseas Filipino Worker who agrees to double for Blue Force, a superhero character cast in an upcoming Japanese show.

The film is marketed as a comedy, although Livelo said that it was originally a love story. He decided to make it a typical Filipino family story instead. After two failed attempts at joining local film festivals, the rookie director said he is both relieved and nervous to be in the same category as more experienced directors.

The film stars Jun Sabayton, Joem Bascon, Dimples Romana, and Jhiz Deocareza.

“Kabisera” by Borgy Torre

Borgy Torre’s “Kabisera” is an action film tracing a character’s transformation from an innocent family man to a ruthless drug dealer.

Actor Art Acuna described “Kabisera” as a film about the complexity of human relationships.

“Human relationships in very awkward, strange, unnatural circumstances,” he said. “What happens to those relationships that are solid? Do they get strained, do they go black or white? You don’t know.”

He went on to say that the film’s plus factor lies in the fact that it’s not just a family story or a story about a friendship. “It’s a story about what you do when pushed to extreme circumstances and what happens to your relationships when you’re pushed to that circumstance.”

The film stars Joel Torre, Art Acuna, Bernard Palanca, Meryll Soriano, Bing Pimentel, and Ketchup Eusebio.

“Sitio” by Mes de Guzman

Described by its director as a “barriotic psychological thriller,” “Sitio”  revolves around upper middle-class siblings who move to the province in search of a simpler life. Little do they know, there are terrors underneath a seemiingly peaceul rural life.

Mes de Guzman said that the film is an experimental dark comedy where the actors had freedom to show their “extreme acting abilities.” 

Actor John Prats said that the film’s true horror lay in its subtlety, where the characters did not need to be psychotic to be terrifying.

“Minsan kahit sobrang bait ng tao, nakakatakot din.” (Sometimes, even the kindest person can be frightening.)

The film is Prats’ first venture into the indie scene, and he described the experience as “addictive.”

“Kaya nakakaaadik gumawa kasi parang nabubusog ako, yung pagkatao ko as an actor. Looking forward [to] more. Gutom na gutom po talaga ako.” (It’s addictive, because I feel like my hunger as an actor is satisfied. I’m looking forward to more. I am really, really hungry.)

The film stars John Prats, Biboy Ramirez, RK Bagatsing, Ria Garcia, and Anja Aguilar.

“Woman of the Ruins” Keith Sicat

Science fiction film “Woman of the Ruins” is set in a storm-ravaged island where a person who was assumed dead mysteriously resurfaces.

“[The film] has an atmosphere which is apocalyptic but not in a fictional sense,” explained director Keith Sicat, who pointed out that the threat of an “apocalypse” has surfaced several times in history, through world wars and natural disasters.

Sicat said the film delved into the evil that could arise when society’s pressures are compounded on a single person. Actor Art Acuna added that the film also showcases “deep, deep love.”

“It brings to a family some sort of magic and they can’t understand it.”

In an interesting twist, veteran director Peque Gallaga appears in the film as an actor.  The “Oro, Plata, Mata” director described acting as a “wonderful intense experience,” void of the responsibilities of directing.

“One thing I do when I act, I make sure I don’t direct at all. I don’t even look at the monitor because I start directing myself. Its so nice to release the responsibility,” he said.

Sicat admitted he felt pressure directing Gallaga, but considered the experience “magical and inspirational.”

The film stars Alessandra de Rossi, Art Acuna, Elizabeth Oropesa, and Peque Gallaga.

Here are the entries for the Cinema One Currents:

Watch the trailer compilation here:

The following summaries are from the Cinema One Originals Facebook page.

1. “Angustia” by Kristian Cordero
Period- Regional. Set in 19th Century Bicolandia, a Spanish friar falls for a woman of indigenous origins. Until paranoia drives the Spanish friar to murder.

2 “Ang Pagbabalat ng Ahas” by Timmy Harn
Genre film/comedy. A lower middle-class family moves in to an upper middle-class village where a mad scientist is keeping a snake-man.

3. “Islands” by Whammy Alcazaren
Experimental/Science Fiction. A spacecraft lands through the geographies of the fictional film, ISLANDS and the reality in which it is being filmed as a movie.

4. “Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na” by Jet Leyco
A four-part narrative of three related occurrences caused by tragic accident of a Filipino-Spanish priest.

5. “Iskalawags” by Keith Deligero
Comedy. An aching tale of friendship, youth, and a journey towards self-discovery in this small-town coming of age story. Intoy, takes us back to show us how those teenage days felt like. To be shot in Camotes Island, Cebu.

6. “Saturday Night Chills” by Ian Lorenos
One night, 3 friends seemingly stuck in their failed lives bump into a former class loser, who had become a big time businessman. They find out the secret of his success: odds betting.

7. “A Philippino Story” by Benjamin Garcia
Drama. A cautionary tale about the dangers of male prostitution

8. “Shift” by Seige Ledesma
Love Story/Drama. When an idealistic, tomboyish, call center slacker is mentored by a pragmatic, gay senior agent, an unconventional relationship blossoms that would challenge their most personal convictions

9. “Bendor” by Ralston Jover
Drama. 40 days before the annual Good Friday procession of the miraculous 400-year-old Black Nazarene statue at the Quiapo church in Manila, an early morning mass is disrupted when a candle vendor finds a blood-soaked box with a dead fetus inside.

10. “Riddles of my Homecoming” by Arnel Mardoquio
Drama. The Lumads and Moros of Mindanao have a traditional belief that when a person dies his soul goes back to his homeland.