MANILA,Philippines - Diversity is the mark of this year's Cinemalaya, as distinguished from its past association with advocacy cinema, with more room for comedy and the varied hybrids of horror and suspense.
The festival, now on its 9th year, had its launching at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on July 5.
Stage director and playwright Chris Millado, artistic director of the CCP, set the inspiring tone for this Cinemalaya with his opening remarks, which showed his passion for cinema, apart from his prolific track record in theater.
"Since 2005, we all have seen how the festival has evolved into the most exciting and influential in the country," he said. "It has introduced new voices in filmmaking and launched their careers nationally and internationally. Cinemalaya has enticed the commercial mainstream to crossover and redefine their art and craft. It has hosted the emergence of an in-between world which some filmmakers in last year’s forum labeled as “maindie” – a liminal sphere straddling and invigorating both independent and mainstream cinema."
To be sure, controversy has also hounded this festival in the past, prompting the now-standard discussion about how independent cinema may have become institutionalized and partly coopted by the film industry's old guard.
But Cinemalaya has also secured its distinct forum amid the increasingly complex milieu of Philippine cinema today, which has seen the studio system of the past replaced by the present studio system of the leading television networks.
Going by their trailers, all the competing entries are worth checking out, from the light-toned, Kris Aquino-produced "Instant Mommy" (starring Eugene Domingo) to the darker, more provocative film paintings "Porno," by Adolfo Alix Jr., and "Amor y Muerte," which director Cesar Evangelista describes as an "erotic period drama."
Gil Portes' "Liars" is one entry that stands out for the complexity of its material – the sad true story about a Filipino baseball team stripped of its world title after a journalist exposed this team for being overaged.
The choice to adapt this story is a bold one for the director who is no stranger to controversy in Cinemalaya.
"Liars" also promises to be another highlight of an already wonderful year for its star, Alessandra de Rossi, who won an Urian in June and further tested her acting mettle in this year's Virgin Labfest theater festival, also at the CCP. (Of that experience, Alessandra was candid about her stage fright. "Not so much excitement as kaba ang naramdaman ko," she told Rappler. "Takot kasi ako sa maraming tao.")
Among the other stars in this year's competing films are Vilma Santos, Gretchen Barretto, Jake Cuenca, Lovi Poe and Althea Vega.
A notable performer in independent cinema, going by her fourth Cinemalaya participation with this year's "Amor y Muerte," Althea has also ventured into mainstream productions, including the teleseryes. This Tetchie Agbayani-lookalike is set to appear next in a love story with Angel Aquino attuned to the LGBT moment. "I'm thankful for events like Cinemalaya, which is a good venue to [learn about and acknowledge] our talented filmmakers and actors," Althea says of this festival.
Lawyer and film producer Joji Alonso is once again active in Cinemalaya, with 5 productions among the entries this year, bringing to 17 the number of films she has produced for this festival. "It's a big challenge to produce films," she says. "Ang hirap. But it's really a passion. If lawyering puts food on the table, making films provides food for my soul."
Here are the finalists in this year's Cinemalaya:
NEW BREED CATEGORY:
"Babagwa" by Jason Paul Laxamana
"David F" by Emmanuel Palo
"Debosyon" by Alvin Yapan
"Instant Mommy" by Leo Abaya
"Nuwebe" by Joseph Israel Laban
"Purok 7" by Carlo Obispo
"Quick Change" by Eduardo Roy Jr.
"Rekorder" by Mikhail Red
"The Diplomat Hotel" by Christopher Ad. Castillo
"Transit" by Hannah Espia
DIRECTORS SHOWCASE CATEGORY:
"Amor y Muerte" by Cesar Evangelista
"Ekstra" by Jeffrey Jeturian
"Liars" by Gil M. Portes
"Porno" by Adolfo Alix Jr.
"Sana Dati" by Jerrold Tarog
SHORT FEATURE CATEGORY:
"Bakaw" by Ron Segismundo
"Katapusang Labok" by Aiess Athina Alonso
"Missing" by Zig Dulay
"Onang" by J.E. Tiglao
"Para kay Ama" by Relyn Tan
"Pukpok" by Joaquin Pantaleon
"Sa Wakas" by Nica Santiago
"Taya" by Adi Bontuyan
"The Houseband's Wife" by Paolo O'Hara
"Tutob" by Kissza Mari Campano
Cinemalaya will run from July 26 to August 4 at the CCP, TriNoma, Greenbelt 3 and Alabang Town Center. For inquiries, please call the CCP Film Office at 832-1125 local 1704/05 and CCP box office at 832-3704 or visit www.culturalcenter.gov.ph