Home Economy Cinemalaya goes to Ayala Malls Manila Bay for 20th year

Cinemalaya goes to Ayala Malls Manila Bay for 20th year


FOR the 20th edition of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, full-length and short feature films in competition will be screened at Ayala Malls Manila Bay in Parañaque City.

With the theme “Cinemalaya Bente: Loob, Lalim, Lakas,” the festival will have 10 full-length films and 10 short features in competition. The festival will run from Aug. 2 to 11. Counting the other exhibition films, retrospectives, and premieres, the festival’s lineup totals 200 films.

“We are going to turn Ayala Malls Manila Bay into a bustling center of creativity and storytelling. We’ve got a brilliant lineup of competing films, as you will soon glimpse in our omnibus trailer. There will also be film premieres, documentaries, shorts, and narratives that will surely impress and inspire,” said film director Laurice Guillen, president of the Cinemalaya Foundation, during a press conference on July 10 at the Manila Metropolitan Theater.

With the rehabilitation of the festival’s regular venue, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Building, Ayala Malls Manila Bay was chosen for its “spacious interiors capable of welcoming large audiences,” Ms. Guillen told BusinessWorld after the launch.

Chris B. Millado, Cinemalaya’s festival director, added that the early 2000s saw Cinemalaya emerge “as a vessel steered by the mission and the passion of a new breed of filmmakers.”

“The Cinemalaya balangay weathered many storms. During the lockdowns, we found refuge in a virtual host. And as we emerged from the pandemic, we immediately lifted anchor to set sail again,” he said.

This year’s theme of “Loob, Lalim, Lakas” (Inside, Depth, Strength) reflects the festival’s goal to “tackle a whole range of topics and themes,” according to film director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Cinemalaya’s competition and monitoring committee chairman.

“There are characters searching for personal meaning and narratives that take on bigger societal issues,” he said.

The 10 full-length films in this year’s competition are:

Alipato at Muog by JL Burgos. An autobiographical documentary of a filmmaker who uncovers the hard truths surrounding the forced disappearance of his older brother.

JL Burgos, whose brother Jonas went missing back in 2007, said it was a “deeply personal experience” that began right after his brother’s abduction.

“Naging mahaba ang proseso ng paggawa nito. Ngayon, ito ay oportunidad para mahanap ang aking kapatid, upang mahanap ang katarungan (It was a long process making this film. Now, it’s an opportunity to seek out my brother, to seek justice for what happened to him,” he said at the press conference.

An Errand by Dominic Bekaert and Sarge Lacuesta. In the film, a driver named Moroy travels from Baguio to Manila on an absurd errand for his boss. In the process, his car transforms into an echo chamber of memories.

“As a film director who is half-Filipino and half-French, I have always been fascinated by class divides and how we deal with them as individuals and as societies,” director Dominic Bekaert said.

For him, the relationships in the film offer “a microcosmic view of the broader human experience, where active and passive dynamics continually shape interactions and reveal layers of identity.”

Tumandok by Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay and Richard Jeroui Salvadico.

The two Iloilo-based filmmakers tell the untold saga of the Ati, a Negrito ethnic group living in Boracay, Guimaras, Panay, and Negros islands in the Philippines.

The film was made with the collaboration of Ati people, who share their battle to reclaim ancestral lands in this docu-fiction film.

“What’s special about this is that it’s a community film. We worked with non-professional actors because the Ati people chose to be at the center of it. It was made for them and with them,” said director Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay.

Balota by Kip Oebanda. The film follows a teacher named Emmy (played by Marian Rivera), who is assigned to be an election inspector for her town’s local precinct. Set amid the violence of the 2007 elections, she must protect a ballot box with the last copy of the election results.

Director Kip Oebanda said that the film is pretty much an “unfortunate sequel of Liway,” referring to his Cinemalaya 2018 entry about his childhood spent in a prison camp where his rebel parents were held in the Marcos Martial Law era.

“I thought, how could we help the political process of his country? Along the way I discovered hundreds of stories of electoral violence, corruption, murder, vote buying, which led to this film,” he said.

Gulay Lang Manong (No More than Veggies) by BC Amparado. The film follows a struggling farmer, Pilo Sabado, who joins forces with a local policeman to rescue his grandson Ricky from the cannabis trade. The two must then take down a marijuana cartel.

It is a story that aims to break the stigma and misunderstanding around medical cannabis in the Philippines, according to director BC Amparado.

Set amid the drug war, the film is based on real people whose lives have been deeply affected by cannabis. “It is also a peek into the lives of local vegetable farmers and the struggles they deal with on a regular basis,” Mr. Amparado added.

Kantil (Trench) by Joshua Caesar Medroso. In this science-fiction film, the discovery of a mysterious alien shell in a trench transforms the lives of two star crossed lovers — Paleng and Eliong — and their threatened coastal village in Davao City.

“As someone who had grown up in Purok 12, Tibungco, Davao City, exposed to the plight of impoverished informal settlers living on the coast, this story is very personal and dear to me,” said director Joshua Caesar Medroso.

The film aims to portray the harsh realities of the inhumane displacement of the Filipino poor.

Kono Basho by Jaime Pacena II. The film follows 28-year-old Filipina anthropologist Ella (played by Gabby Padilla), who travels to Japan for her estranged father Emman’s funeral. There, she meets her Japanese half-sister, Reina (played by Arisa Nakano), and the two find solace in shared grief amid a city in recovery.

“This is a deeply personal exploration of loss and rebirth, inspired by my decade-long experience as a visual artist and curator in Japan,” said director Jaime Pacena II.

“It draws inspiration from my research and immersion in a city devastated by the 2011 Great Eastern Japan earthquake and tsunami, incorporating 13 years of my archived photographs and videos,” he added.

Love Child by Jonathan Jurilla. A family drama centered on college sweethearts Ayla and Paolo, this film follows the couple who must navigate the struggles of raising an autistic son.

Love Child is “a profoundly personal story” for director Jonathan Jurilla. “My son, Oyen, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at age two. For the past 13 years, my family and I have dedicated ourselves to addressing his condition, which has tested our commitment, stretched our capabilities, and redefined our love,” he said at the press conference.

Mr. Jurilla added that he wants the film to raise awareness about autism.

The Hearing by Lawrence Fajardo and Honee Alipio. The film is about Lucas, a deaf boy from a small fishing village who is sexually abused by an influential priest, and his parents who file a court case against him. The boy is supported by a court sign language interpreter who can speak but is voiceless in her own home.

“Through this film, we want to try to give voice to those who cannot stand up and speak for themselves,” said director Lawrence Fajardo. “Legal language is difficult enough to understand for the average hearing person, so how does one who cannot hear and express themselves understand and be understood as they fight for their rights?” he added.

Wedding Dance by Julius Lumiqued. An adaptation of a short story of the same name by Amador T. Daguio, this film tells of the love between Kalinga couple Awiyao and Lumnay, torn asunder by their patriarchal warrior community.

Director Julius Lumiqued is from the Cordillera region himself and hopes to add his perspective to the story. He said at the press conference, “It is about time that stories are to be shared through the voice of the insiders.

“This is now a story about Cordillerans and by Cordillerans, shared on a bigger stage,” he said.

SHORT FEATURE FILMSThe 10 short feature films in the main competition are:

Abogaybayby P.R. Monencillo Patindol, about brothers on a remote island who await the arrival of the ashes of their mother during the pandemic.

All This Wasted Space by Cris Bringas, which follows a queer woman who must search for a burial token for her mother in their abandoned house in the outskirts of Manila (and, in the process, relive old traumas).

Ambot Wala Ko Kabalo Unsay I-Title Ini by Rey Anthony Villaverde, about Luis and Lorenz, two troubled yet ambitious aspiring filmmakers who embark on a journey to create an independent short film.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die by Sam Manacsa is centered on Mila, an underpaid office assistant who escapes her dreadful reality with a mysterious caller that turns out not to be what he seems.

I Was Walking on the Streets of Chinatown by Ryan Capili is about a film director returning to his hometown in Binondo to shoot his latest film, only to find it transformed by the relentless passage of time.

Mama by Alexandra Brizuela is a documentary about two mothers, Lydjay and Mary Ann, who must navigate life after losing their children to the war on drugs.

Mariposaby Melanie Faye Tampos, where a young girl named Des reclaims her life after a year of rehabilitation, only to confront her past abusers.

Pamalandong sa Danow (Reflection in the Marsh) by Breech Asher Harani is a documentary which follows childhood friends Remy, Marites, and Ricky, all descendants of the first indigenous settlers of the Agusan Marsh, who must protect and preserve their ancestral land.

Primetime Mother by Sonny Calvento is a satirical comedy about Minda, a 45-year-old mother, who joins a popular and high-paying television game show My Amazing Mama, which is filled with hilarious and demeaning obstacles.

The Red Trails (An Baga sa Dalan) by Mariel Ritchie Jolejole and Roniño Dolim centers on a young boy from Northern Samar who journeys to the mythical city of Biringan to resurrect his parents who died in the Sag-Od massacre.

FILM SCREENINGSDuring the festival’s 10-day run, the films in competition and exhibitions will be screened at Cinema 2, Cinema 8, Cinema 9, and Cinema 10. The opening film is Sheron Dayoc’s The Gospel of the Beast while the closing film is a restored version of Lino Brocka’s Bona.

The festival will also have its mainstay sections: Retrospective, featuring the winning films of previous Cinemalaya editions; Best of the Festivals, showcasing the best films from other local festivals; Visions of Asia, featuring award-winning Asian and NETPAC films; Premieres, featuring never-before-screened films; Dokyu, showcasing award-winning documentaries; and Digital Classics, which focuses on newly restored Filipino classic films.

The Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, the longest-running independent film competition of its kind in Southeast Asia, will once again showcase films in Short Feature/Narrative, Experimental, Documentary, and Animation categories. They will be screened from Aug. 3 to 6 at Ayala Malls Manila Bay, with the awards ceremony on Aug. 10 at Cinema 2.

The full screening schedules and ticket prices have yet to be announced. For more details, visit the CCP and Cinemalaya websites and social media pages. — Brontë H. Lacsamana

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