Batch review by Vives Anunciacion
The organizers of the third Cinemalaya Film Festival declared it the best and biggest the festival has ever been. True, and maybe: it has earned its biggest boxoffice since the first festival but “best” tag is up for debate. This year, none bore the mark of transcendence the way Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros made people outside the festival look at “indie” the same way they did mainstream.
Consider eight full-length competition films, down from the original ten after the former two finalists, quote-unquote, failed to finish on time. One of the two, it was heard from the vine, had the most promising script of the lot. Should it be produced independently, it shall uphold the very essence of the festival outside the festival. Such is the festival’s irony, for independents can exist outside the “indie” festival.
Among the eight, however, only two entries are solidly constructed from beginning to end: Endo (written and directed by Jade Castro), winner of the Special Jury Prize and produced by the team behind Maximo Oliveros, and the batch’s Best Picture, Tribu, written and directed by Jim Libiran.
The best thing about Endo (short for end-of-contract) is that it doesn’t promise anything to its audience except tell a solid story. By comparison, Tribu’s compelling conflicts aren’t told in subtlety but in graphic hip-hop. Tribu’s hallmark is its sheer authenticity.
Pisay, recipient of the Audience Award and the trophy for Direction (for Aureaus Solito), is a roaring feel-good nostalgia trip that could easily have won Best Picture were it not for its cliched characters and an episodic structure that made character development very difficult.
Kadin, Adolf Alix Jr.’s second Cinemalaya movie after last year’s Donsol, is akin to Mes De Guzman’s Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong. This was my choice for Direction, because it showed restraint where it could have gone overboard, to think Alix directed the Ivatan kids via translator. Kadin’s weak point is a forced happy ending involving the only (obviously) non-Batanes residents in the movie.
Tukso, Dennis Marasigan’s screenplay-winning entry, has great performances, memorable lines, commendable setups and a very good score. But its story, ironically, is nothing new.
Diametrically opposed in theme, aesthetic and treatment from Tribu, Sockie Fernandez’s Gulong is a parable-of-talents-type children’s story that’s simply not my cup of tea but worse, treats its audience like kids. Jay Abello’s Ligaw Liham, while visually stunning, is nostalgic for nostalgia’s sake. The movie begins one hour after it starts. Lastly, Still Life by Katski Flores has a very good performer in its lead character, Ron Capinding, but gets trapped in the falsehood that all indie movies should have “twist” in the story.
The festival’s true gem was a non-competition exhibition Ilonggo film by Rey Gibraltar called When Timawa Meets Delgado – a knee-slapping satire-slash-commentary on the reasons why many students take up nursing in college.
As a batch, the films of Cinemalaya 2007 tend to be crowd-pleasing types eager for a general release. Many of the themes discuss youth and youth concerns that many can identify with. That is not to say the batch is the most mainstream in the festival’s history. It just means the movies know their market.