Archive for the Cinemalaya Category

Roll cam, roll life

Posted in cinema studies conference, Cinemalaya, digital film, Oscars, Philippine Cinema, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, takilya life on November 2, 2012 by leaflens

Did you miss me? I know you did. Aminin!

Life was just sweepingly hectic in more ways than one. But since this hibernation break, I thought of blogging more in order to get back on track.


Teaching teachers how to tackle theatrical trailers. Teh totoo ‘to! [October 2012 Pagadian City]

But before I do that, I’ll ease into it a bit. I actually wrote some stuff which are film-related and are now out — but in other venues.


My editor at Philippine Online Chronicles’ (POC) Pinoy LGBT Channel asked me to review the Philippine Oscars rep this coming year, the recent Cinemalaya entry BWAKAW written and directed by Jun Lana.

My review appeared there in POC since the film is about this aging old gay man.

Here is that review. Seriously, I think this time, we have a contender.

Read up why.



And then, a paper that I have written early this year, presented in a cinema studies conference in Hong Kong last March, is now officially published in the Kritika Kultura ejournal. The journal has a special issue of Ishmael Bernal’s MANILA BY NIGHT and I was invited to submit a paper. I wrote about the lesbian character of Cherie Gil and intersected that with the genderqueer identity. It’s entitled “To conform or not to conform, that is the genderqueer question: Re-examining the lesbian identity in Manila By Night.” That paper is available here. The rest of the journal’s issue is here and could be downloaded as a pdf file like my paper. Enjoy cinema geeks!

Genderqueering academia. Story of my persecuted queer scholarly life. Hahaha don’t ask! Offer me beer and I will do tell. Charaught! [March 2012 Hong Kong University]

Yes, I have been busy. No, film-watching and critiquing were not forgotten, just overtaken by other avenues. But I promise that now, it will be back here again, ready for more.

Okay roll cam!


Film whiz whizzing wishes

Posted in Cinemalaya, Philippine Cinema, Philippine film industry, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer issues in film on August 3, 2012 by leaflens

Not that I haven’t been watching films — I have been watching lots, actually — but I have been reluctant to say things about them. I don’t know why. Must be the weather.

But you can take a peek at the film-related articles I have been writing for Philippine Online Chronicles’ Pinoy LGBT channel where I regularly contribute. Of course they are queer-centric but still, they intersect with movies and filmmaking so it might be worth your interest.

I will be back in reviewing films in this space soon. In the meantime, enjoy these:

Si Pidol sa pelikula ng sangkabaklaan part one and part two written during the comedy king’s demise. Also discussing some controversial issues there.

My Cinemalaya 2012 salvo-ish take on the gay depictions and transwomen discourse in some films I saw.


Queering Cinemalaya 2011

Posted in Cinemalaya, indie films, POC Pinoy LGBT channel, queer cinema on September 1, 2011 by leaflens

In the interim, here’s a recap of queer representations at the Cinemalaya 2011, an  article I wrote for POC Pinoy LGBT channel.

Independently-produced digital full-length films were showcased last July 2011 at the seventh Cinemalaya Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) which were also shown at the University of the Philippines’ Cine Adarna theater inside the Diliman campus during the early part of August. Aside from the Cinemalaya film grantees, there were also different categories showcasing locally produced independent digital films, such as the 10 films featured under the NETPAC series, or the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema. There were also a few films outside of such categories which premiered during the said festival.

I was able to catch a few of these films and I was intrigued by the queer representations I saw in most of the films I saw. There were a few hits and misses but there were also quiet gems, while a few begged to be read as queer, in a manner of speaking.

Read the rest here.


Later na ang ibang film reviews. Yes, we will review again. Soon. Pahupain lang ang docu shoot ko, hane? Pagoda coldwave lotion pa lola niyo.

Cinemalaya 2011: Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank

Posted in Cinemalaya, comedy film, digital film, films about filmmaking, indie films, Philippine film industry on August 9, 2011 by leaflens

Since I’m currently in the state of straddling the line between the poverty of creativity (poverty of creativity talaga!) of other people, I should add, and walking out of their spheres of influence (don’t wanna be affected/infected/deflected on) wala lang, let’s review this film. And maybe later, I’ll decode for you that cryptic opening haha.

But first, we go septic.



d. Marlon Rivera

s. Chris Martinez

c. Eugene Domingo, Cai Cortez, JM de Guzman, Kean Cipriano

Pitch: Upper class Manila-based independent filmmakers plot out a film featuring poverty and urban squalor with the aim of joining prestigious film festivals abroad.

Catch: Inside jokes have limited humor for all.

I understand the hesitation of mainstream producers to create films and TV shows with the story and characters circling in the milieu of the media. They say that people who don’t work inside such industries, be it in the traditional or alternative media, won’t be able to relate to the problems, heartaches, headaches and victories that media-oriented people experience on a daily basis.

I disagree. Unless you make their story closer to “outsiders” in a way that they will be able to relate as an audience, then you’re fine. Take that Robert Redford-Michelle Pfeiffer 1996 starrer UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL where Pfeiffer started as a weather girl turned credible TV journalist and Redford was a veteran TV journalist helping her out. That one worked simply because their work was interwoven seamlessly with their personal lives. And we feel for them as they get promoted or if they get heartbroken. Add to that Celine Dion’s undying love song as theme “Because you loved me” (aminin, you like singing this sa videoke!) and voila! recipe for box-office ka-ching.

Now with SEPTIC TANK, I really, really, really love the concept of the film, simply because I myself share the same sentiment about filmmakers making films about poverty, urban squalor, dirty dingy crappy Manila, and all that garbage-in-yo’-face crap. In an earlier blog post/rant I posted about, oh, tagal na, maybe two-three years ago, I ranted about how such films have been cropping up like regularly since independent digitally shot full-length films revived the Filipino film industry last decade. Not that I’m not grateful, being from this industry, and being a cineaste. But sometimes, I want diversity. Yes, DIVERSITY.

And I guess that’s what the makers of SEPTIC TANK were also thinking. It’s basically a big critique of upper class independent filmmakers who use poverty as themes in their films simply because that image sells abroad, not because they want to make a statement about poverty in the Philippines, or not because they want to open up the people’s eyes to such issues in order for them to do something, to take action, to contribute to society, and all that advocacy pumping (in short, all the social realism stabs that our late greats were doing before, specifically our National Artists for Film Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal; and oh, how I miss them). But now, nada. Some films, sadly, are like that. And horror of all horrors, some filmmakers tend to think like that. And this is why the term “poverty porn films” cropped up in our existence within the last few years. And this is why I was also asked to speak about it as a guest in Jessica Soho’s GMA News TV channel 11 show Brigada last Monday, to discuss poverty porn. Sadly, since I was straddling nga that line with people suffering from the poverty of creativity hehe, I missed watching that segment. Oh well, somebody upload it online and tell me ha.

So anyway, in this film, we see an indie producer and filmmaker and a production assistant as they try to brainstorm a good poverty film concept and they poke fun at this poverty porn filmmaking “phenomenon” in all aspects — from the filmmakers having such shallow intentions (“Forget Cannes! Forget Venice! Pang-Oscars ito!”) to brainstorming the concept in coffee shops where they can go online with free wifi (“Gawin na lang kaya nating musical, set sa squatters area? Bago ‘yun!”) to casting indie-identified great thespians (“Gusto mo lang i-cast si Mercedes Cabral kasi crush mo ‘yun, e!” – Haha relate ako dito! Chos!) and of course poking fun at fellow indie filmmakers who have egos as big as the Payatas dumpsite because of their success in being poverty porn filmmakers (even poking fun at the entourage of such filmmakers, something that is so true talaga it really makes me roll my eyes).  So with all these, kudos to the filmmakers for showing us such things. Yes, in a way, it’s also being mean to such poverty porn films and filmmakers, but seriously, sometimes it’s *nice* to be mean ahehehe.

But after that, after the laughs, after the critique, what do you take home? Sadly, with SEPTIC TANK, nothing much, as well. And this is where it gets alienating for most, if not all, who have seen this and who do not inhabit this crazy yet wonderful world of media and filmmaking. It’s funny for me because I know the context, but if you don’t, then you’ll just get an unevenly paced comedy film where you will get hooked because Eugene Domingo is such a hoot here. If only for that, it’s a success but then again, the inside joke is not for everybody. And the film should have delivered a huge punchline after, the type that packs a wallop in terms of punctuating their statement about what it’s critiquing. Sadly, it didn’t.

But still, I recommend that you watch this. If you’re curious about how such indie filmmakers work — at least the pretentious upper class ones heheh — then watch this. And if only for Domingo, who won best actress for this role at the Cinemalaya awards night, just watch. I really like the way they reduced acting to three major categories, and the “TV Patrol category” is a hoot! Eugene, ikaw na! Basta, inside joke! Just watch this to see what I mean.

Then let’s discuss.

Cinemalaya 2011: Bahay Bata

Posted in Cinemalaya, digital film, indie films, Philippine Cinema, women's issues in film on July 31, 2011 by leaflens

I was able to watch a bunch of Cinemalaya films this year so here’s what I think of some of them. I’m starting with this one since this is the last I watched in the U.P. run and I think it’s somehow my favorite. SPOILER ALERT! moments abound here so don’t read if you don’t want the plot to be uncovered.

BAHAY BATA (Baby Factory)

d. Eduardo Roy Jr.

s. Jerome Zamora, Eduardo Roy Jr.

e. Bebs Gohetia

sc. Toni Munoz

c. Diana Zubiri

Pitch: Days before Christmas and we see a day in the life of a nurse working in the free ward of a public hospital where new mothers just gave birth to babies. The nurse’s life weaves with the patients’ and fellow nurses’ lives around her, making her reflect on the things she sees around her in connection with her own personal inner struggles.

Catch: Needs another script doctor’s eye to polish some contrived dialogues, but minimal.

This film should have the subtitle “And this is why the Philippines needs the RH bill now!”

The story is very, very simple yet in its simplicity, it truly works. It’s just a day in the life of a nurse as she works. We see Sarah the nurse, played emphatically by Diana Zubiri, go around in her usual nurse routine during her day shift, and then she gets extended to the night shift as well. But the difference here is, we also see the people and the area around this routine, perhaps something we don’t get to see often in cinema.

Here, we see an in-depth look of what a free ward inside a public hospital looks like: hospital beds with two persons/patients occupying one bed. Yes, you read that right: they share beds. As Sarah and the other characters walk around, the camera follows them and in its full wide angle lens glory, we see these beds lined one after the other, claustrophobic in its proximity to one another, yet the women who occupy them don’t seem to mind. In fact, some of the women — especially the young girls — forge bonds as they exchange their love stories as they sat in one bed.

And this is why I love this film: the visuals speak for the messages the film tries to subtly convey. No unnecessary histrionics emanating from “over-workshopped acting actors” or didactic expository dialogues. Aside from discovering the look inside such hospital wards, we also get to know how they run things there. Of course there’s the usual issue of not being able to check out the mother and the baby if one hasn’t settled their bills, but that wasn’t presented melodramatically. There was that particular storyline about a mother who just had her 13th baby — yes, 13th, again a “typical” issue in the country — and she ran out of breast milk. Her husband tried to bring her powdered milk but he was banned from entering the hospital because it is a strictly “breastfeeding only zone” hospital. I never knew that and through this film, now I know that such rules exist. Interesting. Plus another interesting issue for me is having someone else breastfeed another’s baby. That is what happened to that mother of 13 kids, as a young mother aged 17 — yes, 17 years old, yet another “typical issue” in our society — was brought to her to breastfeed her baby. And speaking of age, there was also this scene of young girls exchanging stories of how they got pregnant and all, and one of them was 13 years old. No judgment by the others, as the 17 year-old casually commented “Ay, ang bata mo pa, nabuntis ka na” saying “How young of you to get pregnant.” without any tone of condemnation, just plain commentary, like it’s just “typical” an occurrence. Sadly, it is typical, indeed.

The way such issues and concerns crop out of the film in bits and pieces, sporadically sprinkled here and there, and presented nonchalantly is why I think this film is so powerful. Quiet, unassuming, but carrying loads and loads of things for audiences to think about, without being so rah-rah about such issues.

We also get to see interpersonal relationships of people who work in these spaces as we also discover facets of their lives familiar to us. We see very old nurses get treated shabbily by arrogant doctors younger than them. We see some nurses filling out application forms for job openings in Canada. We see how nurses form and forge friendships in these spaces. Very interestingly executed as well, as we see very realistic portrayals we forget that this is a fiction film sometimes.

I also like the way it subtly comments on the hypocrisy that is abortion in this country. Sarah’s character gets devastated near the end as she gets dumped by the man that impregnated her, leaving her a day before Christmas Eve dinner happens, because his affair with the nurse was found out by his wife. Even this moment was executed well: no melodramatic histrionics as we see the man and the nurse in the middle of their conversation, just staring at each other, obviously the man having just delivered the bad news and Sarah’s eyes were already welling up as she tries to find the  words to say. After, she wanders with a preoccupied mind, running an errand of picking up medicines from the pharmacy and walks back to her ward, but in the middle passing the post-abortion ward section of the hospital, which at first was defocused and unseen, and as she passes and exits the film frame, we see the sign and the entrance to the post-abortion ward focus and the camera lingers in this image — a foreshadowing of things to come. (But even the foreshadowing wasn’t presented that forcefully, just hinted at. Then the result of the foreshadowing was also presented sparingly, not blatantly, in that scene where she faced the mirror and started quietly taking some pills. Powerful!) I mean, the very existence of such a ward in a public hospital really reflects realities that should be faced by lawmakers and if they really want to help women, that should be acknowledged and addressed humanely, not condescendingly (and certainly out of the domain of the Catholic church), to really be pro-women and all that.

I like this film. It really works for me. I do hope people who get to see this get the message. It’s about time some sectors did. Paging CBCP?

Kudos to the team who did this. A special mention to my friend who made the musical score of this. Congrats for your first full-length, Toni! More to come!

Plus P.S. it’s interesting how the title has this word-play going on, like its English title is baby factory but in Filipino, bahay bata literally means a woman’s womb, or specifically that thingie inside the womb that “houses” a fetus. Interesting. Wala lang, pansin ko lang. Anyway, try to catch this if it shows somewhere.

Cinemalaya 2008 full-length films

Posted in Cinemalaya, film festival, film students, indie films, Philippine Cinema, UP Film Institute on August 18, 2008 by leaflens


originally posted at

pagsama-samahin ko na rin sa isang buhos para happy.

sige na nga, bago ko makalimutan, chichiryahin ko na ang cinemalaya full-length films.

in order of viewed films.

d. ned trespeces
s., p., ned trespeces, onnah valera
dop. jke see

pitch: about the lives of young and old call center agents, the newest kind of yuppies on the philippine scene

catch: camera handling needs polishing

i like this film, and not because mga kabarkada ko ang gumawa hehehe. kaya maiintindihan din nila (i hope 🙂 ) ang constructive criticism na sasabihin ko dito.

i like ned’s sensitivity as a filmmaker. his sensitivity as a scriptwriter shows kasi. his material is not that mainstream. it actually treads on that border between mainstream and independent, in terms of storytelling, story handling, (choices of) characterization, and narrative development. this is evident in his star cinema-produced script JOLOGS where multiple characters are given short times to interact with each other and to have each of their lives unfold a bit, creating a narrative chain that sustains the viewers’ interests from beginning to end. he utilized the same technique in TRABAHO, his first digital full-length, about the travails of jobhunting.

with this new film, he still utilizes the same sensibilities by unfolding the lives of call center agents. and i like the humor and wit; so contemporary kaya ride ka agad. i think that’s the charm of his material, and his films. and for me, that works. wala kang masyadong mabigat na three-act structure na aabangan (very indie) pero may makukuha ka pa ring narrative satisfaction in the end or within the course of the film (very mainstream) so best of both worlds talaga.

my glitch about this film is that bitin siya. i guess kung may mga ganitong naratibo, talagang mabibitin ka kapag konting panahon lang ang naiuukol sa mga karakter. pero kung kumpara sa TRABAHO, parang mas buo iyon in terms of narrative expectations. o siguro talagang naaliw lang ako sa MY FAKE kaya i want to see more.

glitch din ng kaunti ang handling sa character ni mailes kanapi, that team leader-manager (whatever it’s called) na bida. i’m not sure how mailes saw her role, pero parang caricature-ish ang treatment niya sa karakter niya (na very teatro ang dating for me) kaya parang na-off ako minsan. parang exag na hindi, parang OA na hindi. lam mo yun? basta, parang ganun ang pull-tug sa character attack. feeling ko nahihiya ang director to direct her baga. minsan talaga, may ganun.

yun ding camerawork minsan. may konting depokadong eksena na yung bg ang focused at ang fg ay hindi. sorry jke! pero i think this is really the folly of the digital technology e. kasi sa shoot ko sa gma, minsan ganyan din ang nangyayari sa cameraman. i wonder why. last na. once, nakita din ang reflection ng camcrew sa eksena. iwas lang sana! 🙂 peace, people.

well, yun lang naman. this is still highly recommended. i like that it doesn’t give a heavyhanded lecture on the pros and cons of call center life. casual lang, and that works well.

d. joel ruiz and abi aquino
c. ces quesada, mark gil and a host of others

pitch: about the landlady’s search for the person who threw a fetus in the garbage near her apartment compound

catch: nasan ang naratibo?

what happened to the drained look of this film? it doesn’t really help the story at all.

as usual, storylines like this are not new. put different types of characters in one setting and let them interact. put a whodunit path para may konting tatakbuhan ang kuwento. and then end it. but how? ayan ang naging prublema ng film. it knew what to start with, when to start, but sustaining what it started was hard for the filmmakers. in the end, we just get an ending na…wala, kelangan lang tapusin. hindi siya bitin, kasi wala kang makagatang malaman na kuwento in the first place. it doesn’t work, sorry.

it doesn’t help din na the characters are expected na sa kanilang roles. masyadong cookie cutter na siya. yung iba naman, di mo alam ano purpose. yung iba, weird na out of character siya. i’m particularly iffy about those two garbagemen who were feeling icky and all that when they picked up the trash and saw a fetus inside. hindi na sila ganun kasensitibo sa mga napupulot at nakukuha nila sa trash! have you actually seen actual garbagemen pick up trash and all? ang weird lang nito sobra. hay.

sayang pera.

d. paul morales
c. meryll soriano, shamaine buencamino, nonoy froilan, jay aquitania

pitch: about a wwII story of a family who hid in davao but has music as their refuge ek

catch: hindi kumeri ang pitch na to, kahit well-funded siya!

memoirs of a war nga ang pelikulang ito, tungkol sa isang pamilyang kung saan-saan napadpad kakatakas sa japs during the war, where their father endured hardships and all. sadly, hindi ito lahat nakikita. bagkus, nalalaman ito through expository dialogue na kinukuwento na lang ng mga karakters. eg “kawawa naman si tatay, dalawang taon siyang kinulong ng mga kempentai(sp?) at pinahirapan..” chenes. haysus. nagpelikula ka pa. sana bumili na lang ako ng kopya ng book na pinagbasehan nito, matutuwa pa ko.

tapos weird lang na musika eklat ang nagtatahi sa pamilya eklat para mabuhay chorva, e before the war, wla naman tayong nakitang ganoon kabigat o memorable na episodes kung saan music prominently figured in their lives (cross-reference: watch polanski’s THE PIANIST!), save from one scene or two na tumutugtog sa bahay ng piano si ate at sister at nakikinig ang boylet siblings. kaya sobrang walang impact yung na-ship na yung piano sa bukid na pinagtataguan ng family tapos they played pa a concerto sa bukid for the japanese soldiers na naging friendships na nila. hay! ang hirap! ang hirap tanggapin ng narrative unfolding nito. i’ll just read the book siguro… sayang ang akting. akting! weird din na parang may mga sexual tension ang characters, especially the siblings! ewan ko. may ganung feel. basta. o baka gutom na ko while watching this. hohum.

d. francis pasion
c. baron geisler

pitch: a gay reality tv news reporter follows the wake of a murdered gay man, twisting some truths and enhancing some facts all for the glory of tv ratings

catch: TUHOG REDUX, anyone?

the film is very talkative and aptly so, for the medium that it presents in the film (the world of television broadcast chuva, especially of the current affairs/public affairs type). however, i just find it too talkative sometimes that i need a breather/break from too much words. i wanted visuals.

visuals. yes, they’re here, and the camerawork is okay naman. very tv lang nga din ang approach at attack. sige, apt na rin sa kuwento.

actingwise, okay siya. nakakatuwa si baron lalo na yung nakikipaglandian siya kay coco martin, yung “basaan tayo. sasabunin kita” ek. hahahaha! typical! funny. he deserved the award.

the story is okay. contemporary, i guess, that’s why the foreign judges found it quaint. but for someone who has seen jeff jeturian’s TUHOG, it might be bothersome. kasi parehong-pareho ng handling. does it matter that tuhog’s scriptwriter was jay’s script consultant? i’m not sure if that was a good move on sir bing lao’s part. and the director thanking jeff during the screening was…weird.

it’s a kind of film you only see once, and that’s it. novelty ang dating. sayang. siguro the narrative handling could have made a difference in turning it into a timeless piece. pero parang…mahirap ata yun. talagang pang-here and now lang siyang pelikula. yes, sometimes merong ganun. at eto na nga yun.

d. paul sta. ana
c. agot isidro

pitch: a writer deals with the separation from her husband by writing her feelings and hardships into a fiction novel which we also see unfold along with her own narrative

catch: dumaan lang siya, yun na

it’s nice na ang isang pelikula ay nag-focus sa isang writer–at fiction writer pa!– bilang bida. tapos pinakita din ang kanyang sinusulat na kuwento sa atin. novel within a film. tapos nakita natin na ang mga karakter na nag-portray ng fictional characters niya ay ang “real-life” characters na nakakasalamuha niya sa buhay niya (hello shades of dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ). pero parang hanggang doon na lang ang charm ng pelikula.

ito yung film na dadaan lang sa iyo, walang masyadong major impact or emotional dent. hindi ko mawari kung bakit. ripe naman ang naratibo for plausible richer scenes, given the kinds of conflicts it presented. kaya lang parang dumaan lang talaga siya, just like the pasada ng taxi na siyang bida sa nobela sa pelikula. dumaan lang.

in fairness, magaling ang akting ng mga aktor. they were handled well. the camerawork i’m not too happy about. may off sa framing, lalo na yung nagsasalita ang characters tapos nasa edge tapos parang saliwa pag pinagdikit ang dalawang shots shot this way. basta. there’s something wrong about the visual language; medyo hindi pa siya hasa. passable, pero needs polishing sobra.

d. jay abello
c. christian vasquez, angel jacob

pitch: bacolod bred ex-lovers work together to find the right cuisine of their upcoming restaurant, and in a way find that that is the way to each other’s hearts. ek.

catch: saliwa ang camera handling te

cute itong film! one-time watch lang siya pero may novelty kahit papaano. that o baka biased lang ako dahil i love negrense (tama ba term?) cuisine. i heart bacolod and the food and the quaint surroundings and the diction of the ilonggos. tama, biased lang ako. hehe. i wanna be an honorary ilonggo kasi hahaha!

cute yung film. the story is simple: love story pero hindi siya a la star cinema-kilig factor, pero you still find yourself na kinikilig. it helps na siguro maganda ang onscreen chemistry ng actors. at ewan ko lang kung bakit pero when i saw angel jacob outside the cinema, hotness siya! kahit sa screen, hindi naman gaano. hahaha. now this is biased! hahaha. ewan.

in fairness, maganda ang film kahit na obviously rahrah pro-negros chorva ang materyal, pero ang maganda, hindi halata ang pagka-rahrah niya madalas, at hindi salamat-po-dept-of-tourism ang approach. although weird lang minsan yung character ni christian na chef chuva siya pero di niya ma-sense ang basic ingredients ng negrense cooking chuva. flaw itong malaki. sana ibang motivation na lang ang binigay sa kanya kung bakit hindi niya bet ang local cuisine nila in the first place. sayang.

off din ang camerawork dito. may eksenang nagsasagutan na ang lovers pero nakatalikod pa rin si gelay. among other shots. sayang. needs polishing.

all in all, its simplicity worked. hindi siya spectacular, hindi siya pang-award, mainstream ng konti ang sensitivity pero pumapatok naman. watch!

d. chris martinez
c. mylene dizon, eugene domingo, tessie tomas

pitch: a woman diagnosed with cancer lists the 100 things she should do before she dies, and does them

catch: BUCKET LIST, anyone?

sure, sure, what plot is original these days, eh. pero the handling of this story was good. so very good. madaming napanalunan ito, directing and script ata included. well-deserved. simple lang, polished in an upper middle class way (think early viva films of the 80s), and acted well. maganda yung nuances ng characters dahil lahat sila buong-buo, have a life of their own, and can stand alone when tested. okay siya. natulungan siya ng magandang script, yung good editing pulse at acting and direction. sample: yung scene na first time nadiskubre ng nanay ng may kanser yung sakit. nasa ospital at nakaratay si mylene, sabay pasok hagulhol si tessie at hyperventilate, cut to next shot nasa wheelchair na si mylene at si tessie na ang nakaratay sa hospital bed. hahahaha! simple yet well-executed in all counts. winner! nakakatuwa siya. at gusto ko ang script kasi witty rin siya, contemporary witty, contemporary witty na lasting, hindi lang pang-here and now ang quality. now that’s classic!

gusto ko rin na hindi heavyhanded ang mga eksenang dapat e sad, lalo na yung patukoy sa kanser niya. maganda yung pagka-casual ng treatment pero may weight pa rin, lam mo yun? basta, okay siya. nice. watch!

d. ellen ongkeko-marfil
c. coke bolipata, ricky davao, cherry pie picache

pitch: a bitter violinist and a physically abused boy find bonding as healing via the music of their violins. ek.

catch: not so new narrative

the story’s not new. sampu sampera din ang ganitong seeking refuge of abused souls via art ek, especially music. marami nang films na ganito. what’s refreshing siguro dito is the superb talent of the child prodigy na naglalaro talaga ng violin. doesn’t require too much acting prowess din kasi pipi ang role niya. although minsan parang so unicef-heavy ang film na parang nakakairita na. pero maganda na may ganitong awareness sa pelikula. at maganda rin na ang approach ay walang tuldok sa abuser father na posibleng ma-reunite with the abused son later on. pero di na natin kelangang makita ito, kaya di na nila pinakita. open-ended. ang pinakita lang, ang superb violin playing prowess ng kid, and that’s that. simple. mentor-student narrative. no big expectations, and sometimes, that works. enjoy the film lang. yun na. it’s worth watching, if only to see coke bolipata act and his child prodigy play. nice siya.

d. michael cardoz
c. archie adamos, garry lim

pitch: the story of the last day of a prisoner who serves as the prison cook

catch: parang nanatili siyang pitch

michael’s my former student sa upfi and i really like the way he handled his thesis short film. but playing the mainstream way might not be his biggest quality, as yet. i’m not sure what happened to this film (okay, i partly know hehe but i’m not telling!) kasi parang ang feeling e tinamad na siyang ituloy ang development ng kuwento (consequence ba ito?). maganda sana ang ina-achieve nitong “real-time mode” in unfolding of the narrative, pero dapat it was also well-choreographed in the way shots were made. we get the sense na pinapa-feel sa audience ang banality of life in prison, yung pagka-bagot, boredom ek. pero there’s a way of doing this, not just through making longtake babads with scenes without an emotional focus. sayang.

saka my biggest beef here is, hindi marunong maghiwa at magtalop ng foodstuff ang mga ranchero! dapat may konti silang culinary training before the shoot. kasi kung ang reason e preso sila at lalaki at wala talagang alam kaya nag-imbento sila ng sariling style, hindi ito akma. halatang hindi marunong maghiwa ng sibuyas man lang ang mga ito. at ang kapal nilang magbalat ng gulay! dapat alam na nila by now how to make tipid sa paghiwa para mas maraming laman di ba? hay. sorry maikel, avid fan ng lifestyle/food network ang lola mo kaya i can’t let this go. but the others, i think i can.

sayang lang ang ending. again, naratibong bitin ito. sayang, malaki pa naman ang potential ng material. sana hindi nabitawan ang development…

d. tara illenberger
c. yul servo

pitch: mangyan children who work as helpers of illegal loggers in mindoro meet lots of “social issue” obstacles in their task

catch: nalunod sa NGO-ship ang kuwento

maganda sana sobra ang premise ng pelikula. it has an obvious statement on the environment, particularly illegal logging (although off lang yung music video-ish sa gitna na may modang ‘mahalin ang kalikasan chorva’ to the tune of a joey ayala song). but along the way, the story was marred by a wayward unfolding that left the story without a clear-cut focus.

it’s a simple story sana about two kids who want to make extra money the illegal way, by being “brutus” — people who bring the cut wood to the lowlads via hidden means. along the way, dami nilang nadaanan at bawat dinaanan e dagdag sa kuwentong nakapagpalayo ng konti o malaki sa main plot nila. i guess that’s the point: too many subplots na sinubukang i-resolve isa-isa at minsan nakakalimutan balikan ang main plot ng dalawang bata.

it doesn’t help din na ang mga dialogues dito mostly sound like advocacy pieces, lalo na when that waxing poetic of a character ni ronnie lazaro as the army soldier with a golden heart speaks his mind. tapos si yul servo andun din to speak for the NPAs and why their fight makes sense pa rin chuva. kaya lang for a neps, hindi siya magaling gumalaw sa bundok! ang labo. parang ma-o-off balance siya sa pag-step sa kahoy, sa bato, etc. wala siyang liksi ati. parang hindi niya alam kung san tatapak — and not because hindi siya familiar sa place kaya nagpatulong siya sa kids for directions. not to mention, as mentioned by another indie filmmaker somewhere, na ang bright color ng shirt niya, at bagong bago ang jeans! hihihi. nitpicking i know pero may point: that adds realism kasi to the story, kaya sana the production designer focused on having a believable and deliverable mise en scene. sayang.

high point ng film ay ang editing. i guess that is still tara’s strength, given the years of service niya editing mainstream full-lengths. that one worked, especially during the scenes na natangay ng rumaragasang ilog ang balsa at mga bata. panalo ito te! the other aspects, sorry pero they still need lots of work. the camerawork is good, though. good colors and shots.

okay yun na. trabaho lang folks, walang pikunan!

see you next year!

Cinemalaya shorts 2008 (short films)

Posted in Cinemalaya, film students, indie films, Philippine Cinema, short films on August 12, 2008 by leaflens


originally posted at

respite from work and escape from crazy women/crazy men at work (and there are a lot lately, i tell you) — cine chichirya.

shorts muna. cinemalaya shorts, that is.

mabilis lang to. sobra. meryenda level.


d. Rommel “Milo” Tolentino

pitch: a scavenger boy, obsessed with buying a raffle ticket that could win him a tv set, does all things possible to achieve this simple yet touching goal

catch: editing needs a bit of polishing

i loved this one! never mind that non-professional actors were acting (somewhat) in this film. it appeared a bit natural nga e, parang docu style, lalo na yung nanay na nakukulitan sa anak niyang pabili ng pabili ng tv, at ng tiket para manalo ng tv sa raffle. classic! neorealism at its finest ito. siyempre natulungan ng magandang pulso for editing para lumabas ang story, at na-achieve naman. sobrang aliw ang treatment na magaan lang, walang paghuhusga, kahit na mahirap sila o ang sitwasyon, pinapakita lang as it is, unfolding lives, na walang filmmaker-from-the-upperclass-looking-down-on-filmed-subject-from-the-lowerclass mode, unlike previous cinemalaya shorts na nakita ko na sobra lang matapobre ang lenteng ginamit sa kamera. hay nakuh. pero si andong, deserve niya ang panalo niya. congrats sa inyo, nerissa!

d. Joel P. Ruiz

pitch: sabi ng program “is about a woman who overcomes the grief of losing her adopted son”

catch: parang hindi nakita ang pitch na iyon

in UPFI, we have a subject called Film 175 Film and Literature where cross-disciplinary arts like cinema and literary works, particularly short stories and novels, are dissected and compared. siguro kelangang dumaan sa klaseng ito ang mga filmmakers kasi hinugot nila ang kuwento sa short story ni master literary storyteller jose “butch” dalisay, na if i am not mistaken, the title is “Some Families, Very Large.”

hands down, sir butch is a master of the craft of the filipino short story in english, and his writings usually picture and sketch very vivid scenes and emotions that weave into thought-provoking stories. the weaving and such really works well with words on paper. sadly… this kind of weaving still has to be translated into visuals and sound. laglag lang ati. sobrang laylay ang pelikulang ito, dahil hindi niya na-achieve and sentiment na binabato ng short story. it didn’t even have a life of its own, as what happens most times with film adaptations of literary works. but there’s an art to it, adaptation and translation. mukhang kulang pa. hindi tumawid.

d. Sheron R. Dayoc

pitch: sabi sa program “centers on a mute nine-year-old girl named Satra, whose determination to secure a good education reverberates clearly amid the strictness of her Yakan culture. The Yakan are one of the 13 Moro groups in the Philippines. They mainly reside in Basilan, Mindanao.”

catch: filmed with an audience in mind? hm.

ambivalent ako sa film na ito. it kinda appeared good to me in the beginning, kasi appreciate ko sobra ang films na nagpapakita ng iba’t ibang kultura ng pagiging pilipino, hindi lang yung “modern” (read: american-influenced) culture natin ek. okay sana. pero nalabuan lang ako sa kuwento. maganda sana yung issues na ipinapasok dito, namely the right of the child to an education, and the gender roles handed down to us by tradition ek. kaya lang parang hilaw pa rin sa luto, kaya yung deliver parang di masyadong satisfying. it was also obvious that the filmmakers were in love so much with their “artsy” shots, and that usually kills the story. a film should have a balance of how a story will unfold utilizing the visuals. medyo kulang pa ito ng ganun. nag-take off siya, pero hindi lang lumipad ng husto.

hani, trabaho lang ha, walang personalan hehe 🙂 congrats nonetheless sa inyo diyan sa zambales! make more films like these! hey, where’s my tubbao? hehe 😛

d. Vic Acedillo, Jr

pitch: sabi sa program “is about two brothers’ journey to compete in a kite flying contest. But getting there takes some time. In the end, they face something unexpected and discover something more precious than winning.”

catch: gano’n???? yun yun???

sa totoo lang, lost ako sa pelikulang ito. isang tumataginting na “hanubayunnnnnn” ang reaksyon ko when i watched this. may konsepto, walang kuwento. delikado. argh. for that, yun na ang review! bakit pasok to???


d. Mark V. Reyes

pitch: sabi sa program “focuses on the disturbing and gut wrenching tale about the realities of life in the sprawling metropolis of Manila.”

catch: miscast ang cast sa urban poor setting

di marunong gumawa ng synopsis ang gumawa nito. it’s more than that. it’s about this nanay who has to face her demons and moral decisions of giving her son for adoption, out of extreme poverty, only to have that son sold to white slavery. and to a pedophile at that. harshness!

hambigaaaaat! di ba? pero effective siya. not new, typical story, sampu sampera na ang mga giving-up-or-selling-your-child-for-money chorva storylines sa philippine cinema (or asian cinema/third world cinema for that matter), pero this one, nadala ng good acting, thoughtful directing, at good-paced editing. never mind the shots. minsan may hindi kering anggulo pero sige lang. nadala ng aktres.

si angel aquino nga pala ang aktres. bothered lang ako kasi for an urban poor nanay, ang ganda ng highlights work sa hair niya, na halatang pina-parlor (sobrang shiny lang, ate). and of course her complexion, although minsan puwedeng lumusot ito na makinis ang mga nakatira sa slums ek (dahil may ganun namang mga tao talaga). o sige, half-keri. pero yung anak niya kasi, halatang slight malusog at alagang-alaga, kaya hindi believable na naghihirap sila at kelangan siyang ibenta. ayun lang naman ang beef ko. other than that, okay ang film na ito. the build-up of the anticipation, na alam mo nang gagawin niya, tapos yung pag-aagaw ng emosyon nung nanay na kineri ng akting ni angel, bet! winner ito. bigat lang, pero winner.

d. Vitaliano A. Rave

pitch: sabi sa program “is a film noir style about a detective’s last minutes.”

catch: so ano’ng bago?

siguro ang bago e ang filmmakers ay enamored sa medium ng graphic novel, because it was obvious that they were making it appear like the visuals were straight out of graphic novels, lalo na’t may pa-thank you sa isang graphic novel author sa credits na inspirasyon nila i’m sure (frank miller ‘ata). kaya lang, kapag tinanggal mo ang graphic novel look and all, ano’ng matitira? walang kuwento ito, talagang gusto lang niyang magpakitang gilas na may alam sila sa cool, slick videography and editing. sadly, hindi kineri ng set, costumes (lalo na si detective na mukhang manong na naka-amerikana — sa dark alleyways of dirty manila? wengk.) at ng boses ng detective (na hindi siya sounding detective! kulang sa bass). hm. sana lang maging mas orihinal pa ang filmmakers, meaning make this material closer to pinoy culture, para hindi siya mukhang american ripoff (which is what it is, actually). sayang ang slick equipment if it won’t be put into good use.

d. Anna G. Bigornia

pitch: sabi sa program “is a 7-minute animation about an 8-year-old girl and her relationship with her first pet, a chick, the subject of a class experiment.”

catch: sana may light ang faces ng characters

other than that, keri ko ito. maganda na hindi talkie, and for an animation work, oks lagi iyon. maganda ang music, ang tema, cute ang animation work, pero bakit madilim ang fez? hm. masyado lang mahaba, feeling ko, for the kind of story it was trying to tell. sana mas pinaiklian pa para poignant, short and sweet. pero bet ko ang animation style. parang slight eastern european ang feel, pero pinoy ang textures. winner!

d. Dexter B. Cayanes

pitch: sabi sa program “is about a prostitute whose life changed when her mute sibling learned to talk, uttering only the word “panggaris.”

catch: kulang sa kwento

sa totoo lang, di ko na talaga halos maalala itong short na to. i guess ganon siya tumatak (o hindi) sa akin. i just remember being unhappy in watching it. sorry alam ko hindi fair itong ganitong review pero i guess my reaction also speaks for the quality it has (or the absence of it).

d. Sheron R. Dayoc

pitch: sabi sa program “is an experimental film about a young boy’s emotion as seen through his make-believe story.”

catch: kulang sa kuwento

di ko alam kung dahil sa huli-huli na ito at di ko masyadong keri ang kuwento, pero hindi ko na siya sobrang matandaan ang detalye. i guess ganoon din siya tumatak (o hindi) sa akin. noble and good intentions cited, at okay iyon. pero the art and craft of storytelling through film, kulang pa rin. could be improved. may promise naman e.

d. L.A. Yamsuan

pitch: sabi sa program “tells about the dynamics and complexities of a single father-daughter relationship in a postmodern patriarchal Filipino society.”

catch: nachorva ko na ito bilang isa siya sa thesis ng nakaraang taon, at isa pa sa best thesis

the story is actually good. biases aside siyempre. i like the sensitivity of the camera handling and the editing, may pacing, at very mature ito. i also like the super subtle (call me overreading) na ang kuwento ay tungkol sa isang babae na puwedeng may leaning towards liking another babae. super subtle message, partly hidden, pero quite a bit obvious sa portrayal and acting. sinadya man o hindi, okay lang. ayun. basta. okay to. congrats, LA!


o sya, my break is over. discuss.

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