Expect fireworks in this year’s Cinemalaya.
For one, there’s the much-anticipated indie-cinema debut of Vilma Santos via Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Ekstra,” in which the veteran performer, perhaps the most commercially and critically successful Filipino actress of all time, deglamorizes herself to play—what else?—a movie bit actor.
There’s also Gil Portes’ “Liars,” a fictional recreation of the Philippine Little League baseball scandal in 1992.
And then there’s sex, as more than evinced by the title of Cinemalaya veteran Adolf Alix’s newest movie, “Porno.”
Alix’s movie is joined in the lusty genre by Ces Evangelista’s “Amoy y Muerte,” a movie set during the Spanish contact in which a Spaniard falls in love—and makes love—with a native, a very titillating prospect, indeed, visual- and history-wise.
Now on its ninth year, the Cinemalaya festival will feature 15 new full-length films from both established and budding directors at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and Ayala malls from July 26 to Aug. 4.
Just like the previous years, Cinemalaya holds three competitions: New Breed (for up-and-coming directors); Directors Showcase (for veteran filmmakers); and Short Feature for short films.
Creating a buzz
Joining the movies of Jeturian, Portes, Alix and Evangelista in the Directors Showcase category is Jerrold Tarrog’s “Sana Dati.”
Alix, who recently had his film “Death March” screened at the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival, said that this would be his seventh appearance in Cinemalaya as a director. “Porno” is his fifth Cinemalaya film in competition, and he has screened two works as the festival’s opening films.
“I started with ‘Donsol’ (2006); ‘Kadin’ (2007); ‘Isda’ (2011); ‘Kalayaan’ (2012); and then this one,” he said. “Pang-limang Cinemalaya ko na in competition, but I opened the festival with ‘Adela’ in 2008 and ‘Manila’ in 2009.”
Alix’s new film is creating a buzz because it’s about the clandestine porn industry thriving in third-class motels where couples are recorded on video and the images are distributed as supposed “sex scandals.” Carlo Aquino, Angel Aquino and Yul Servo star.
Award-winning filmmaker Portes is back in Cinemalaya after competing for the festival in 2010 with “Two Funerals,” for which he won Best Director.
“I feel so old,” Portes remarked during the Cinemalaya press conference at the CCP last week. “Si Adolf, he was still in college when I first met him. He volunteered to promote ‘Puerto Princesa’ (1997), decades ago. Ngayon, kasama ko na siya on stage. I’m so proud that he’s here competing with us.”
He quipped: “But I hope ako ang manalo.”
This year’s Gawad Urian Best Supporting actress Alessandra De Rossi is one of Portes’ actors in the movie.
Jeturian’s “Ekstra” shows the struggles of movie extra Loida, played by Santos, as she goes through the fun and the drama of a shooting day.
Evangelista’s “Amoy y Muerte” is set in the 16th century, at the time of the so-called Spanish contact between the colonizers and the early Filipinos. It is written by award-winning poet Jerry Gracio, perhaps the most successful film and TV writer today. He’s also commissioner of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.
“Sana Dati” by Tarog is a story about love and loss and is the third part of his “Camera” trilogy. His first two films in the trilogy are “Confessional” (2007) and “Mangatyanan” (2009).
Whole new ball game
Although the most interest has been generated by the Directors Showcase, the New Breed category, the original competition field of the festival, is also causing some excitement.
Alvin Yapan, who won the Gawad Urian Best Director last year for his 2011 Cinemalaya entry “Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa,” returns to Cinemalaya with “Debosyon.”
Also making their festival comeback are Emmanuel Palo and Eduardo Roy Jr. for “David F” and “Quick Change,” respectively.
Mikhail Red and Hannah Espia, who previously took part in the Short Feature category, are now participating in the New Breed with “Rekorder” and “Transit,” respectively.
Red, son of filmmaker Raymond Red, has entered Cinemalaya twice with his short films “Harang” (2009) and “Hazard” (2010).
“It’s a whole new different level for me,” Red said. “I had to adjust. We had to shoot more sequences, more people were involved, and the scale of production is a lot bigger than I’m used to. I made my shorts independently and this time I have co-producers. So it’s a whole new ball game for me,”
“But since it’s my first (full-length) film,” Red added, “I’m learning things as I go, and I’m happy with the outcome.” Espia’s “Transit” is about the immigration struggles of overseas Filipino workers in Israel. She had her Cinemalaya debut last year when her thesis film, “Ruweda,” competed in the Short Feature category.
“We shot nine days in Israel, one shooting day in Bangkok airport, and two shooting days here in Manila,” said Espia. “It’s very challenging because of the cultural differences. We didn’t know the rules, but we had a lot of support, especially from the OFW community and our Israeli friends.”
Other films in this year’s New Breed are Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Babagwa”; Joseph Israel Laban’s “Nuwebe”; Christopher Ad. Castillo’s “The Diplomat Hotel”; and Carlo Obispo’s “Purok 7.”
The Short Feature category will have 10 short films: Ron Segismundo’s “Bakaw”; Aiess Athina Alonso’s “Katapusang Labok”; Zig Dulay’s “Missing”; JE Tiglao’s “Onang,” Relyn Tan’s “Para kay Ama”; Joaquin Pantaleon’s “Pukpok”; Nica Santiago’s “Sa Wakas”; Adi Bontuyan’s “Taya”; Paolo O’Hara’s “The Houseband’s Wife”; and Kissza Mari Campano’s “Tutob.”
Some of the short films have already graced other festivals here and abroad.
Campano’s “Tutob” was screened at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ Cinema Rehiyon last Feburary.
Tan’s “Para kay Ama” became a finalist in the 15th International Women’s Festival in Seoul.
Alonso’s “Katapusang Labok” was part of this year’s Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.
“I shot my film in Cebu,” Alonso said. ” (In Cannes), most of my audience were South Americans and they said that they could relate to my film in terms of religion.”
Dulay, writer of 2012 Director’s Showcase Best Film, “Posas,” and a co-writer of Jeturian’s “Ekstra,” will be joining Cinemalaya this year as a short-film director.
“Personally I find it much harder to make short films compared with feature-length movies because of the inherent limitations of the medium,” said Dulay.
Cinemalaya 2013 will screen about 70 films with 25 films in competition. Aside from the competition, there will be other sections in the festival: Ani; Cinemalaya Documentaries; Cinemalaya Premieres; Retrospective: Urian’s Best (The Gawad Urian Best Film 2000-2009); and tributes to Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Celso Ad. Castillo and Eddie Romero.
There will also be other film-related programs such as the Cinemalaya Film Congress and the third Manila Film Financing Forum.
Festival director is Laurice Guillen.
The screening committee that determined the finalists for the New Breed and Director’s Showcase is composed of film directors Mel Chionglo, Joey Reyes and Joel Ruiz; actress Ina Feleo, and Inquirer arts editor and Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino critic Lito B. Zulueta.
Call CCP Film Office at 832-1125 local 1704-05; visit www.culturalcenter.gov.ph.