Cinemalaya 2017 journal: On estrangements, poetry and validation

Aug 21, 2017
This year's Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival has recently concluded. Here are my two cents on the films I was able to catch during its run last week.

respeto movie review cinemalaya

The line-up this year for the full-length category is yet again as diverse as one would expect. Treb Montreras II's Respeto took home the Best Picture trophy (as well as other top awards including a Best Supporting Actor win for Dido De La Paz), and it definitely deserves it. It stars rapper Abra as someone who seeks validation and respect from the cloud of impunity he cannot escape. He hopes to find it by competing in underground rap battles, against some of whom who has established a strong reputation in their community. Contrary to expectation, this is not a film about rap culture. Instead it is used as a platform for the strong social commentaries it was able to subtly (and strongly) portrayed. There were a few moments wherein the film takes a turn by being something that is surprisingly poetic. From the interesting analogies of its characters to its striking sentiments on poetry, 'Respeto' is undoubtedly one of the best Philippine cinema has to offer this year. 

sa gabing nanahimik ang mga kuliglig movie review cinemalaya

Iar Lionel Arondaing's 'Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig' never allows room for any connection. This mystery drama about a woman (Angel Aquino) who confesses over a priest after murdering her husband's mistress (Mercedes Cabral) gets to a point where it tries to engage on spiritual and moral quests on its characters, but not to its full effective extent. There's so much things going on in this film that some parts of it doesn't feel earned by the end. I think this is a story that could play out better if it takes more time on establishments rather than running through it. 

bagahe movie review cinemalaya

Bagahe by Zig Dulay is an example of why a mechanistic story-telling approach can sometimes be both a good thing and not. Right off the bat, the film gets to introduce us to Angeli Bayani's character. We see her panicking in a comfort room of an airplane, for reasons that isn't realized. She is later accused of being the main suspect of leaving a baby in the same comfort room, eventually revealing her dark past. The film is a character study on Bayani's character, which is a not a really bad thing if you see it. But it demands to be very specific on its disection, following her character's journey literally action after action. Its slow pacing at times took away some of the attachment one would have to actually invest on her journey. There's still something to cling onto here anyways.

nabubulok movie review cinemalaya

Concocting effective suspense is hard, but Sonny Calvento managed to pull it off in his first full-length feature Nabubulok. Starring a talented cast that includes Gina Alajar and JC Santos, it surrounds itself on Alajar's missing cousin in the film played by Sue Prado. All fingers are pointed towards her husband (Billy Ray Galleon), who may have killed her in the first place. Nabubulok strangely built its tension on its transparency. We all know what happened, who did what, but still it gets to be gripping. How were they able to make it work? Through well-established characters. It goes to moments where we actually get to care about its antagonists equally as the story's protagonists. 

kiko boksingero movie review cinemalaya

Out of all the full-length features in competition, it is Kiko Boksingero that seems to stray away from any complexities. It's a film that works best when it isn't trying to say anything loud, since it already establishes itself as something that is simply earnest. This year's Best Actor Noel Comia, Jr. plays the titular boxer wannabe, who finds himself reuniting with his estranged father (Yul Servo). Although the film isn't really as large as the other films in the festival in terms of ideas and scope, it is surprisingly heavy on emotion. You'll get nothing momentous by the end, but it concludes on a point that will make you linger.

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