Cinemalaya 2018 journal: Extremely highs and incredibly lows

Aug 13, 2018

Unlike many, my Cinemalaya fever this year began in January with actual fever. We were conducting our thesis paper about Cinemalaya Foundation’s institutional processes. I had a fond memory realizing how difficult it was to actually get an interview for the internal staffs of Cultural Center of the Philippines, and how it’s ultimately more difficult to piece all things together in written format. 

Last week, I went not as a spectator of the process, but as a spectator of featured films.  What’s actually fascinating entering the festival proper was to witness the materialization of the entire thing that I only gotten to previously attribute as “implications” for our study, even though I did not totally see the camera butterflies in the publicity materials coming. 

The festival opens with Erik Matti’s ‘BuyBust.’ Now, there’s been very mixed comments about its use of action. I totally don’t understand why everyone has been so disappointed that it could not even go hand-in-hand with international action choreographies. It’s only a matter of time our local cinema should start somewhere, but what we got here was pretty good actually. Although i’m not really a fan of how it is unsure how to present the morality of its lead character, there’s strong statements to explore here that isn’t just simply pulling punches. 

Che Espiritu’s ‘Pan De Salawal’ portrays magical realism on the sweetest attempt they can do. Miel Espinosa plays the young Aguy, who can heal people by hurting them. By playing on pain as a feeling that deserves in order to reach comfort, this entire bit works just because Espinosa was good. Other than that, i’m not really sure what the film really wants. It built a community of people who miraculously got alive upon the entry of Aguy, but you also have her relationship with Bodjie Pascua’s Sal. What it wants will never be cleared up at least now, because there’s only too much your eyes could actually lay on. 

The Shorts B section was fairly okay. I heard the Shorts A was a lot better than this one, but well, you have no choice but to stay here. Jav Velasco’s ‘You, Me and Mr. Wiggles’ was mainly effective on its more intimate arguments. Mika Fabella’s ‘Yakap’ was forgettable (pardon my memory, I really don’t recall what happens here). Jarell Serencio’s ‘Siyudad Sa Bulawan’ convinces me that it’s like watching a documentary of the gold mining process with such innocence. Jojo Driz’s ‘Kiko’ never interferes on complexities, until it decided to do so, and now everyone’s lost in the multi-layered scheme of things. Keith Deligero’s ‘Babylon’ was an instant favorite, probably because I just don’t understand what the hell it was. Sometimes, there are films that you hate because it was trying to be complex, but films like this, was just too fun to savor completely. If you managed to make me roll on a talking chicken, then you (without hesitation) get my vote!

Benedict Mique’s ‘ML’ was actually more intense than the frenetic ‘BuyBust,’ and they only got Eddie Garcia to pull out the horror. The actor plays a retired metrocom officer from the Martial Law era who suffers from dementia. When a student goes in his property for a research on not-so-distant period, the old officer in him will unknowingly resurface. It’s pretty refreshing to see Martial Law portrayed on-screen that isn’t too hammering on the viewers. We get it, media. The young people needs to be lectured, but simple narration just couldn’t work. You have to make them feel, and in this film’s case, terrify. There are a lot of times where it was too gory for my taste, but the director mentioned that the inclusion of grotesque violence was more “exposition than exploitation.” I really hope many people get to see this. If a genre on the veins of ‘Don’t Breathe’ will made you convince to see a film about this dark period, I couldn’t recommend this even more. 

kung paano hinintay ang dapithapon cinemalaya

Kung Paano Hinintay ang Dapithapon’ was just too much for me. There are a few times where I felt like watching a portal to see my grandparents, arguing about pubic hairs on soap. It’s raw, it’s light, it’s fun, it’s heartwarming. And then there’s the other side of it, which is all about love that impossibly seeks for redemption. We care for Dante Rivero’s character in the film, who was visited by an ex-wife and her husband after learning he was in need of medical attention. But also, should we actually care for him after his previous life choices? 

In the end, the film became a harrowing portrait of a man secretly trying to get out of his guilt. It’s quite an emotional ride. It could actually be one of my favorite Cinemalaya entries in recent memory. 

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