Story is king

By Rica Arevalo

“Kwento ang hari rito,” is the shoutout of the 3rd CineFilipino Film Festival happening from May 9 to 15 in selected movie theaters.

Organized by Cignal TV and Unitel Productions, the eight entries are Therese Cayaba’s Delia and Sammy, Rod Marmol’s Mata Tapang, Alec Figuracion’s The Eternity Between Seconds, Ron Batallones’s Excuse Me Po, Roni Benaid’s Poon, Bor Ocampo’s Hitboy, Dwein Baltazar’s Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus, and Ronald Allan Habon’s Mga Mister ni Rosario.

What makes CineFilipino unique from the other local festivals? “We bring that sweet spot of making films accessible and relatable to specific audiences,” says festival director Madonna Tarrayo. “It is not enough that you have a good material. Your objective is to attract an audience.”

By building an audience, there is a glimmer of hope that people will flock to the cinemas. “CineFilipino has always been about building the audience for films that are commercially viable but independently produced.  Audience development and engagement are top of mind,” says the Unitel Productions CEO.

Part of the festival’s objective is to discover and develop new talents in the entertainment industry. The newbie directors come from different industries and background.

“Dwein Baltazar is a production designer,” says Madonna. “Rod Marmol is a writer in advertising and literary world, and has published books.  Alpha Habon is a film and TV writer.  Ron Batallones was a medtech who had a passion for storytelling and his script won in MTRCB’s screenwriting competition. Roni Benaid is part of the creative pool of one of the biggest entertainment studios. Alec Figuracion was doing editing and assistant directing jobs before. Bor Ocampo has the most experience in the lineup but always gives you grit and sincerity in his films. Therese Cayabo studied in The International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT) and joined to jumpstart her career in the film industry.”

Here’s a little background of the films.

Delia & Sammy features a has-been actress Delia (Rosemarie Gil) whose days are numbered.  Her husband, Sammy, who has diabetes, gout, and early signs of Alzheimer’s, relies on her. They travel in their old trusty car in the hope of healing, finding forgiveness, and acceptance.

Mata Tapang centers on Hardrock, a soldier who lost his comrades in a mission. He also lost his left eye and tries to avenge his fallen brothers.

The Eternity Between Seconds is about Andres who is a bestselling self-help author on his way to Korea for a book signing. Burned out from repetitive, boring tours and pressured by deadlines for his upcoming book, he becomes depressed.

Excuse Me Po is about Hilda (Elizabeth Oropesa), a senior citizen who begs inside a popular mall and “acts” out that she needs transportation money.

Poon tackles Claudia’s faith as she bought an image of San Vargas who miraculously shed blood. A series of death hit their community and her faith now leads her to darkness.

Hitboy stars Alex who works as a gun-for-hire. Upon finding out that he is soon going to be a father, he decides to do one last hit before he leaves the life of crime permanently.

Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus is about four men lingering in Avenida searching for one woman named Aileen.

Mga Mister ni Rosario highlights Yogi (Joross Gamboa) as a method actor who has a perfect stage wife in Bea.  He gets the role of a lifetime and threatens to kill her character while Bea tries to rewrite the script.

With this balance of artistic and audience-friendly films, Madonna hopes that these filmmakers will enter the gateway of higher commercial success. “CineFilipino aims to create films that go beyond the theatrical release. We would like to see the films translated into other formats for other platforms, too.”

The festival has categories for feature length films, short films (student category and open category), and digital content.