Vertical filmmaking pushes the boundaries of movie creation and cinema experience

Published July 8, 2021, 1:42 PM

by John Legaspi

Not sure about it? Let Nespresso Talents 2021 Filipino champions convince you

Through 100 years of Philippine cinema, Filipino viewers have marveled on the talent and craftsmanship of local filmmakers as they present stories through reels flashed on horizontal big screens. Seeing movies in that size and format has its purpose. Just think of it. How could we understand the grand scale of despair in Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” if we cannot see the barren land and its horizon? Landscape screen also gives ample space to show how alone a character is or how heavy a scene is with a crowd. In a more literal sense, it gives a bigger, and better, picture of things.

While it has been the norm for so many years, this type of cinematic creation and experience is being challenged by a new form. With the continuous rise of smartphones, vertical filmmaking is becoming more relevant in our viewing sessions today. Through social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchats, and Tiktok, people are now being drawn to portrait-size movies and videos, especially during the pandemic.

That is what global coffee brand Nespresso is celebrating, the new transformative power and ability of filmmaking even during a global health crisis. For its sixth edition, its film competition, Nespresso Talents 2021, focused on the theme “Doing Is Everything.” In partnership with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), De La Salle University College of St. Benilde Film School, and, the Nespresso Talents 2021 challenged participants to create short films in vertical format (9:16), documenting today’s challenges and how even the smallest action can create an extraordinary positive change in the lives of others.

Months after its call for submissions, the Nespresso Talents 2021 has crowned this year’s filmmaking champions last July 6, 2021 through a virtual ceremony.

Nespresso Talents 2021 Local Jury and Winners and host Lexi Schulze

“I was amazed once again with the quality of the films, especially considering the pandemic that we are unfortunately living in today,” said Nespresso South East Asia Regional Business Development manager Fabio de Gregorio. “They (films) have been a source of inspiration and there was this great value in them. These films helped me understand the Filipino culture better.”

This year’s entries were assessed by the Philippines Jury composed of award-winning director, screenwriter, and author Jose Javier Reyes; multi-awarded filmmaker Quark Henares; renowned actress, producer, director, screenwriter, and author Bela Padilla; along with Novateur Coffee Concepts managing director Patrick Pesengco, and Fabio de Gregorio.

Here are top three films:

Still from “Special Delivery”

Third Prize: ‘Special Delivery’ by Gerald Foliente (Sinematika Inc.)

Gerald Foliente’s featurette revolves around a delivery man met with a minor accident. Although his body is in pain, the delivery man is determined to complete his tasks. A colorful pinwheel, broken then fixed, can be seen throughout the film, and is used to “deliver” a sweet end after a day of hard work.

Still from “Ma”

Second Prize: ‘Ma’ by Dexter Paul De Jesus

Dexter Paul De Jesus takes the audience on a dramatic journey as he mixes animation and real life scenes in his short film “Ma.” The film depicts a son’s longing to spend time with his mom who hasn’t come home for months due to her job as a medical worker.

Still from “Napamata Ako sa Sadit na Kinaban (I Woke Up On A Little Planet)”

Grand Prize: ‘Napamata Ako sa Sadit na Kinaban (I Woke Up On A Little Planet)’ by Arjanmar H. Rebeta

Arjanmar H. Rebeta’s “Napamata Ako sa Sadit na Kinaban (I Woke Up On A Little Planet)” is about a man who wakes up on a little planet and doesn’t find anything that interests him, so he sleeps on it. Eventually, he realizes that he should have started taking action from the very beginning because the planet depends on the person living on it. A first for Nespresso Philippines–the film is part of the international shortlist.

Nagpapasalamat po ako kay Direk Joey dahil nung narinig ko mga sinabi niya kanina, naiyak ako kasi naramdaman kong naipahayag ko pala ng maayos yung pelikula kasi somehow, istorya ko rin siya ngayon pandemic. Lumiliit mundo mo, pero lumalaki yung kalungkutan sa atin–mas merong nakakaramdam ng depression, ng anxiety. Pero mas dadaig pa rin yung pakikipag-laban, na magpatuloy ka dahil babalik pa rin si normal. Hindi man ito tungkol sa pandemic—tungkol man ito sa buhay–babalik at babalik ka, lalaban at lalaban ka,” Arjanmar said. “Ironically, sa tema na ‘Doing is Everything,’ sa panahon na walang magawa, nabigyan kami ng pagkakataon na makagawa ng ganitong klaseng pelikula.”

[I would like to thank Direk Joey–I was touched hearing his words because it made me realize that I was able to convey the film’s message which is somehow my story during this pandemic. As your world gets smaller, the feeling of emptiness gets bigger–there are some who would go through depression, anxiety. But our eagerness to forge ahead will always prevail. It (the film) may not be about the pandemic–it may be about one’s life—you will always move forward. Ironically, in a situation where our movements are limited, working on a film that revolved around the theme Doing is Everything allowed us this opportunity to work on something boundless.]

Winners took home a cash prize equivalent to €1,500 for the grand winner, followed by €1,000 for the runner-up, and €500 for the third placer. All three winners received Nespresso machines and coffees on top of a well-deserved trophy.

The other local finalists were:

  • “Mr. Everything” by Romel Cabuguang

A tutor, an illustrator, a barber, an online seller–a 25-year-old Rommel Royo wears many hats so he’s able to support his mom and brother.

  • “PR 3953, Now Boarding” by John Thomas Trinidad

Despite a daughter having a conflict with her dad, even the smallest bit of giving him a neck pillow shows how much he means to her.

  • “Waves” by Ian Palomar
  • Musical depiction associating sea and waves with a person and life’s struggles.
  • Para Uma (farmer)” by John Kenneth Paclibar

A visual and realistic portrayal of a Filipino folk song, “Magtanim ay di biro (Literal translation: Planting is not a joke),” which talks about the challenges in the lives of farmers. The ending shows the average age of farmers.

  • Saka Na (SOMEDAY)” by Cheska Marfori

Two sisters put their dreams aside and take on different paths in life to support their parents’ farming jobs.

  • Bahay-bahayan (Playhouse)” by Xyron Parapara

A deaf kid expresses his love towards the people around him through actions.

  • “150+ Heads” by Bennel Canlas

Gio DiAntonio, who lives in a shelter for street kids, finds joy as the official barber of those with him. During the pandemic, a friend sought his support in giving free haircuts to nearby areas.

Locally, Nespresso Talents 2021 received 71 film entries. Combining local and international submissions, 993 filmmakers participated in the global competition.

“It’s very impressive that, though this happened during the entire pandemic lockdown, we still saw the quality in these films,” said Patrick Pesengco. “To everyone who has been with us and continues to be with us ever since we launched Nespresso Talents in the Philippines, we really appreciate the belief and sincerity that allow us to promote such young talents.”

The international winners will be announced on July 9, 2021 at Nespresso Talents’ website. Watch the local short film entries here.