Indie film is alive despite the pandemic

Published July 21, 2021, 9:00 AM

by Jules Vivas

Thanks to Cinemalaya and the CCP, the Philippine cinema industry stays afloat

Some say Philippine cinema is dying, but we’re not giving up, at least not the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, which plugs in the life support for young and rising Filipino filmmakers. With the world still plagued by the coronavirus, the indie movie fest navigates the social currents, journeying anew to the digital platform. Participating films will screen on from Aug. 6 to Sep. 5.

It is the second online edition of the Philippines’ biggest indie film fest. On its 17th run, Cinemalaya remains significant today, unwavering in its mission to discover, encourage, support, train, and recognize gifted Filipino independent filmmakers.

These 13 interesting short films are competing for the prestigious Balanghai trophies this year.

Kids on Fire by Kyle Nieva is about a prepubescent boy discovering the power of his sexuality during a religious camp, where he realizes his special role in the prophesied return of the Son of God.

Maski Papano (I Mask Go On) by Tagyamon and Glenn Barit follows the narrative of a face mask, which after being disposed of starts to turn into a humanoid figure. It wanders around the different places in Manila looking for its previous owner.

Myra Aquino’s Beauty Queen follows the struggles of a young woman during World War II in the Philippines after she lost her father.

In Marc Misa’s Crossing, a desperate security guard named Gabriel Arkanghell plots to rob a bus. Just before he commits the crime, two actual robbers beat him to the punch. Gabriel is forced to become the hero he did not intend to be, stuck at a crossing between doing what is necessary versus what is right.

A mischievous child learns the value of time and life as he finds his way back home to his father in Kawatan Sa Salog (A Toy in the River) by Alphie Velasco.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi by Shiri Francesca D. De Leon, tells the story of a virginal old woman who hires a callboy to change her perspective about men.

A tikbalang transforms into a teenage boy to disprove the rumor that horse demons are killing civilians in the mountain in Looking for Rafflesias and Other Fleeting Things by James Fajardo.

A struggling house helper goes through an unexpected and uplifting experience in Ate O.G. by Kevin Mayuga.

Enrico Po’s Out of Body takes the audience to a macabre commercial shoot with a young model.

Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-Asa at Panlasa (The Lost Hopes and Flavors) by Kevin Jay Ayson is a documentary on the quest for finding “pagkaing Iloco” amid the health crisis.

Career and friendship are on the line when a comic strip artist tells her writer the truths about his relationships in The Dust in Your Place by David Olson.

A grandmother and her baby grandson find solace in each other and face the harsh reality of the pandemic together in Namnama En Lolang (Grandmother’s Hope) by Jonnie Lyn Dasalla.

Last, and the recent winner of the Nespresso Philippines Talents 2021, is An Sadit na Planeta (Little Planet) by Arjanmar Rebeta, which follows the adventures of a young man who explores a tiny planet. 

Cinemalaya remains as the vanguard of Philippine independent filmmaking since its inception in 2005. But to keep things fresh, other projects are in the works.

The selection committee noticed that submissions for the main competition have become predictable, following recurrent themes of gender, poverty, and social inequalities. So, to unearth new cinematic voices and develop a growing audience for independent films, Cinemalaya Film Lab was introduced. It is a three-month-long film-laboratory mentorship program set on the latter half of the year, particularly from September to November.

With the efforts of certain organizations, we endeavor to sustain and develop the local film scene. Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival plugs in the life support for young and rising Filipino filmmakers.

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) will open its grounds with a hybrid drive-in cinema, dubbed Cinema Under the Stars, where film habitués view a movie in the hybrid drive-in cinema at Liwasang Ullalim. The first audience-centered on-site event since the lockdown, the hybrid outdoor cinema caters to anyone and everyone, whether motorists, bikers, or even those who are just walking around and passing by.

Of course, Cinemalaya mainstays remain. Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, the longest-running independent film and video competition in Asia, will still hit off this year.

The usual Visions of Asia, a major component of the film festival, will go on to screen award-winning indie films from Asia. Likewise, IndieNation will showcase notable and critically acclaimed feature-length and short films produced in the past year.

Another component is the Cinemalaya Retrospectives that features past Cinemalaya films. The film festival will also pay tribute to individuals who have made great contributions to the Philippine film industry such as filmmaker Mel Chionglo, former head of the Cinemalaya Competition and Monitoring Committee, with the screenings of three of his best films.

Also catch the Premieres, a screening of full-length and short films produced in the past year for the first time in the Philippines, as well as the launching of the book “Riding the Waves: 15 Years of Cinemalaya,” a complete guide to the colorful history of the country’s biggest independent film festival.

The film fest is co-presented by the CCP and the Cinemalaya Foundation Inc. This year, they partnered with streaming platforms and Kumu. Other corporate partners are Huachen Bayfront Hotel, McDonald’s Philippines, Optima Digital, B+C Design Inc.. Meanwhile, Rank Magazine, Adobo Magazine, Our Awesome Planet,, ArtPlus Magazine, ClickTheCity, Business World Online, WeThePvblic, Philippine Primer, and the Manila Broadcasting Company, are media partners.