Ready for Cinemalaya

The 19th edition of the indie festival finds a home at the Philippine International Convention Center

At a glance

  • ‘The film grieves for the courageous men and women who have suffered in the name of nation and nationalism.’

For indie enthusiasts, August is the time to flock to the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ grounds to witness new works by upcoming filmmakers. On its 19th edition, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival finds a new home at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), CCP Tanghalang Ignacio Gimenez (Black Box Theater), and Ayala cinemas from Aug. 4 to 13. Based on their synopses, we listed interesting titles that might be worth seeing.

Kevin Mayuga’s youth drama, When This Is All Over, looks fun. At the height of the global pandemic, a guy is keen on going to the US to reunite with his mother. The strict quarantine protocol is one big hurdle to his ultimate goal. Some neighbors, “trapped” in the condo building, are keen on organizing a party. Will the guy take the bait to hobnob with his neighbors who have connections to the US Embassy in exchange for his exit to our motherland?

“We all saw this out-of-touch apathy with a lot of the privileged, but it made me ask myself if I were also guilty of that same ignorance,” says Kevin. “In this unequal world, how could you not feel guilt for having more and not doing anything about it?” Luck separates us, he adds. Blue Room actor and singer Juan Karlos Labajo is back on the big screen.

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MEET THE DIRECTOR Shé Andes directed the first full-length documentary that will be joining the 10 competing films for the full-length category

Documentary fans must give Maria a shot at the box-office. Directed by Shé Andes, this first full-length documentary of hers is the first documentary to compete against narrative feature-length films. Ten years ago, the Cinemalaya opening film was Baby Ruth Villarama’s Jazz in Love, a documentary about a young Filipino gay man who hopes to marry his German boyfriend. It’s sad that it took a decade for a documentary film to take part in the main competition.

Maria journeys with three women named Maria after the atrocity of the drug war. “Making this documentary is my assertion that as storytellers, we have an obligation to use our voice and skill to tell the story of the marginalized, not to romanticize their issues and stories, but to be a medium in advocating their rights and, with hope, influence the audience and policymakers toward a better society,” muses Shé, development worker and educator.

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FIRST OF ITS KIND Iti Mapukpukaw (The Missing) is the first animated film to join the 10 competing films for the full-length category

Carl Joseph E. Papa steered Manang Biring, the first animated film to compete at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival in 2015, toward winning the best film award. He is back with Iti Mapukpukaw (The Missing), a queer drama animation about Eric who meets an alien who wants to abduct him from Earth following the death of his uncle and amid his inner struggles. Dealing with an adult topic, Carl shares his personal, dark experience in the past through rotoscope animation. “I hope that in creating Eric I would have made a refuge for people who suffer the same fate as he does,” says Carl. “And for those who have not, I hope that the film would shed more light on the topic, give information, foster understanding, and initiate a conversation.”

Dustin Celestino’s film Ang Duyan ng Magiting (The Cradle of the Brave) stars Dolly de Leon, Bituin Escalante, Agot Isidro, Miggy Jimenez, Jojit Lorenzo, Paolo O’Hara, Joel Saracho, among others. The film, according to its synopsis, is a collection of scenes among the protagonists, antagonists, and victims of war, terrorism, and politics in the Philippines.”

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NO SHORTAGE OF STAR POWER Ang Duyan ng Magiting (The Cradle of the Brave) has a star-studded cast with Dolly de Leon as one of its leads

To Dustin, a Carlos Palanca awardee, it is a contemplation and a meditation on the agony of an entire nation. “The film grieves for the courageous men and women who have suffered in the name of nation and nationalism,” he says.

Huling Palabas by Ryan Espinosa Machado is a piece of nostalgia, where teenager Andoy searches for his long-lost father during the summer of 2001 via VHS tapes. We bet the new generation is clueless about this consumer-level analog video recording on tape cassettes, which was invented in Japan. “Growing up in a world of absence, I understand how it is to yearn for something and how deep such a longing can be,” says the Romblon-born regional filmmaker. “Like the protagonist, Andoy, I, too, tried to navigate the difficult path toward self-discovery.”

LEARNING THE ROPES In Rookie, an awkward six-footer teen tries to learn and play volleyball after the school she transferred to didn't have a basketball team for her to join

Under the theme, “ilumiNasyon,” Cinemalaya this year will feature 10 full-length films and 10 short features.