Cinemalaya 2012: Thoughts

Its that time of the month again here in the Philippines where the Cultural Center of the Philippines is flocked by students, creative heads, art aficionados, movie buffs and people who just loves a good movie. The 8th Cinemalaya is on full swing on its 6th day and the crowds of moviegoers from first timers to the faithful attendees (I've been a regular since 08) are still thick that some screenings are sold-out even before its screening day.

This year I have been lucky to be able to watch films that kept me glued to my seat, awake and happy for my well spent money (at least). I never really do reviews for movies but I'd like to share some of my thoughts and opinions about the films I've watched.

Here we go.

Mga Dayo (Resident Aliens) by Julius Sotomayor Cena
The film is story of 3 Pinays living in Guam. One is Ella who is a supervisor struggling to make ends meet so that her mother can come to Guam and live with them. There's Alex whose going to be married so that she can be a citizen of Guam and there's Miriam a former editor-in-chief and whose married to a American.

Pros: It is fresh because indie films are usually associated with poverty here in the Philippines where people are living in the slum areas, trying hard to make ends meet and for the past few years people have coined the term "poverty porn" to describe such films. The film is not just a reflection to the lives of our countrymen living abroad but it is the hard truth that some had swallowed for greener pastures.

Cons: The one thing that somehow made me disinterested with the film is that I find some scenes deemed unnecessary. Sure, Guam is a beautiful scenic place many of us dreamed of but I'd rather focus more on the characters and how they develop into the film.

Overall the film has a nice heart warming touch about the lives and the struggles of people living in Guam but there are those scenes that it gets monotonous that it puts you off.

Oros (Death is a treasure) by Paul Sta. Ana
Oros is your typical indie film about life in poverty. It is about Makoy the kasero (money manager) and his brother Abet. Makoy buys and manages unclaimed bodies in a local funeral parlor to use as a front so that people can gamble and earn money. While Makoy is best at what he does in managing a saklaan (a betting game of Spanish cards), Abet never really liked the idea of making money from the dead.

Pros: Yes, it is your typical poverty porn film but believe me this is one is on a whole new level. The cast did such a stellar job that they felt like the real deal. What I also loved in this film is that it was never boring everything was well in place.

Cons: Cinematography wise it is okay but it could have done more like during the chase scene where the camera is just following Abet and some guy who is chasing him.

The concept is not new but I highly suggest you go out and watch this one. Paul Sta. Ana clearly has the makings of being a huge and successful director.

Posas (Shackled) by Lawrence Fajardo
Imagine Robin Hood but this time he has no team, no bow and arrow and above all he fails. Posas is a film about Jess Biag who's been victimizing Quiapo, stealing his way so that his family can afford to eat. There he steals Grace's phone but is eventually caught by crooked policemen who gives him the longest day of his life.

Pros: Despite the political tone of the film Posas is easy to watch. The humor is well placed but when it gets serious then better be prepared. What I love in this film is that it has the all kinds of wrong in our society from Jess to Grace and most specially to the cops. No one is right in this film, everyone has dirt in their shoes no one is naive (well except for John Lapus' character) and perfect. Maybe this is why the film is easy to watch because everyone has dirt in them whether it is a well kept secret or as clear as crystal water.

Cons: To be honest I love this film so much that I find it hard to point out something the film lacked but maybe, just maybe if they gave Susan Africa (Jess' on screen mother) more a wee bit more screen time just to show how much their family is suffering maybe that would validate Jess' reason but then again that would be way to cliche.

Another must watch! You will realize (or rather be slapped with the idea) that corruption in the Philippines and probably in the rest of the world is a full circle and the only way to stop is to stop taking part of it.

REquieme! by Loy Arcenas
Caught in a international murder case, Swanie a barangay chairman and her estranged runaway son "Joanna" are both trying to bury the dead in their own separate worlds and give them a proper closure. Swanie is trying to bring home and bury a distant relative whose a criminal cum celebrity for political gain while Joanna is running in circles and entering mazes trying to bury a good neighbor of hers.

Pros: Funny and heart-warming. I found myself either snickering or laughing out loud with the rest of the audience. This film is a great palette cleanser after watching a disappointing film (for those who are quite unlucky).

Cons: *Spoiler Alert!* I somehow think that the sex scenes are way too long for what its worth that it turned my initial shock into annoyance.

As you can see I have only a few lines to say write about this because I might give it away and that would be a disservice to the crew behind this wonderful film. As I have said this is a great palette cleanser, it has the right vibes that after watching it you'll leave your seat happy and content.

Mga Mumunting Lihim (Those Little Secrets) by Jose Javier Reyes
Never I was a big fan of Jose Javier Reyes went it comes to commercial films but it is completely different when its Jose Javier Reyes in Cinemalaya. Mga Mumunting Lihim is a story of friendship between Mariel, Carly, Sandra and Olivia. When Mariel died she left something to her best-friend Carly that plunged the friends she left into a roller coaster ride of the past.

Pros: A great watch! Clearly this is a different Jose Javier Reyes. I love how the 4 main characters where developed without overpowering each other. Its a friendship made in heaven (or in hell). You'll be laughing from one scene then sobbing to another.

Cons: If you are the "deep type" who looks for symbolism and metaphors this is not for you. It is a straight forward and has some of the tried and tested formulas in the film industry.

Jose Javier Reyes didn't disappoint me in this one. Instead he flung me in a emotional roller coaster ride and left me wondering will my friends and I stay friends for a long time. I suggest you go and grab your friends to watch this because watching it alone sucks.

Ang Nawawala (What Isn't There) by Marie Jamora
Imagine Wes Anderson's quirky cast of characters married to Pedicab's local, vibrant and colorful music add a dash of Sofia Coppola's melancholia. Ang Nawawala is a hipster's/artsy people movie that begs to differ. It has Cubao X, Saguijo, Collective, beer, live music, vintage cameras, cigarettes, weed, vinyls, urban art, heart break and family issues. It is a story about Gibson a young man who stopped talking when he was 10 because of a tragic accident. When he came back in the Philippines, there he met Enid who turned his life almost upside down.

Pros: Beautiful! It is like a one huge music video (remember Kanye's My Dark Twisted Fantasy and Quark Henares' Rakenrol) it is a bittersweet movie of a young man whose haunting past affected his present. A nostalgic/coming of age/feel good movie that really delivers. I have a soft spot for films like these because it is a reflection of my generation who are confused and sometimes lost in the crowded city of Manila.

Cons: The film falls short in building up the supporting characters while some of them seem to have no relevance at all.

Another must watch because I'm pretty sure everyone who's in the same age as me can definitely relate to this film. Marie Jamora has done a great job in her debut film and I can say that she has a promising future. I must say that Annicka Dolonius who played as Enid had most of the guys in the theater pinning their hopes and dreams for a girl like her, I too have found myself to be in the same pit as they are but hey! A girl who has a great taste for music, quirky, drinks beer and pretty as her who wouldn't be right?

P.S. If you liked this I suggest you go and watch Garden State too.

Bwakaw by Jun Robles Luna
Another lovely film! Eddie Garcia still has the game in him. Bwakaw is a drama comedy, it is about Mang Rene who lives with his dog named Bwakaw (Voracious). Together they venture out in adventures and mishaps. The film also showcases the pangs of growing old alone.

Pros: Seeing Eddie Garcia do a very different character from the ones I grew up with is refreshing. The film is hilarious and poignant. It is a mix of Hachiko, The Savages with a dash of  Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.

Cons: If this film didn't have a screening after the festival run then that would be a big let down.

If you didn't see yet this there is still time left! Everyone in the cast was perfect, there was never a dull moment not even in the most quiet and saddest part of the film. I am sure that Bwakaw will be one of the most successful films in the festival and it will be a classic.

P.S. For some reason I'm always wondering what would Bwakaw be if it was Dolphy who acted as Mang Rene and Eddie Garcia was Zaldy (Mang Rene's gay best-friend) hmm.

Kamera Obskura by Raymond Red
This is the first time I saw a semi-silent film entry and I must say that it is fresh experience although totally not new. Kamera Obskura is about Mang Juan who lived his life in the dark for 20 years and then one day he sees the outside world through the projection of images from a small hole. This hole lead him to his escape from his prison.

Pros: The film within a film treatment is something new (in a way) here in the Philippines and this one didn't disappoint me. The film presented a lot of topics that should be talked about like corruption, the white knight syndrome and the burden of a big responsibility.

Cons: *Spoiler Alert!* I seriously don't get why a naked woman was there. To symbolize the "naked" truth? I don't know maybe the director intentionally made it so that the audience would ponder on something.

I like how Raymond Red mirrored our society in his film and in my opinion he showed that the media is misused by both parties left or right for their own advantage. I must say that this is a daring and a really different movie experience.

The Animals by Gino M. Santos
Before I say something about this film let me cuss first. *long and loud cussing*. There. The Animals is a story of high school students living in a upper-middle class subdivision living the life of a "normal high school student", or so they say.

Pros: A bold masterpiece! This film is like taking off a band-aid from a nasty wound to expose its gross nature. While watching you will either savor or cringe in your seat while remembering on of your old wild party days.

Cons: This film is not for the faint of heart and for the photosensitive.

This is a cautionary tale both for parents and to their kids told in a posh modern setting filled with booze, brazen acts and cigarette smoke. I highly recommend this film for all of you to see because in one way or another we have done something stupid and luckily most of us got out of it unscathed.


Before I end this entry I would like to congratulate each and everyone from the directors to the crew of all the films who entered their pieces for this year's Cinemalaya. We are so lucky to have such talented artists in our country and hopefully they get to produce more films like the ones they showcased. Because let's be honest, the commercial movie scene here in the Philippines is going to the dumps someday from all the crap that goes out and the only cure is to even out the odds and educate the masses.

One last thing! I urge you to go and watch to support our local artists who shed blood, sweat and tears of come up with pieces for our viewing pleasure.

To view the schedule of the screenings hit the jump.

Happy watching!


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Patrick Jude M. Ilagan born June 24, 1990 is a graphic designer, photographer and content specialist based in Manila, Philippines. Patrick is a graduate of University of Santo Tomas wherein he earned his degree in Fine Arts major in Advertising.

After graduating he worked as a graphic designer and art director for on Gadgets Magazine under Great Minds Media Inc. which is a publishing company based in Quezon City, Philippines in 2011 until 2012. He then moved to Web Providers Dev. Pro as a content writer which later on became Digital Room Inc. (Philippines) wherein he became a digital marketing specialist. In the same year he moved to Web Providers Dev. Pro he also part-timed as an instructor for a local college based in Makati, Philippines wherein he taught graphic design.

Patrick wrote and made downloadable content for You the Designer which is a graphic design lifestyle blog in 2012 until early 2014 with artist Kerby Rosanes. In mid-2014 He shifted his efforts and co-founded photography lifestyle and inspiration blog named You the Photographer with George Nacpil. He is currently the blog's editor.

Patrick often refers to himself as a pixel craftsman since he is mostly working with a computer. Patrick mostly uses Adobe Illustrator, InDesign and Lightroom for his work.

When not working Patrick immerses himself in TV shows, movies, books and games. He is also a fan of underground live music shows, food fairs, art exhibits and roaming around museums.