Cinemalaya will have onsite screenings at the Cultural Center of the Philippines of the full length film finalists of 2020 + 2021, and 2022’s short film finalists. Everyone is excited for this year’s hybrid edition capitalizing on the excitement of watching the films in the theater and expanding online reach to fans all over the world.
Here is your complete guide to the Cinemalaya 18 finalists highlighting what the story is all about with synopsis and trailer, plus the story and POV of the filmmaker:
CINEMALAYA BREAKS THROUGH THE NOISE
WITH the gradual return to the new normal, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Cinemalaya Foundation Inc. are enthusiastic about the IRL (in-real-life) screenings of full length and short feature films in competition this year.
For its 18th edition, Cinemalaya returns with on-site screenings of 11 full-length films and 12 short features in competition from August 5 to 14, 2022, at various CCP venues. For the past two years, the country’s biggest independent film festival streamed consciousness and navigated the turbulent currents, anchoring on the online screenings of competing short features and exhibition films.
The competing films will also be shown in select partner cinemas nationwide from August 10 to 17. After that, Cinemalaya goes to the regions, with screenings in selected communities on August 22 to 29, 2022.
For those who are still anxious to attend an in-person event, Cinemalaya will have an online run from October 17 to 31, 2022 via CCP Vimeo account.
The Cinemalaya Awards Night will be held on August 14, 2022 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater).
Full-lenght Films Competition
11 full-length films vying for the coveted Balanghai trophies will break through the noise.
12 Weeks by Anna Isabelle Matutina
🎬 105 MINUTES Drama
A single, 40-year-old woman is forced to deal with thoughts of motherhood.
After ending her toxic relationship with her boyfriend Ben, 40-year-old Alice discovers she is pregnant. With her age and current relationship status, her first instinct is to have the pregnancy terminated. As her body undergoes dramatic changes, Alice struggles and needs to decide what to do. Will she slide back into the arms of Ben? What will this mean for the child growing inside her?
ANNA ISABELLE MATUTINA is a multi-awarded filmmaker who has been producing, writing, directing, and editing her own short films since 2004. She currently works as a director and editor for the documentary program I-Witness, where she and her team have bagged multiple local and international awards including the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award in 2009 and a nomination for the International Emmy Awards in 2013.
12 Weeks is her first feature-length film. It has participated in the Bangkok Asean Film Festival’s first edition of the Southeast Asian Project Pitch (SEAPITCH).
When I started writing 12 Weeks in late 2017, I was about to turn 40 and was struggling with the likelihood of never having children. So I took to writing in order to confront my frustrations and feelings of inadequacy as well as reexamine my preconceived ideas about motherhood.
That journey was messy but cathartic, an earnest attempt to expose myself and my darkest thoughts. And though I still have no clear answers, I knew I had a story – one that I’ve always hoped to see in our own local cinema.
12 Weeks is not just a story about mothers but the modern Filipino woman who continues to struggle in a highly conservative and deeply patriarchal country where anti-woman laws continue to exist and misogyny is as blatant and common as your daily dose of midnight press conferences. It is about the women who struggle to give birth to the kind of world we want our children to live in.
Angkas by Rain Yamson
Two estranged friends rebuild their embittered past while traveling together in a habal-habal to retrive a dead pal.
Leo is not just an ordinary habal-habal driver. He is the resident ambulance and delivery man in a remote village in Compostela Valley, who is hired to transport the dead down the mountain. One day, his estranged friend Miguel appeared on his doorstep and insisted to join Leo in fetching the corpse of Ditas, their childhood friend who is a rebel pursued by the military. As Leo and Miguel embark on a dangerous journey in a habal-habal, their fragile friendship will be tested, and they will encounter danger only to be saved by an unlikely hero.
Bakit ‘Di Mo Sabihin? by Real S. Florido
🎬 90 MINUTES Drama
A deaf couple learns that it is not their inability to speak or hear that tears them apart.
Deaf couple Miguel and Nat have been struggling to keep their marriage. After a huge fight, Miguel leaves his wife alone in Manila and decides to live in Baler with their kids. As he starts a new life, Miguel is reminded about the reasons he married Nat by his family’s relentless stories about how modern a woman Nat is, and how he failed in so many ways to recognize that he fell in love with a younger deaf woman. One Christmas Eve, Miguel finally made a move to tell Nat everything she needed to know.
A scriptwriter, director and producer, REAL S. FLORIDO is no stranger to Cinemalaya. His full-length feature 1st Ko Si 3rd debuted in the 2014 Cinemalaya, before it went on to win and compete in QCinema International Film Festival 2014, the Hawaii International Film Festival 2014, Jersey City International Film Festival 2015, and won Rising Star Award for Full-Length Feature in Canada International Film Festival 2015. He co-directed Kabisera (2016) and produced Iska (2019), which won Best Sound, Best Screenplay and Best Actress in Cinemalaya 2019.
After working in GMA 7 for 13 years, he now manages his own film and digital content production company, Firestarters. His current movie and series projects include: Pilgrim: 500 Years Of Catholic Faith In The Philippines (2022); Habangbuhay (2022); Kumusta Bro The Series (2022); and, Bakit ‘DI Mo Sabihin (Tell Her).
As a filmmaker, I always ask myself: what is it about this film project that I want to create that is worthy to be put on the big screen? Why should people go out of their way to go to the cinemas to watch this movie rather than just see it on their mobile devices? These questions are my integral guide in making this full-length feature.
It amazed me how loud the deaf people can be when they are together, an irony of how we usually define their case as people who can’t hear or speak. With this film, I’d like to dabble into that world where no word is needed to say what you want and how you feel. And at the same time, it is harder to get resolve when you can’t find the right message to convey. I would like to create a portrait of this unique story of two people. I want to make a film that shows the beauty, pain, and chaos of love where no spoken words exist.
When I first heard about this real-life story, I got immediately curious and challenge myself on how to translate this painful yet beautiful tale about marriage.
Batsoy by Ronald Espinosa Batallones
🎬 80 MINUTES Drama, Fantasy
Two young siblings go on a fantastical adventure to satiate their much-coveted and delectable craving for batsoy.
After selling firewood for their basic needs, siblings Toto and Nonoy go to buy batsoy, the food that the younger brother has been craving the most. Mt. Manaphag, which faces the town of San Dionisio, becomes the silent witness to their journey to satisfy their craving. Their adventure will ultimately bring viewers to the world of magic, fantasy and reality.
After working in Kuwait as medical laboratory scientist, RONALD ESPINOSA BATALLONES returned home to fulfill his dream to become a director. His Excuse Me Po, which won in the MTRCB Screenplay Writing Contest in 2015, was a finalist in 2018 Cine Filipino. He was part of the digital film series Raket, which was based on his award-winning screenplay Kalyehera. The Ilonggo director from San Dionisio is currently working on Benedict Mique’s Two Love You and Martin Mayuga’s Anatomiya. He is inspired by simple narratives of people around him or by his first-hand observations of life’s explicit and subtle realities.
The film will show today’s millennials how life was simple, happy and innocent for the youth of the 80’s in the rural landscape. The millennials will definitely like to cherish and relive their mystic and enchanted past which unfortunately they did not have the chance to experience.
The film also provides the viewers the ultimate sensory experience to savour the famous comfort food of the Ilonggos – the batsoy.
Most importantly, the film will highlight the noble and supreme love of the elder child for his younger sibling. And finally the film, with much certainty, will lead a brother or a sister to reach out and give a much-coveted hug to his or her sibling.
Blue Room by Ma-an L. Asuncion-Dagńalan
Progressive rock band members make a difficult choice between freedom or standing up for what they believe.
Rebel Rebel, an indie rock band comprised of woke, albeit sheltered teens, gets their biggest break at a prestigious local music festival. But after their celebratory night at the local bar, they are arrested for drug possession. Instead of the standard procedures, they were hauled to the Blue Room, a VIP detention area where they can bribe their way out, by rogue cops. The band members have to decide whether to use their privilege and go on with their lives or owning up to what they had been preaching.
Inequality exists as long as prejudice comes from those in power – who are on top of the social pyramid. Power has pros and cons in a society. Some use it to influence people to be a better individual. But some abuse it to bully or to be greedy against others.
For Rebel Rebel, their power is their talent. They translate it through music.
While the policemen, though not all, abuse their power by showing how entitled they are and by forcing themselves as the “authority” to society.
Lastly, the rich people or the “moneybags.” Money is their power. They have all the means to turn things around.
It’s a character-driven piece that focuses not just on the unfortunate turn of events but also the conflicted morality of several individuals who are victims of “power.”
After watching the movie, I would like the audience to realize how important relationships are, how to respect other people especially to the less fortunate and the needy, and how to be responsible in using their “power.”
Bula Sa Langit by Sheenly Gener
🎬 80 MINUTES Drama
A young soldier comes home after a siege and faces a different war.
MAJOR CREDITS: CAST: Gio Gahol, Kate Alejandrino, AIR PRODUCTION STAFF: DIRECTOR – Sheenly Gener; SCREENPLAY – Andrian Legaspi; DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY – Dix Buhay; EDITOR – Chuck Gutierrez;MUSIC SCORER/ SOUND DESIGNER – Pepe Manikan; PRODUCTION DESIGNER – Michael Bayot; EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS – Sheenly Gener, Voodoo, Philippine High School for the Arts, Sine Pop, Chuck Gutierrez, Baby Ruth Villarama
Acting as if coming home from a vacation, young Marawi war veteran Wesley is excited to bring his girlfriend Ritz home to meet his family. Showered with unsolicited hero worship upon his homecoming, Wesley struggles to reconnect with his present relationships with his family and lover all while celebrating the town fiesta. Overwhelmed and alienated, the young soldier finds himself haunted by one of his traumatic kills, and in this internal war, he is alone. Compounded and triggered, his frustration shoots up in one of his conversations with Ritz. He impulsively goes to the carnival to confront his trauma.
SHEENLY GENER is an award-winning actress for stage, television, and film. She won the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Emerson Reyes’ Dormitoryo (Mga Walang Katapusang Kwarto) in the 2017 QCinema International Film Festival. She was nominated for Best Actress for her performance in the theater play Insiang in the Aliw Awards 2002. She holds an arts management degree from De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, and was a full scholar for theater arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts. Her short film Ikahuli was a finalist in the 31st Gawad Alternatibo and in the GIFF Festival of New Cinema. She is a mother, director, teacher, acting coach, yogi, kalista, biker, voice talent, and dubber. She is a SM, ASM, AD, 2AD, SC, FD, LP, PM and many other acronyms in a colorful and compact package.
Bula Sa Langit is about Wesley, a young soldier coming home from war fighting personal battles, tending to unseen wounds as he adjusts to life and his relationships, post-war. It explores the different scenarios of reintegration, unintentional exoticization of tragedy, and alienation. The story covers the shifting realities and secrets – how he moves and attempts to cope with changes.
I have first seen an army uniform and learned about the profession when my cousin visited our house. I was around 7 years old. I liked how it looked on my cousin and it made me proud. Another relative visited when I was about 10 – my uncle. He came home with a girl. That’s when I first heard AWOL.
I have met soldiers during the filming of Buybust. We shot in their camp before the Marawi siege and after the war. Andrian’s inspiration was his grandfather, a veteran of World War 2. During the Bataan March, he pretended to have passed out and threw himself in a murky canal. He played dead and survived.
Years later, Andrian saw his grandfather deep in the murky waters of the rice field, pretending to be floating in the rice paddies. Andrian later learned about the tendencies of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The idea of soldiering on has always been a description of me as a woman-artist.
Since I was 12, I left home and started living on my own as a scholar. I was a single mom at the age of 18, juggling college scholarship, freelance work and an acting scholarship residency, fighting battles no one knew about. We all have these stories – things we keep to ourselves, battles we choose and wounds we would tend to on our own.
The field of war is a reality but the bigger, more aggressive reality begins once the war is over, going back to our families and loved ones. Relationships are complex. The demands of being in a relationship, dealing with people that you see everyday could be challenging enough. Imagine being committed to someone you don’t see or get to talk to often. How does one deal with the shifting of these realities knowing that there are details left unsaid?
There are factors that affect one’s basic needs, decisions, and priorities. Monetary or otherwise, limited resources which are not discussed will never be understood.
War changes everything. It changes everyone. The first image in this film is a footage of the war in Marawi viewed in a mobile phone. The last image are soldiers on salute, singing the Philippine National anthem with their wounds unnoticed and with their loyalty intact.
Soldiers are trained to be void of emotions. They are weapons of war. How does this affect them and their relationships as they shift between the realities during periods of turmoil and peace?
After being deeply immersed in a setting where home means togetherness in triumph and bloodshed, how do you return to a home you were built to set aside?Not all wounds bleed. Not all wounds are visible but run deep.
Ginhawa by Christian Paolo Lat
🎬 105 MINUTES Drama, Sports
An aspiring boxer takes his fighting chances and discovers the grim reality of the sport.
Anton is an aspiring boxer. He hopes to continue the legacy of his older brother Saul, who was given a chance to escape poverty by joining a competition in the city but later faced tragedy. Against his mother’s wishes, Anton leaves their small fishing town to pursue boxing in Manila where he unravels the ugly truth of the brutal sport.
Filipino-Canadian filmmaker CHRISTIAN PAOLO LAT studied filmmaking at the International Academy of Film and Television. Currently, he is the showrunner for an upcoming TV series in L.A based streaming platform UrbanFlixTV and director/writer for an upcoming American TV series for the network ForUsByUs. Career highlights include: featured nominated for best short film at the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, a Viddsee Juree Silver Award 2017, and winner of Best Film and Best Actor at the Sinulog Film Festival 2018. His short film Pangako participated in the Los Angeles Shorts FilmFestival 2018.
Imagine if Rocky was set in Manila sa Kuko Ng Liwanag…
These are films that truly speaks to me because of it’s timeless influence. Rocky, for his fighting spirt, and Manila sa Kuko Ng Liwanag, for it’s moral exploration about poverty.
My film Ginhawa is not only about the fight in the ring that a boxer has to overcome but it’s what happens outside the ring, the system, politics, and the daily struggles of the poor in the Philippines.
When we talk about boxing in the Philippines, the first thought that comes to mind is our world champion and country’s pride, Senator Manny Pacquiao. When his fight is aired on television, our world stops and the whole nation huddles around their TV sets in peace for twelve rounds, thirty-six minutes.
But do we ever stop and think about the majority who don’t make the cut and will never have their names cheered in MGM, Las Vagas or Staples Center, Los Angeles? Those who simply fade away in history without acknowledgement, the amateur boxers who die fighting for their dreams.
For thousands of kids around the provincial and urban areas of the Philippines, boxing is an escape and a fight from the harsh realities of a third-world country.
As soon as that bell rings all their worries fade away, while the only thing that stands in the way of a measly cash prize or a sack of rice is their opponent.
Amateur boxers fight it out, blood, sweat and tears, just to have a chance to train in Manila under a Boxing Stable. They’re promised the world at their fingertips by their managers but often return to their province with less than what they arrived with.
The ones who return with debts, health complications, broken bones, and head traumas that have long term effects are the lucky ones; considering others return in a casket. This is a day-to-day struggle that these fighters go through with their village, their community and their family who areconstantly facing the plague of poverty.
Regardless of the deadly consequences, lack of Government funding andknowledge in general, they continue to chase after their dreams. In hopes of comfort and in hopes of a better future.
Kaluskos by Roman S. Perez, Jr.
🎬 100 MINUTES Domestic Psychological Thriller
In the middle of a custody battle, a single mother finds something underneath her daughter’s bed that will question her love for her child.
Rebekah files for sole custody for her young daughter Amaya. But this doesn’t sit well with her estranged husband Jay. Amid the custody battle, Rebekah finds another “Amaya” under the bed. When the other Amaya emerges, Rebekah feels the motherly connection that she lost with her daughter. The other Amaya insists that she is the real Amaya trapped under the bed because of a curse, and the other one is the impostor. Wanting to start a new life with the other Amaya, Rebekah seeks to set her free. But to do that, she needs to kill the impostor.
ROMAN S. PEREZ JR. has a degree in communication arts from the University of the East-Caloocan, and a masters degree in Philippine Studies from UP Diliman. He studied filmmaking at the Mowelfund Film Institute. A long-time TV assistant director for different TV networks and film companies, he has written, directed, and won awards for his music video, theater plays, and short films. He directed Sol Searching (2018), Adan (2019), the Filipino adaptation of The Housemaid (2020), Pandemic Cinema Blockbuster film Taya (2021), House Tour (2021), Siklo (2021), Hugas and Putahe (2022). He is the most prolific director of Pandemic Cinema. Most of his works serve as social commentaries on the different social issues. He established Bagong Buwan Artist Collective and Pelikula Indiopendent.
In filmmaking, it is very important to tell not just the truth in the society but also the things that the society is afraid or inconvenient to talk about.
Kaluskos is a psychological domestic thriller, as it talks about a domestic violence of a mother who is having challenges in performing her role as expected from her, that makes her look bad to other people.
In the story, we can see a mother-daughter relationship challenged by different factors. In the preparation of doing the film, we were able to examine a kind of feminism that exist from within, that also presents a mental health movement in regards with domestic violence.
This film reminds us not to belittle women, especially mothers, as they continue to find ways in solving different problems in whatsoever ways that can also from the society we live in.
Kargo by TM Malones
🎬 80 MINUTES Road Movie
A woman relieves the heavy burden from her past when she finally exacts revenge on the man who murdered her entire family.
When her entire family perished in a motorcycle accident at a rough highway in Maasin, Iloilo, Sara crashed into a deep depression, which was gradually replaced with an overpowering need to avenge them. Believing that her husband and daughter were murdered, she searches for the man who killed her entire family to find some closure. But at the end of her journey, she untangles something she did not quite expect – a discovery that could profoundly change her entire life.
TM MALONES finished his Diploma Degree in Filmmaking at the International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT) in Cebu, Philippines. His film SALVI: Ang Pagpadayon debuted in the New Breed Category of the 2013 Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival: All-Masters Edition. For the film Baconaua (directed by Joseph Israel Laban), he received Best in Cinematography from the Young Critics Circle in the Circle Citations in 2017 and Cinemalaya Film Festival 2017, received nominations in Asean International Film Festival in 2019, the Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography at the 66th FAMAS in 2018 and at the 41st Gawad Urian in 2018. His short film Bawod won Best Screenplay at the 2017 Cinemalaya, and was nominated for Best Short Film in the 41st Gawad Urian.
Being present in a tragic accident involving a person’s life made me think how fragile our existence can be. In a single moment, everything could end and be lost forever. And all the people involved, whether the victim or culprit, faces a complete turning point in their lives.
The film revolves around this inevitable point, tied by a single event, two people standing on both ends of a spectrum, the unsuspecting culprit and the unforgiving victim, search for their own kind of retribution.
Born out of a short film concept confronting a past traumatic experience, Kargo became a feature film about living and redemption. This film is a story of one of countless fellow Filipinos that I would like to tell.
As someone from a small town in a region far from the capital, I wanted to show these stories born from our place.
Retirada by Milo Alto Paz and Cynthia Cruz-Paz
🎬 93 MINUTES Drama
A retired government employee’s new hobby leads to existential desperation and financial complications.
Despite her husband Edong’s assurance, Azon Marcelo experiences melancholia as she adjusts to her life as a retired government employee. Their neighbor Chayong introduces the game of Bingo to Azon. After hitting the jackpot, Azon becomes a regular Bingo player hoping to duplicate her initial windfall. But her new sense of purpose and the adrenaline rush from her new hobby would teach her what retirement really means.
MILO ALTO PAZ worked as an Executive Producer and Director for GMA 7’s Entertainment Group and News & Public Affairs. His documentaries and short features were winners of the Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video in their respective years. He directed and produced Star Cinema’s first Digital film Taxi ni Pilo, Lugaw for Viva Films’ omnibus film Imahenasyon, and co-directed Boses, a Cinemalaya finalist.
CYNTHIA CRUZ-PAZ has written romance novels and is currently a brainstormer/writer in various TV series. Her screenplays were selected as semi-finalists in various film festivals. Her short film Boda de Oro won 2nd prize at the 25th Gawad Alternatibo. She has been involved in some seminal independent film productions as a producer and production manager. Together with her husband Milo, they produce video documentaries on important issues and advocacies such as child protection, environmental and cultural conservation, human rights, and values formation for NGOs, government agencies and private institutions.
“Ardently do today what must be done.
Who knows? Tomorrow, death comes.”
When Prince Siddhartha Gautama (who will eventually become Buddha, the Enlightened One) witnessed old age, sickness, and death outside his palace, he resolved to search for a way out of suffering and pain.
Retirada tries to explore life’s meaning and purpose in the face of the inevitability of old age and death.
The story idea behind the film came about as we witnessed how some of our close relatives struggled to live out their senior years after retiring from an active day-to-day work life. In a society where being young and active is given more merit, growing old can lead to a sense of alienation and even depression as one contemplates one’s own mortality.
Azon, the main character, begins to question the reason behind her existence. Why are we here? Is growing old a blessing or a curse? How do you find meaning as we eventually grow old and weak?
The existentialist questions that linger on in Azon’s mind drove her to find comfort and refuge in compulsive gambling. The sudden loss of meaning and sense of purpose led her to a dismal path. Her cry of silent desperation is a call for help as she faces the anxiety and fear of growing old and impending death.
The recent global pandemic has led us to reflect on what is essential in one’s life. What is my purpose? Where am I going? What is the meaning of life? The exploration of these eternal questions is the impetus for the conceptual idea of the film as humanity tries to find courage and hope amidst the current existential crisis.
The Baseball Player by Carlo Obispo
🎬 75 MINUTES Drama
A Moro child soldier aspires to become a baseball player amidst an all-out war.
Amir, a 17-year-old Moro child soldier whose father was killed in all-out war in 2000, dreams to live a different life – he wants to become a baseball player. Training extensively with his coach, he makes it to the final tryout of a local university. Unfortunately, another all-out war against Moro rebels breaks out in 2003, and he is confronted with making a choice between pursuing his dream or fighting in the war.
CARLO OBISPO took up Bachelor of Philosophy minor in Arts Communication at the Saint Louis University. His feature debut “Purok 7” (Zone 7) was a part of 2013 edition of Cinemalaya Newbreed Category. His second feature, “Gasping for Air (123) was the opening film in Cinemalaya 2016. In 2020, he wrote and directed a Boys Love series, “Better Days.”
The government’s all-out war in 2003 against rebel groups in the Southern Philippines cost thousands of lives, and displaced a million families. It is but one of the many episodes of the many conflicts in the country which, unfortunately, up to this day, still ruin the lives of many.
As in any war, lives are lost, families are broken apart, hope is lost; and dreams especially those of the children’s, if they even had the chance to have any, are shattered.
Once in a while, comes a story of survival, heroism, and triumph – often told by people who are looking in, from the outside.
The Baseball Player is a story of a boy at the center of a war, a close examine to a simple dream and the distressing battles that come with it.
Short Feature Main Competition Finalists
Ampangabagat nin Talakba ha Likol by Maria Estela Paiso
🎬 14 MINUTES Fiction, Animation
A girl resists her childhood home’s attempts to destroy her using her own personal history.
The world is about to end. Maya is forced to go home to Zambales. There, she confronts her childhood house that terrorizes her as frogs rain outside.
MARIA ESTELA PAISO has worked in post-production since 2016, editing features and shorts films. After numerous visual experiments and hiphop music videos, she forayed into directing with Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol (It’s Raining Frogs Outside), which was part of QCinema 2021 and Berlinale Shorts Competition 2022. She spends her free time trying to get a 100 at karaoke.
Fever dream: butterfly cockroaches, paper boats, melting bodies, raining frogs.
Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol (It’s Raining Frogs Outside) is a box of insecurities that I’m offering for everyone to see. And while that might make me look vulnerable, I don’t think anyone can judge me for being a frog once I’ve let all my demons out anyway.
Black Rainbow by Zig Dulay
🎬 20 MINUTES Social Drama
An Aeta boy chases his dream of going to school to learn how to read the legal documents given to their community and understand why they are being forced to give up their ancestral lands.
Itan, a 12-year-old Aeta, is told to quit school and help his father in planting mountain crops so they can save up for the delivery of his pregnant mother. The young boy finds a flicker of hope when he learns about a scholarship opportunity that he could possibly receive on two crucial conditions: one, he has to learn how to operate a computer and two, he has to convince his father to allow him to return to school — only then he would be able to realize his long-time goal to read through all the documents the Aeta community had been receiving. Only then he could understand why they were being forced to give up ancestral lands up in the mountain to give way for mining.
ZIG DULAY is a Filipino filmmaker known for creating provocative regional films that explore socio-political and cultural issues. In his early career, he gained local and international critical attention for his screenwriting potentials as he penned numerous screenplays such as Ekstra (The Bit Player), Posas (Shackled), Qwerty, Kasal (The Commitment) and Ad Ignorantiam. After colloborating with acclaimed directors, he wrote and directed numerous award-winning films including Missing, M. (Mother’s Maiden Name), Bambanti (Scarecrow), Paglipay (Crossing), Bagahe (The Baggage), Akin ang Korona (The Crown is Mine), and Black Rainbow. He also helmed the hit cultural-drama series Sahaya and Legal Wives. Recently, he was invited to be one of the international jury members of the 2022 Vesoul International Film Festival for Asian Cinema in France.
Black Rainbow is a tale about the Aetas who dream and trust that the first step to a better life is through education. This story of people’s hope rests upon complicated issues brought about by rampant quarrying and mining that has been affecting Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the country.
This is a personal tale. It recounts my younger years when I once chanced upon an old keyboard and played with its keys until I memorized their position. Incidentally, I got to use this random knowledge when I aced a scholarship exam that required the use of a computer, much to the surprise of people who knew I was from a remote farming village. I brought that memory close to my heart and dreamt of telling the story one day.
I intended to sketch this story through the character of a young Ayta boy, because I hold that above all, IPs understand the value of the basic right to education. Another inspiration to this story is my good friend, Norman King — an Ayta from Porac, Pampanga who earned a BA Behavioral Sciences at UP Manila.
Over the course of my filming career, I have learned so much about the lives of IPs that could last me a lifetime — I have grown fond of their gentle lives and learned how to carefully illustrate these stories in film. More importantly, I learned the value of responsible IP representation in media, for these stories we portray are more than the sum of a culture and way of life. I believe it is our duty as storytellers to depict them in the right and accurate manner — a small contribution to wider efforts of ending the cycle of bias and othering.
City of Flowers by Xeph Suarez
🎬 19:13 MINUTES Drama
A couple’s attempt to survive the devastatingly low yield of their flower farm and raise money for the birth of their first child lead to an unforeseen ending.
As Zamboanga City celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, couple Elena and Nasser try to survive the devastatingly low yield of their flower farm and raise money for the birth of their first child. As luck would have it, Nasser gets invited to join a peace rally in exchange for some money – a solution to their problems that is too good to pass up.
Mindanaoan filmmaker XEPH SUAREZ obtained his mass communication degree at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University in 2014. An alumnus of the ASEAN-ROK Film Leaders Incubator, organized by the Busan Film Commission, he has directed several short films including Si Astri maka si Tambulah, which won Best Director and received a Jury Citation at Cinemalaya 2018. The film was screened in several film festivals, including PÖFF Shorts and Tampere Film Festival. The short film became the basis for his first full length feature that has been presented in different labs including EAVE’s Ties that Bind and La Fabrique Cinema in Cannes.
On September 9, 2013, I remember waking up to the sounds of gunshots and reports on the radio that my hometown, the City of Zamboanga, was under attack by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by its chairman, Nur Misuari. According to the reports, they were burning key points in the city, and holding civilians hostage.
Those twenty frightening days – which later became known as the 2013 Zamboanga Siege – caused a lot of deaths. Thousands of Zamboangueños were forced to live in evacuation sites with inhumane conditions. Hundreds of houses and businesses were burnt to the ground, including the company my father helped build for 20 years.
It has been eight years since the Siege. But unfortunately the nightmares are not yet over. The City of Zamboanga is still pursuing its case against the perpetrators.
And yet, as years go by it’s as if the national government has forgotten the crimes of Misuari. Seeing him as a free man, I can’t help but relive the trauma I experienced.
City of Flowers is an anti-war short film dedicated to my hometown. When we think of Zamboanga and Mindanao, we think of war and conflict. My film acknowledges this but insists that we are an island of hope and beauty. That is why I am still hopeful that justice will be served and it won’t be long for peace to continuously bloom again.
Dikit by Gabriela Serrano
🎬 16:15 MINUTES Silent Horror, Drama
A young woman with a monstrous secret desperately longs for a different body. When a new couple moves in next door, shesees her chance to finally get one.
Living in isolation and yearning for human connection, a woman afflicted with a dark curse develops an obsession with her new neighbors, a young couple with a secret of their own. As the days pass, she begins to witness things between them that ultimately force her to confront her nature, and perhaps save a life in the process. Loosely based on a lost silent film by Jose Nepomuceno, Dikit reimagines classic Philippine folklore into a contemporary diptych of feminine bodies, rage, and freedom.
An alumna of the Ricky Lee Scriptwriting Workshop, GABRIELA SERRANO was named one of CNN Philippines Life’s “Eight Emerging Filipino Directors To Watch Out For.” Working as an illustrator for major Philippine publications and brands since 15, she shifted her focus towards film and has since created narrative works which combine the moving image with art, imbuing her filmmaking style with a distinctly tactile approach. She has interned under directors Dwein Baltazar, John Torres, and Paco Raterta. She was an editor, illustrator, and animator for The Choe Show, the Film Independent Spirit Awards-nominated FX series. Her directorial debut film Dikit won Best Film and Best Director at the Mit Out Sound Silent Film Competition and was named one of CNN Philippines Life’s Best Filipino Films of 2021. With two new short films in development, she hopes to continue telling deeply introspective stories about the feminine identity and youth in the Philippines.
Dikit began at the height of the pandemic and the height of a quarter-life crisis. I was a burgeoning filmmaker, wanting to venture into the world to find narratives and characters outside but was instead locked down and forced to reckon with loneliness, an uncertain future, and my own womanhood.
When the idea to retell the story of a mythological figure presented itself, I felt incredibly drawn to the creature we depict in the film: a girl I felt was hungry for life, but limited by her body, circumstances and seclusion to exist in the world the way she truly wanted.
Horror was never my genre, but these feelings felt extremely familiar and personal to me, my co-writer/sister Mariana, and our fellow female, non-binary, trans, and queer friends, especially during this time of distancing.
Suddenly, I didn’t have to go outside to find the story I needed to tell. Dikit is a silent film, but it is the loudest I have ever been about my identity, desires, and hopes as a woman and as a director. I hope that it quietly but fiercely invites women to find themselves (and each other) through the terrors of life.
Distance by Dexter Paul de Jesus
🎬 11 MINUTES Drama
A mother-son reunion leads them to confront forgotten relationships.
After working overseas for seven years, a mother returns home to her son. The abrupt reunion forces the pair to face up to their estranged relationship.
Currently working full-time as a mechanical engineer DEXTER PAUL DE JESUS has been writing and directing films since he was an undergraduate. His films have been screened and competed at local and international film festivals such as Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) and Bangkok ASEAN Short Film Festival (BAFF), to name a few. Born in Bataan, the 25-year-old Filipino filmmaker is currently based in Manila.
The film’s conception revolves around the filmmaker’s frustration during the days of the lockdown implementation. The devices used is a blend of live-action and animation, creating a concept of alienation between the characters and their environment which represents a particularity to the narrative’s personas.
With the film’s nuances, Distance presents the difficulties faced by families of migrant laborers during pandemic particularly the lack of physical and emotional manifestation of familiality.
Duwa-Duwa by Nena Jana Achacoso
🎬 12:55 MINUTES Coming-of-Age
A runaway daughter comes home to steal her mother’s prized rooster only to find out it isn’t worth as much as she thought.
In need of money for an operation, Lilian comes home and asks her mother for money. After receiving a scolding from her mother, she steals her mother’s rooster. Her mother frantically searches for her lost rooster until she finds it on the hill, with Lilian standing beside it. The daughter confesses her real situation and unexpectedly receives the reassurance that she never would have thought of earlier.
Duwa-Duwa is the first short debut film of Boholano filmmaker NENA JANE ACHACOSO, through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. She has worked with BINISAYA Film Festival feature films Martes Martes (2017) and Huwebes Huwebes (2019) as an assistant director, crew, and actress. She also worked as production assistant in Purya Gaba, a co-production of Epicmedia and Above the Line. She was a participant in Ricky Lee’s screenwriting workshop online in 2020.
I have this vision of creating a magical story about a girl living in the mountains being pushed into the ugly realities of life. Somehow, through the development of this story, it diverges from the magical and mystical elements of the mountains, and more into the real-life happenings.
These mundane everyday moments became the story. It carries with it the turbulence of change and growing up. I hope to shed light on this particular issue of the topic, in a way that brings light to the moments that we take for granted and the moments that we overlook.
Kwits by Raz de la Torre
🎬 19:51 MINUTES Social Commentary
A man tries to get by in the time of COVID-19 with the simplest of goals: to get his ayuda.
After the lockdown silenced the Higantes festivities, Tupe finds himself jobless and isolated. He sees a glimmer of hope when he qualifies to receive financial help from the government. But getting his hands on that money is not as easy as he thought it would be.
RAZ DE LA TORRE has been a professional storyteller in film and television and a fervid educator. He penned blockbuster films and directed primetime TV shows, including A Soldier’s Heart which was recognized by the Asian Creative Academy Awards. Tracing his roots in documentary filmmaking, his short documentary on the lives of Filipino working students in London won in Gawad Alternatibo. He is the executive producer of NCCA docuseries Dayaw. He has directed approximately 100 stories for Maalaala Mo Kaya. Raz teaches scriptwriting, producing, and directing in UP Diliman. He earned his master’s with distinction in filmmaking at the London Film School.
Kwits is a tough sell. It’s much too long for a short but much too short for a feature. It’s about characters we know so little about, and before we even get the chance to feel invested, the film is over.
On paper, the futility of bureaucratic red tape is probably the least interesting of plots and the most undeserving of screen time. Yet here we are. This, I believe, is why opportunities provided by organisations like NCCA and Cinemalaya are so precious.
In gatherings like this, Kwits finds a home. I offer this film in hopes of finding audiences who might also see the value of Tupe’s experience.This is also proof of why the experience of movie-watching is magical.
Films can defy expectations. In the quiet of a dark cinema, audiences can be moved by spectacle or mundanity in equal measure. Give Kwits a chance and it might pay you back in unexpected ways.
Mata Kang Busay by Nińo B. Maldecir and Cypher John T. Gayorgor
🎬 14:58 MINUTES Drama
Can a father’s love trump the relinquishing demands of life?
The falls is omniscient; it is power-giving to those generous to her demands. When she does her bidding, what are you prepared to commit?
NIÑO B. MALDECIR wrote several scripts for films, documentaries, and video projects of the Maritime Lenses, a filmmaking organization in John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University–Arevalo in 2017. He is the director of Mata Kang Busay, Urihi nga Luha, Sa Hunasan may Santermo (3rd place, 32nd Gawad Alternatibo), Mga Binhi Sa Palad ni Ruding, and Belen. He wrote the screenplay for Mga Naalimunaw nga Sipad sang Damgo (finalist, 31st Gawad Alternatibo) and Bangis nga Binaligya.
Also a member of Maritime Lenses, CYPHER JOHN T. GAYORGOR has worked with Maldecir as co-director and cinematogapher in various films including Mata Kang Busay (2022), Urihi nga Luha (2021), Mga Binhi sa Palad ni Ruding (2020), and Belen (2019).
MAJOR CREDITS: CAST: Omar Ezra Gelpe, Franchrise May Basco PRODUCTION STAFF: DIRECTOR – Niño Maldecir, Cypher John Gayorgor; SCREENPLAY – Rodjie Tabigo-on; EDITOR – Niño Maldecir; DIRECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY – Niño Maldecir, Cypher John Gayorgor; PRODUCTION DESIGNERS – Ma. Teresa Genona, Kris Ann Tauro; EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS –Engr. Richard S. Garin
Cinemalaya is our dream. We would always say in hiligaynon that “Cinemalaya lang bi one time!”
An aspiration that fueled our passions as indie filmmakers to carry out our vision by transforming narratives into quality motion picture, whatever the challenges may be.
Now, being one of its finalists, the sense of triumph we felt was overwhelming just with the thought that our dream film festival have selected our work, appreciated, and dignified our dedication in making Mata Kang Busay.
Mga Handum nga Nasulat sa Baras by Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay and Richard Jeroui Salvadico
🎬 10:26 MINUTES Comedy, Drama, Musical
Three boys become teachers to their parents during the pandemic.
Three young boys wake up to an announcement on a new educational system where parents must take an exam to determine whether they are fit to teach their children. Knowing that their parents are not as privileged and knowledgeable as they are, Makoy, Kaloy and Buknoy try their best to teach their parents what they needed to know for their exam. The film depicts how parents become teachers to their children, and how children become teachers to their parents.
Ilonggo filmmakers ARLIE SWEET SUMAGAYSAY and RICHARD JEROUI SALVADICO both graduated at the Central Philippine University, with degree in mass communications and digital media and interactive arts, respectively. Their debut film Dribol won awards in Gawad Cinemaybank in 2018. Their filmography include: Katungdanan (2018), Chok (2019), and Gulut-anon nga Dulut (2019). Their film Utwas was a finalist in the 2020 Cinemalaya and won Best Picture in Bamasa Film Festival in Cebu. Mga Handum nga Nasulat sa Baras was produced through a grant from NCCA’s Eksena Cinema Quarantine 2, under John Denver Trending director Arden Rod Condez.
With the Pandemic affecting not only the society and its norms but also the educational system, we bring you a comedy-drama narrative that focuses on the huge change that has happened in the educational system.
We have always heard our parents or grandparents say that we should study hard because we are lucky to have even stepped in school but what if one day, we wake up with a news that will shock and change not only us, but everyone around us.
We hear that there is a pandemic and for so long we have wanted to quit school and have this chance to just sit around and to nothing but as soon as the government has figured out what to do with the system, we go back to school and we are given two options the online classes and the modular classes. Now, students have to choose between those two options or types of classes.
Obviously if you’re from a middle to a high-class family, you will choose online classes but if you’re from a low-income earning family and can’t afford an internet connection, you will have to do the other option which is the modular classes and the catch is, your parents have to pass an exam in order for your school to allow you to delve into modular classes to determine if your parents are fit to teach you with your lessons. Crazy right? Especially to those who have parents who don’t even know how to write nor read. Those who have seen the face of occupation and never that of education.
See You, George! by Mark Moneda
🎬 12:54 MINUTES Medical Drama
A group of hospital workers takes a trip down memory lane as they honor the life of one of their colleagues.
While the Philippines is now slowly recovering from the global health crisis, a group of hospital workers commemorates the life of a “fallen” colleague through a virtual necrological service. The solemn gathering suddenly turns into a recollection of dark and haunting memories.
While working as a medical professional, Ilocano filmmaker MARK MONEDA has directed several short films and competed in different film festivals. His film Miss You, George! Won the grand prize at the 2020 QCinema International Film Festival Short Shorts Competition, a finalist in the WHO’s Health for All Film Festival 2021 and won Jury Award Best Short Film and Audience Choice Award at the 2021 International Film Festival Manhattan Spring. In 2022, he was one of the FDCP’s 77 Film Ambassadors. He co-directed and wrote Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa, a finalist in the Cinemalaya 2021. His short film See You, George! won Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 2021 Sorok Short Film Festival. It also bagged Best Director, Best Editor, and Cong. Shirlyn Bañas Award in Sundayag Film Festival 2021.
Following the unclosed story of our medical font liners’ fate in the midst of Covid-19 Pandemic, this short film tackles their struggles and frustration towards our country’s healthcare system.
It is a metaphorical representation of issues that are rarely discussed as it somehow goes into the territory of socio-political injustice.
It is a stand-alone sequel to the 2020 QCinema short film, Miss You, George!, wherein the viewers could completely understand the story without watching the first installment.
Si Oddie by Maria Kydylee Torato
🎬 15:10 MINUTES Drama
A delivery rider struggles to find his untraceable customer while racing against time in a life and death situation.
After asking for an additional delivery to pay for his mother’s medical needs, delivery rider Oddie ends up looking for an oddly unlocatable customer named Trisha Lopez. Along the way, Oddie encounters several people related to her until he crosses paths with someone who will change his day-to-day life as a delivery rider.
Based in Roxas City, Capiz, MARIA KYDYLEE TORATO is a communications and media studies graduating student at the UP Visayas. Specializing in film, she has edited several short films and documentaries with her classmates. Her experience as a creative intern at a delivery company became her inspiration for her first short film Si Oddie.
We are currently living in an “add-to-cart” era where delivery riders play an important role in our lives. They put their lives on the line just to make sure that we receive our orders in the best possible condition.
However, despite their hard work, delivery riders remain to be underappreciated by many.
In this film, we follow the journey of Oddie, the main character, as he carries the weight of his delivery and the responsibility of being the eldest son to a sick mother.
With this project, I aspire to touch hearts and make people reflect about our lives during the pandemic. May the sincere narrative of this film speak to us consumers and remind us to be kind every time we encounter a delivery rider.
Roundtrip to Happiness by Claudia Fernando
🎬 15 MINUTES Children’s Film, Screenlife
Two childhood friends visit Google Earth for the first time in search of escape, adventure, and fleeting happiness.
Amid the pandemic, friends Ara and Hiro visit Google Earth for the first time which takes them to different places such as Quezon, Banaue, and Disneyland, among others. While virtually visiting these places, the two friends talk about random topics, including Hiro’s dream to become the president. Their fleeting happiness comes to a halt with the power interruptions. Coming back to their reality, Ara insists Hiro to become an electrical engineer, instead of president, to solve the immediate problem in their town.
CLAUDIA FERNANDO has produced short films focusing on women and children empowerment and out-of-school youth sector. On her last year at the UP Film Institute, she joined the Digital Filmmaking Workshop in Malaysia. Her undergrad film Ang Alamat ng Sari-Saring Sari Store (The Legend of the Filipino Sundry Store) won Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the UPFI Black Beret in 2019. It was screened in various festivals including Cinema Rehiyon and Nabunturan Film Festival in 2021. Her second film Roundtrip to Happiness won Jury Prize for Emerging Cinema in at the Montanosa Film Festival 2022.
It’s more fun in the Philippines.
We would often hear it, yet throughout the pandemic, we’ve experienced quite the contrary.
Through the lenses of our child protagonists, Ara and Hiro, and within the confines of the online site, the director visualizes the many layers that hinder the Filipino nation from attainting happiness. (1) The irresponsible handling of the pandemic by the state (2) The insufficiency and lack of infrastructure, may it be in the form of roads or electricity that hinders children from attaining education (3) The Imperial attacks within Filipino waters; the land disputes within Filipino land.
Much like in the film, we are entrapped within the limits which is dictated by the site—that is screen. That despite the vast and wide territories we see, to navigate these is to realize our own entrapment within the limits dictated by the State. And for a nation to be happy, it must first and foremost be free.
I’m excited! Who do you think will win in this year’s Cinemalaya competition?
Please share your full-length and short film finalists you are supporting for and why do you think they deserve to win in Cinemalaya 2018!
Live an Awesome Life with Christ,
Founder & Digital Creator, Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: Our Awesome Planet is an official tour partner of Mercury Bhutan Travel. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.