The third Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival opened last night at the CCP with the Philippine premiere of Brillante Mendoza's "Foster Child," which has made it to the Directors' Fortnight of the Cannes Film Festival. The competition proper starts today, with nine new full-length digital films and 10 shorts, never before exhibited and all a product of the P500,000 individual Cinemalaya grants, showing in various venues at the CCP.
Which film will be the next "Maximo Oliveros" or "Big Time" or "Donsol?" You have to watch the nine entries to find out. Once more, with feeling: Rachel Ann GO!
I was fortunate to have been at the birth of the Cinemalaya filmfest two years ago, when the public at large still hadn't heard of digital or indie cinema, or was at least suspicious about it. I, too, had my doubts, but the chance to preview the first batch of entries convinced me that something fresh and altogether exciting was happening to the moribund local cinema. A new generation of filmmakers and artists was blazing a path and pointing the way towards the future.
"If 'Big Time'--close on the heels of 'Bridal Shower,' 'Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino' and 'La Visa Loca,' and made for a measly P500,000--is the shape of things to come, then perhaps we can mothball for now the tiresome wailing over the death of Philippine cinema. Going indie is clearly a way out," I said in my article about the first Cinemalaya lineup ("The shape of things to come," July 11, 2005).
"Big Time," directed by Mario Cornejo, was my bet for Best Picture; until now I stand by that choice. It won Best Screenplay at the filmfest, and was subsequently cited as one of the year's best films by the Urian and other award-giving bodies. Of course, Aureus Solito's "Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros"--second after "Big Time" and ahead of Clodualdo del Mundo Jr.'s "Pepot Artista" in my ranking--was the film that broke through and captured the public imagination. I was there during its first public screening, and even now my heart quickens when I recall the wild, never-ending cheers of the crowd as the end credits rolled.
In last year's filmfest, I again managed to watch all the entries except one. Mike Sandejas' "Tulad Ng Dati," a sleek riff on the triumphs and tragedies of the rock band The Dawn, was hands down my choice for the best entry (review here). It did win Best Picture, so I'd like to think my taste in films isn't that way off.
This year's Cinemalaya, however, is a big problem for me. I've committed to watching some plays and showing up at a birthday party this weekend, and next week I'm out of the country to cover the Kuala Lumpur Festival. Which means I won't be able to watch any of the Cinemalaya entries, at least during their premiere runs. I'd be posing before the Petronas Towers and tramping all over Putrajaya thinking that I'd missed the next big Filipino film. Aargh.
Something to make our hearts beat the faster: another Cinemalaya
But I've got an idea. Maybe you can let me know what you think of the Cinemalaya movies, since I'm out of the loop for now. Here's how:
1. Go to CCP and watch any or all of the competing Cinemalaya films (Details here, trailers here, screening schedules here). You've got every day from today up to July 29 (except Monday--CCP day off) to catch the movies. I highly recommend watching as many as you can, because that gives you a surer grasp of what's good and what's so-so.
2. Write a 300 to 500-word post about the film/s you're able to see. Tell us why you liked it, or didn't--entirely your choice. I'm not looking for the next Pauline Kael, James Agee or Roger Ebert here, but I sure hope I don't end up with a pointless rant or a fawning rave, either. Just talk about the movie in clear, compact language, in your own voice. Substance and style, baby--that's what I'm looking for.
3. Post a comment here to let me know you've written up something, and I'll visit your blog to read it. To ensure greater objectivity, I've collared some friends to help me do this. A panel of judges (naks!) composed of the Troikasters--me, Mcvie and Migs--plus Karla (also a full-time editor) will go over the posts and choose what we think is the best one. Cinemalaya closes on July 29 (Sunday); I'll announce the winner of this contest on August 1 (Wednesday), so please have your entries ready before that date.
4. I'm offering Robinsons gift certificates worth P2,000 to whoever we choose as the best "Cinemalaya blogger." The GCs are valid until March 2009 and are honored at any of the following Robinsons-affiliated establishments: Robinsons Department Store, Robinsons Supermarket, Robinsons Appliances, HandyMan, Toys R Us, TopShop/TopMan, Dorothy Perkins and Warehouse.
5. I'll feature in this space the winning blog entry, plus I'll link up as well (and perhaps quote a line or two from) all the other bloggers who wrote up entries about their Cinemalaya movie-going.
At the end of all this, what I hope to see is another crazy quilt of blogger commentary about the Cinemalaya filmfest, similar to what we did for the Virgin Labfest. Were you impressed, infuriated, bored, baffled, provoked to laughter, moved to tears by the indie movie/s you saw? Blog about it!
Can I leave you with this challenge? Call me lazy--I'll quote again from what I wrote two years ago at the birth of Cinemalaya:
"Don't just take our word for [these] entries. Go to the CCP... and judge for yourself whether these movies earn for themselves the right to present entertaining, important alternatives to mainstream Pinoy cinema. Wondrous new stories are always welcome, but audience support is even more so. So give digital films a try."