Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Blogging Cinemalaya

We have a winner! By unanimous consensus of the judges (me, Mcvie, Migs and Karla), Drewrites of If Shadows Could Talk wrote the best blog post on a 2007 Cinemalaya entry. Here it is:

No Sap, Only Blood
The competing filmmakers at the third Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival are a romantic bunch. Their cameras pan to lighthouses and seas, fields and a high school campus. All offer postcard-pretty shots, but only one has stuck his neck out—Jim Libiran, the director of “Tribu”.

“Tribu” tells the story of three street gangs in Tondo, namely Sacred Brown Tribe, Thugs Angels and Diablos. It is seen through the eyes of a boy, named Ebet, and his voice-over opens and ends the film. In between them, though, there is darkness: A member of SBT dies. Mackoy and his SBT suspect the Diablos as perpetrators. They vow revenge and conspire with the Thugs Angels. At midnight, their bloody war begins.

Other similar films enter the mind, especially “City of God”. But “Tribu” holds its own. To watch this film is to be punched in the gut. You crawl out of the theater reeling from its rawness. What is special here is that Libiran reveals to us the real face of Tondo, where sex and violence are not uncommon, where gangsters and hip-hop rule. The camera doesn’t shy away from tangled electric wires, slaughtered pigs and loud neighbors; instead, it sets a documentary style of filmmaking. The handheld shots give an authentic feel.

Casting real-life gangsters, as actors, also preserves the authenticity. In the film, they’re no longer acting; they play themselves. But more important, “Tribu” depicts them in a good light: that they’re family people, too. Makoy and his friend, for instance, chat with their parents over breakfast and do chores. Yes, the rest also smoke drugs and cuss and kill, but these do not define them.

The screenplay is also by Libiran, which bagged a Palanca in 2006. Libiran has an ear for everyday speech and writes candid dialogues. “Huwag ka nang tumuloy,” a fellow thug warns Makoy not to join the brawl, “mamamatay ka lang.” Makoy is miffed and points a gun at him. “Sige, iputok mo,” replies the other, “nang malagas tayong lahat!”

The dialogues even sound poetic when the gangsters burst into rap. But they’re neither fancy nor contrived. To them, poetry comes naturally. Just listen to their angst: “‘Tang ina, bumalik na kayo sa inyong pinagputahan/ Lahat kayo ay aming babalahan.”

Sentimentality tends to mar the other films in competition (portions of “Still Life” feel like that of a primetime soap). “Tribu”, however, never succumbs to this. Through Libiran’s direction, it doesn’t manipulate the audience. Consider the scene when Ebet has prepared dinner for his mother. Ebet calls out to her, but she lies in bed still. The boy then pulls her blanket and rests at his mother’s side. No music accompanies this scene, yet it touches a nerve or two.

Some say, the way to achieve artistic perfection is to approach a full physical reality. “Tribu” is a piece of reality. It is at times dark and touching, but always simple and true. Do catch its re-runs in UP this August.

This is a more succinct, insightful mouthful than many so-called movie reviews that appear in the papers today! (Drewrites posted his review at 6:34 p.m., July 29, Sunday. Later that night “Tribu” won Best Picture honors at the Cinemalaya awards.)

Congratulations, Drewrites! Write more, and we'll be there to read you. And thanks for supporting Cinemalaya and indie cinema. (Please e-mail me at for instructions on how you can claim your prize.)

There were three other bloggers who joined this contest by writing about the Cinemalaya movies they caught at the CCP. This gave me quite a puzzle: A bigger number had joined my earlier small pakulo on the Virgin Labfest, also a watching-and-blogging exercise. I was thinking that Cinemalaya would attract more participants since movies have always been more popular, more “accessible,” than theater. Hmmm. Either the prize wasn't big enough, or the movies themselves weren't that interesting? Give me your thoughts on this one.

Yatot, Q the Conqueror and Radioactive Adobo, thank you for joining, too. I enjoyed reading your pieces as well; I'll keep them in mind when I catch the films during their UP Film Center run.

On Aureus Solito's “Pisay:” “Admittedly, 'Pisay' is not Aureus Solito’s best work. It is cheesy. At times, it is a bit cliché. However, isn’t that what high school is all about? Pisay alumni or not, you are bound to leave the cinema with an ache in your heart, a tear in your eye and a yearning for what some call the best years of our lives.” -- Q the Conqueror (Complete post here.)

On Katski Flores' “Still Life:” “Overall, 'Still Life' by Katski Flores is worth watching or worth checking out! A good movie for me is the one that I cannot guess what will be the twist of the story. There are a few of them, and I'm glad that those movies were really good! Too bad for Katski because I guessed the twist right. But despite the early revelation of the twist, I am still giving a four stars to this movie! Keep up the good work, Katski!” -- Yatot Chronicles (Complete post here.)

On Dennis Marasigan's “Tukso:” “'Tukso suffers from comparison with 'Rashomon.' Of course those who haven’t seen the latter would care less about comparisons. 'Tukso,' however, has its brilliant moments. The storytelling is fluid, almost tight, with a smattering of amusing scenes that made the audience holler in delight (like the way Irma Adlawan let loose her hair when Ping Medina agreed to spend the rainy night in her house; the innuendo is delicious and hard to miss!).” -- Radioactive Adobo, who reviewed a few other short-film and feature-length entries (Complete posts here.)

PLUS: Jessica Zafra has more on Cinemalaya. Great reads as always.


Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Gibbs,

Here's a little something that might spark discussion. What's independent cinema, if there's no independence in criticism. I hope you can visit:

Anonymous said...

I was not able to finish reading that entry that won. Fucked up boring... will just skip this part. I've never seen the movies for cinemalaya, but these things are for sure to be seen, observed and wished for:
1. the background or the scenery is given emphasis than the actors. Hello guys, we need close ups. We wanna see the facial expressions of the actors.
2. Too much staring at nowhere (titig) to end a scene.
3. bad lighting. like you can't even see the facial expression of the actors because they've placed the lighting behind them and the camera in front of the actors. Dang talk about getting a photo 101.
4. the annoying extras that have a line or two that deliver their dialogues as if they are reading something in the air.
5. the chiwariwap blocking. when the extras stand in line as if they are back up singers or about to get shot one by one.
6. the i wish they use reels for commercials.
7. please no more digital. i would rather ride a roller coaster. much better being dizzy riding one.
8. the you know that that scene was choreographed.
9. over acting or no acting at all.
10. the musical score that totally disses the scene.
11. storylines that goes on and on with no substance at all or storyline itself, or was there any story?
12. the i bet you i can guess what happens next.
13. the list goes on....
even i am getting bored just trying to think about each and every bad things or observations or wishful thinking when it comes to filipino cinema. there are just too many to mention.

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

i gues the choice of location for the screening is one big problem. i, for one, am not sure how to commute to the ccp from my place. how much more the others. the indies should find a more accessible place

yatot said...

thanks for posting my link gibbs! too bad i did not win, but still i thank you for appreciating my review...! oh, i congratulations for the winning the 9th spot!:)

for that anonymous commentator:
the idea of having indie films is to give alternative storylines, plots, and attack to the film itself... i guess your watching too much filipino telenovelas on tv which focuses more on the facial expressions of the actors/actresses... big face on screens are sometimes annoying and irritating to the eyes! what the participants of the cinemalaya have done is to give an alternative approach to all aspects of filmmaking!

i am guessing that you are the same anonymous commentator that posted his/her comment on my review... hmmm...

bad lighting you said... probably you're not that technical, are you?

films are always choreographed to prevent unnecessary incidents...

it's not good to see your very long comments/rants here... you just don't know how to appreciate alternative artworks!

just watch the indie films first before cackling and babbling your comments on every cinemalaya reviews that you read! it's not good to see the dirt of others!

to gibbs, i'm sorry for this long reaction, too, towards that anonymous commentator who chose not to reveal his/her identity or just posted his/her name! the best epitome of cowardice! ha!

Richard Lionheart said...

Until kelan po ito?

Sa CCP lang ba talaga pwedeng panoorin itong mga movies na ito?

Anonymous said...

YATOT, i don't even know your blog exists... i don't even know YOU exist, and i won't even dare go to your blog... just so you know, i don't watch tv series in tagalog now (they are dumb and stupid), and yes i've seen tagalog indie films in the past that's why i know that they are no good. they are annoying. I've always watched the French and Spanish indie films. Just so you know.
You have gotta be dumb not to be choreographing something whether it is in theater, movies, or concerts. But for movies though, for it to appear choreographed, that is just bad directing and poor delivery of the actors.
In most foreign films, having screenshots of the location is to provide the setting and mood of the film, they normally just do a quick run of how it looks like, But to shoot actors like 500m away (being sarcatic)just to show the background or location, that is totally dumb. that is why you need half body or full body shots to show the actors not them looking like ants in the big screen.
I've been in theater as well. JUST SO YOU KNOW. So i know a bit about lighting and I've been in sets for telenovelas.JUST SO YOU KNOW.
I have appreciated artworks. I sketch and paint. I did theater. My whole family are actors and actresses. And my friends are writers and film makers. Just so you know....

Dennis N. Marasigan said...


there were a number of bloggers that wrote about the cinemalaya films, maybe they just didn't know about the contest... or were afraid to join it?

to anonymous,

i wish we can engage in a serious discussion of indie films, but since you did not even watch the cinemalaya films this year, how can we? obviously, you were talking about the films you have seen in the past, so there is really no point talkking about cinemalaya this year, is there?


gibbs cadiz said...

@ OGG, thanks for the link. will try to check it out. :)

@ ANONYMOUS, dennis is right. you never bothered to watch the cinemalaya films this year, so that should preclude any discussion at this point. :)

@ RESTY/BALDAGYI, you have a point there--though a "more accessible" location would still differ for everyone, don't you think? :)

@ YATOT, thanks for joining the contest! :)

@ DENNIS, haha, i hope they just didn't know about it instead of being afraid to join the contest. agree with your riposte to Anonymous' comment, btw. :)

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