Your Average Joe’s Film Review: Cinemalaya Film Festival 2018 Part 1

SPOILER ALERT! Proceed with caution!

In the next few days I’ll be writing about the Cinemalaya, the Philippine Independent Film Festival. With 20 entries (10 full-length and 10 short feature films), the festival is the country’s biggest indie film festival, having promoted the production of 136 full-feature independent films and 118 short films, some of which have won local and international film festivals and competitions.

I must admit, I have never watched a Cinemalaya film before, but my curiosity grew after I watched the festival’s opening movie, BuyBust. Growing up in a middle-class family, I was given the impression that quality local films are quite a rarity. I only learned of Filipino film greats such as Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal during my Humanities classes in college.

For an average movie-goer like me, factors need to be considered before watching a movie: (1) Has the movie gained enough renown or infamy to warrant my attention? (2) Is the cast reputable, or as some friends would say, “fan ba ako ni (celebrity name)?” And most importantly, (3) Is this what my date/significant other wants to see? In any case, I considered none of these factors coming in. I needed to write about it.

Cinemalaya Film Review #1: Liway by Kip Oebanda

The first movie I watched is Liway by Kip Oebanda. The film is about an NPA dissident (Glaiza de Castro) from Negros and her family living in Camp Delgado after being captured by the government during the Marcos era. The story was written by Oebanda and Zig Dulay, based on the true-to-life story of anti-Marcos rebel Cecilia Flores-Oebanda, who hides under the name of Commander Liway.

It’s hard writing about this film, not because I have nothing to write about it but because in doing so, I might spoil  the best parts of the story. Oebanda doesn’t spoon-feed his viewers with the premise. He lets us take everything in. He uses shadow puppetry and flashback sequences to build up the story. And at the end of each sequence is a pleasant realization that makes you more interested in the story.

My problem with this movie is the consistency of story-telling. I wish there was a smoother transition from using shadow puppets to portray fiction, to flashback sequences to narrate facts. Or maybe this wasn’t how they wanted it to feel because the introduction used puppets. It just felt like I was watching two different movies.

The movie efficiently used De Castro’s talent for singing in the most touching scenes. She also played the part of a mother rather well. However, I wasn’t as convinced with her playing a rebel leader. Ric/Commander Toto (Dominic Roco) and Dakip (Kenken Nuyad) felt more like brothers than father and son. It just didn’t feel natural to me. And it wasn’t because of the lack of the Negrense accent – I didn’t mind it, really.

Roco didn’t have a strong presence in the movie. Nuyad’s acting comes off as over-the-top. And this was a problem for me since I had a hard time figuring out whether Dakip is just naive of the events happening, or if he’s just being a spoiled kid.

On the other hand, Soliman Cruz (Sulpicio) was exceptionally good as a warden with a conscience. Sue Prado and another actor (I wasn’t able to get his name, apologies) played convincing performances as Day and Ric’s fellow detainees. Ebong Joson portrayed a very frightening villain in the movie.

I recommend you watch this movie. With its good premise and compelling story, the film had me in tears when  the film credits rolled.

Cinemalaya Film Review #2: Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon by Carlo Enciso Catu

Kung Paano Hinihintay Ang Dapithapon is a well-woven love story about Teresa (Perla Bautista) and her longtime partner Celso (Menggie Cobarrubias). During a family celebration, Tere receives a call from estranged husband Benedicto (Dante Rivero) who is stricken with cancer.

The story then centers on how each character deals with this news. Tere, in spite of Bene’s past faults, continues to care for him. Celso, the ever-supportive partner, will do everything to make Tere happy. And all Bene wants is the forgiveness of his family.

John Carlo Pacala wrote the story and screenplay of this movie. Viewers will appreciate how the story builds up. The character introductions are subtle but meaty. And when the story starts connecting the characters, everything seems to naturally fit in.

The brilliant ensemble cast of this film needs further appreciation. All three leads were wonderful. Even the supporting cast members were just as good. Romnick Sarmenta’s performance as Tere and Bene’s son was moving. Equally superb was Che Ramos who played Celso’s daughter. Notable also is the believable use of the Kapampangan dialect in the movie

What I liked about this movie is that it didn’t need loud, crazy outbursts to make its scenes dramatically effective. Each character is so delicately portrayed that their restraint makes for a powerful performance.

If there are any regrets in my watching of this movie, it’s having to see the horrible MTRCB PSA before the actual film. Watch it.

Related: Your Average Joe’s Film Review: BuyBust by Erik Matti