Dispatches from Cinemalaya: Day 1

Amidst the rains, film lovers still trooped to CCP to catch the opening screenings of Cinemalaya films. If that’s not a sign of hunger for new ways of telling stories on film, I don’t know what is. On the whole though, my day was a bit disappointing in terms of the quality of the four films I saw. It’s a good thing Ang Nawawala sort of saved the day from total disappointment. Here’s my brief take on the films:

The Animals (Gino Santos)

All style, zero substance. Up until the climactic scenes, this was actually an interesting, energetic take on a lifestyle that’s not commonly featured in Pinoy cinema. But then it devolves into cheap exploitation by featuring extended scenes of senseless violence. Even as it shows the depravity that youth, power, and unfettered self-entitlement can bring, it eventually cops out by involving someone who does not belong to their subculture (i.e., someone from the lower class, someone who belongs to that ‘dangerous world’ outside of the bubble that they have built their lives in) in perpetrating the film’s most heinous crime. It’s a cautionary tale, alright, but not so much of rich kid’s propensity to do stupid things as of their misguided perception of the world outside of their own.

Intoy Syokoy ng Kalye Marino (Lemuel Lorca)

This feels dated. Eros Atalia’s short story (where the film is based on) succeeded in parts precisely because of its brevity, as well as its consciousness of the history of Sangley Point and of the ethnographic detail with which Atalia describes the tahong enterprise. In transposing the story to film, it loses its appeal by wallowing in the melodrama of poverty.

Madaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi (Dante Nico Garcia)

An eclectic brew of stories that range from inspired (the charming ‘Mrs. Robinson’ segment with Cherie Gil, Kean Cipriano, and Edgar Allan Guzman, and the hilarious Cosplay battle segment with, among others, Jerald Napoles) to downright embarrassing (the Dominic Roco-Karel Marquez and the Eric Tai et al segments).

The version I saw at Cinemalaya was a work in progress so here’s hoping the final product will be much more polished. Props, though, to Arvin Viola’s crisp nighttime lensing and the performances of Kean Cipriano and Cherie Gil: this year’s best movie couple so far.

Ang Nawawala (Marie Jamora)

Well-crafted film with a big heart. Annicka Dolonius is a revelation as Dominic Roco’s MPDG (Manic Pixie Dream Girl). At times it gets a little too affected and indulgent (hello Tintin and Margot Tenenbaum!)  but you can’t deny the passion and meticulousness that drove director Jamora to come up with this, her first film.”

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