Quick Thoughts: Cinemalaya 9

I got myself a Fims-in-Competition pass for the second straight year. It’s more convenient in a number of ways – no worrying of sold out tickets, priority lane thus getting the next-best seats in the theatre (reserved seats get the best ones), and a complementary festival souvenir program.

I watched 14 of the 15 films in competition this year. I missed out on The Diplomat Hotel, which if the word-of-mouth is to be believed is terrible so I really didn’t miss that much. 

Here are my quick thoughts on the films from worst to best.

14. Liars. A terribly-acted, horribly-directed, unfocused movie about a little league baseball team that cheated its way to winning prestigious international tournaments. I really should stop watching Gil Portes’ movies the same way I avoid Joel Lamangan’s. His 2010 Cinemalaya entry Two Funerals was terrible. Liars more so.

13. Nuwebe. Another terrible movie about a nine-year-old girl who gets pregnant after getting sexually abused by her father. The script have the girl spewing out lines that no normal 9-year-old kid would say. Jake Cuenca and Nadine Samonte are also miscast as parents of a dark-skinned girl.

12. David F. A movie about African-Americans spanning decades – from the revolt of the Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century to the Filipino-American-Japanese wars of the 1940s to the present-day Angeles City, Pampanga. The film is beautifully-photographed particularly the 1940s scenes but there is nothing more it could offer. I should also point out Art Acuna’s heaving was overdramatic. He looked much fitter than Sid Lucero but the latter was breathing normally. These are details I don’t easily forgive.

11. Instant Mommy. This was one of my to-watch-out-for films this year. I went down a notch when I saw the trailers. And it fell down the drain when I finally saw the completed film. Not even Eugene Domingo could save it about a woman who tricks her Japanese boyfriend of her pregnancy. There are a couple of laughs somewhere in the film. For some, that’s enough for the film to warrant a positive review. But I’m not one of the some.

10. Amor y Muerte. Set in the 16th century about a Filipino woman married to a Spanish soldier and goes on sexual trysts with a ex Filipino boyfriend. The acting is terrible. Markki Stroem’s eyes are a distraction. And the last sequence is too noisy and bloody.

9. Rekorder. I fell asleep on the first half of the film. I didn’t like Ronnie Quizon’s character. Nakatakas ba naman sa pulis pero ang ginawa naglakad at nagpahinga sa kalye. Kabobohan. Katangahan. Sumakay na sana siya kaagad ng jeep. 

8. Porno. A week after I saw this film and I’m still struggling to make sense of it. Others say all 3 characters – Yul Servo, Carlo Aquino, Angel Aquino – are troubled by something or someone. Another one I talked with said there was nothing connecting all three segments. I read online that it was the best film of the year. I say it’s the most confounding film of the year. Talo pa ang susunod na pelikula sa listahan.

7. Debosyon. I loved the previous two Alvin Yapan Cinemalaya entries in Cinemalaya – 2009’s Ang Panggagahasa kay Fe; 2011’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. His third entry – about a deeply religious man who falls in love with a woman in the forest – I only liked. I struggled to make sense of the movie and this is how I understood it: that one’s religion and the belief in the healing powers of religious icons or what they represent can only make sense when you have the faith – a blind faith. And that Paulo Avelino’s connection to Mara Lopez’s character can only make sense when he loves blindly, loves freely, believes freely.

6. Babagwa. A edge-of-your seat thriller about a man who falls in love with a woman he swindles money from in Facebook. It’s a terrific piece of filmmaking with great performances from Alex Vincent Medina and Jerry Paras. I didn’t quite like the ending. I wish it ended differently, more open-ended, allowing viewers to make their own conclusion.

5. Purok 7. A charmingly sweet little film about young love. The lead star Krystel Valentino is a revelation and unabashedly great as the older of two siblings left to fend off for themselves as their mother works as an OFW. This film could have been ranked higher if the filmmakers fixed a few things – one of which is the girl who stammers out her lines. It’s distracting and obviously looked like she was just acting. Her stammer is not unlike Dexter Doria’s “winking” tic on a film from years ago. Halatang pilit.

4. Quick Change. I initially didn’t praise this film when the credits rolled but it slowly grew on me. It tells the story of a transsexual who is in the cosmetic surgery business and struggles with her conscience when she learns of the chemical source of her injectables. The filmmaking and acting is first-rate. The directing style was reminiscent of Bahay Bata, a Cinemalaya entry back in 2011. Only later did I learn Quick Change and Bahay Bata has the same director.

3. Ekstra. A day in the life of a bit player starring Vilma Santos in her first indie movie. Santos’ indie debut does not disappoint. It is hilarious and heartbreaking. That last scene as Vilma struggles to hold back her tears is a gem.

2. Transit. Terrific film. Smooth. Malinis. Great performances from all actors. Jasmine Curtis-Smith is a better actress then her more popular sister. I really wished the film ended on the same scene at the start of the movie. It could have been a powerful end. I would have clapped the hardest at its July 28th gala screening.

1. Sana Dati. I love this movie. It made me want to cry at the end. Lovi Poe is love. I didn’t know Benjamin Alves can act. The music is great. The photography breathtaking. The story awww shucks. And did I tell you the film made me want to cry unabashedly? I want to have a DVD of this film and watch it over and over. 

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