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The 6th Cinema One Originals Festival

November 9, 2010

I’ll let you in a secret. You know where you can get first dibs on the best Filipino films? It is when you watch them on Indie festivals. Philippine mainstream is so commercialized that sometimes their movies do not make sense at all. You’ll see a parade of advertisers and half-baked screenplay, leave the theaters with disgust.

Maybe its just the artsy fartsy in me, but producers and directors are given the free will to be creative when it comes to indie films. These results to quality movies with sense. That’s why a lot of our indie directors get recognition abroad!

For the love of it I would like everyone to see some of the films that are part of Cinema One Originals Festival:

ISHMAEL
Written and Directed by Richard Somes
Starring Ronnie Lazaro, Mark Gil, Pen Medina, and Ria Garcia
The Gist: An ex-convict returns to his hometown seeking peace, but gets drawn in a battle for justice that will have him drawing from his violent past.

Richard Somes is already a veteran of the Cinema One Originals, having directed the terrific aswang drama Yanggaw. In Ishmael, Somes is recreating the elements of the classic Filipino action drama, telling the tale of a man with a violent past who must rise to defend the innocent, taking on hordes of ill-intentioned men with nothing but a prodigious talent for creating violence. The trailer promises a bloody good time, with Ronnie Lazaro wielding machetes to dangerous effect.

ANG DAMGO NI ELEUTERIA KIRCHBAUM
Directed by Remton Siega Zuasola
Written by Maria Victoria Beltran
Starring Donna Gimeno, Suzette Ranillo and Alex Uypuanco
The Gist: A young Cebuana, envious of her cousin’s fortunes after marrying a foreigner, signs up to become a mail-order bride.

Some of you might remember Remton Zuasola as the winner of last year’s Cinemanila shorts competition. His short, To Siomai Love, was a strangely sweet tale told in just one shot. Zuasola, already establishing himself as a real auteur, also shot this film in a single take. The sheer audacity of this technical challenge should make Ang Damgo interesting at the very least. But having seen some of Zuasola’s other work, this ought to be a pretty good story as well.

DAGIM
Directed by Joaquin Pedro Valdes
Written by Jheremy Sandico and Joaquin Pedro Valdes
Starring Martin Del Rosario, Samuel Quintana, Bembol Roco, Rita Iringan, and Marc Abaya
The Gist: Two brothers looking for their father discover a seemingly idyllic tribal community hiding a dark secret.

Dagim is a pretty elaborate multimedia project. The art of the film has already been exhibited at the Power Plant mall. The movie is also tied up with a graphic novel by Andrew Drilon. Everything I’ve seen of the film looks pretty audacious. Consider, for example, the 2.35:1 aspect ratio that the film employs. The digital filmmaking revolution has unintentionally limited the scale of images. Dagim bucks the typical 16:9 frame and pushes for more cinematic widescreen experience. Hopefully, the projection can match that ambition.

LAYANG BILANGGO
Directed by Michael Angelo Dagñalan
Written by Ma-an Asuncion, Michael Angelo Dagñalan, and Melchor Escarcha
Starring Pen Medina, Miriam Quiambao, Jaime Fabregas, Sue Prado and Archie Adamos
The Gist: An aging hitman tries to get close to a daughter he abandoned years ago. But his past isn’t easy to shake.

The trailer for Layang Bilanggo reveals a pretty high-strung drama, with characters forced to make tough choices that inevitably lead to violence. But the film also appears to be tender family drama, focusing on a father reconnecting with his daughter. It’s going to be interesting to see how these two tonally different elements dovetail in the film. If nothing else, a strong cast led by Pen Medina promises plenty of explosive performances.

ASTRO MAYABANG
Written and Directed by Jason Paul Laxamana
Starring Aaron Villaflor, Megan Young, John Lapus, Marco Morales, Hermes Bautista and Crystal Herrera
The Gist: A young man who flaunts his supposed patriotism is made to see the irony in his ways.

Astro Mayabang immediately distinguishes itself by being a comedy. While the local festival grant systems have produced a wide range of films, out-and-out still seem pretty rare. The premise seems ripe for a lot of self-deprecation, and perhaps dashes of smart social commentary. Whether the humor of this indie feature rises above the average mainstream laugher remains to be seen. But it’s a good thing that at least one of the films in the festival is out to make people laugh.

TSARDYER
Written and Directed by Siegfried Barros-Sanchez
Starring Martin delos Santos, Neil Ryan Sese, Dimples Romana, Pipo Alfad III and Mon Confiado
The Gist: A woman journalist is kidnapped by a rebel group, and she befriends a young boy whose job is to keep the rebels’ cellphones charged.

Tsardyer is loosely based on the kidnapping of ABS-CBN news correspondent Ces Drilon, focusing on a small, strange detail of guerilla life. Young boys are tasked with running down the mountain to town where they can get a cell phone charged. Director Siegfriend Barros-Sanchez is no stranger to the Cinema One Festival, having produced Anak ni Brocka in the first year of the festival. That experience will probably be on show here. People are already taking note of the film’s young star, Martin delos Reyes, who seems entirely too talented for his age.

THIRD WORLD HAPPY
Written and Directed by EJ Salcedo
Starring Sam Milby, Jodi Sta. Maria, Richard Quan, Melissa Mendez and Archie Adamos
The Gist: An artist who has lived most of his life abroad returns home for a funeral and slowly rediscovers a connection to his home.

Third World Happy probably won’t have any problems finding an audience. Its star, Sam Milby, is easily the biggest name in the festival. But showbiz appeal aside, the film appears to be a personal tale, director EJ Salcedo abalikbayan himself. Personal tales tend to be a double-edged sword in cinema, with films running the risk of becoming self-indulgent on the way to reaching powerful personal conclusions. Hopefully, this film can avoid all the usual pitfalls.

This year’s festival will also be screening a few old favorites: Jerrold Tarog’s postmodern political satire Confessional, Richard Somes’ aswang family drama Yanggaw, Richard Legaspi’s romantic comedy set in the world of the hearing-impaired Paano Ko Sasabihin, and Ray Gibraltar’s grim black comedy Wanted: Border. Also in the lineup: Ron Bryant’s excellent documentary The Cinema of Celso Ad Castillo. This year’s festival looks promising. I hope to see a lot of you there.

Thanks to ClicktheCity for the film excerpts! I’ll be posting the schedules in a bit.
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