Cinemalaya 2020 Reviews

Pabasa Kan Pasyon

What holds a film together when one of the main elements becomes absent or voluntarily removed?

Before the advent of sound, films were devoid of dialogs and diegesis as modern history painstakingly moved along. Intertitles were inserted long before they were followed as conventions. At most, every aspect of modern day inventions would become a learning journey toward the development of world cinema. In fact, in the earlier years, films from the post-invention had been far more superior than their more technologically equipped successors (Arnheim, 1932). They could be true in essence because of their inherent qualities and characteristics to fill what wasn’t there yet. There simply was more time and less impact of ascendancy to allow creating more spaces for expansive projects.

British filmmaker and actor, Charles Chaplin caught on earlier with the power of the language of film. Story becomes king and execution is everything. And in the more profound method of analyzing films, structural-linguistic theory is by its essence a more substantial philosophy to deliberate and consider. And by understanding the very foundation of film history and its nuclear core, there may be a conceivable inference to achieving a sort of objectivity in studying every element that a film presents as a whole.  Quite possibly, even if one or two components is missing, its effectiveness rests mostly on whether its desired effects reach it audience. A film may be subjectively incomplete, but it will always be inimitably a creation of its own.  

When one chooses to do away with conventions, a film remains a product of its reckoning when it strongly infuses creative visions and informed commentaries about life and the society and the entire human experience, regardless of what is perceived missing, or what elements are not supplied. When one decides to confront realities and their concealed meanings, the film is transformed into an interactive platform where the filmmaker and the audience carve out a better way to ponder on recreating ideas and retooling the mediums, henceforward, effectively orchestrating a well-rounded discourse in the process.

Films have now reached its highpoint – from magnetic and digital sounds, to visual and digital effects, to actually experiencing them wherever it is accessible and convenient. Even the age of modern pandemic cannot simply stifle their sustained growth – and films have become, more than ever, a powerful tool to live through documenting a much well-lived experience.

Cinemalaya, a supposedly independent Filipino festival that has for years been a source of new materials outside the confines of corporate business models, lived through the times and continued to give opportunities to emerging filmmakers. Instead of facing the dire realities of the current situation – it chooses to expand and persevere in the arena of digital streaming platforms. An endeavor that should have been executed long before given the vastness and demands of digital technology. With only a few rooms for finished materials pre-Covid19, the festival has been able to muster a number of short features in competition.  Forgivably, some of these films have been screened earlier elsewhere.

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Ang Pagpakalma sa Unos by Joanna Vasquez Arong

In all consideration, a docu-short that reflects on the personal and socioeconomic devastation of Typhoon Haiyan four years later, is the most powerful entry piece of the festival. Rolled out in an acutely contemplative epistolary presentation, the film does not dwell on the fact that it basically lacks enough footage usually required – instead, the use of seemingly never-before-seen still shots and drawings and sketches fill the cinematic gaps. The richly written and emotionally woven Cebuano voice over is not just employed as a perfunctory narration but more of an unembellished retrospection of the most fundamental issues and themes merely muddled in the national discussion of the now seemingly distant past. 

Rating: 5/5

Pabasa Kan Pasyon by Hubert Tibi

Its Euro-Asian New Wave influence proved to be the best choice for its found story material into creating a sprawling yet modest cinematic tale of a family whose survival is rooted to what the time and place provide – the political economy of faith and religion.  It’s quite an expansive auteur experience, of which the filmmaker showed a profundity of control in handling the major tasks of producing, directing, writing, and photographing the film in their very town of residence. 

Rating: 4/5

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Tokwifi by Carla Pulido Ocampo

Because love crosses generational and cultural boundaries, and fantastically so in this film that the odds literally have to be being the romantic interest has been trapped inside a television set for 60 years or so. It is one thing to have an ostensibly fresh and revolutionary concept, executing it excellently is another thing more. While this short film potentially hits the cinematic jackpot, there is more profound victory gained to it than what the eye can see and what the technology can plausibly enhance.  

Rating: 4/5

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Utwas by Richard Salvadico and Arlie Sumagaysay

A boy learns about the ocean just as he learns about the tragedies of greed and dynamite fishing. Under its cinematic current, the filmmaker discovers that there isn’t only one way to sail on its chosen narrative and that there isn’t just one way to problematize the expanse of its theme. Everything would come of age as we learn to arise from the challenges of life, and in this case – of cinema and its infinite possibilities.

Rating: 3/5

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The Slums by Jan Andrei Cobey

While potentials can be a very fiddly throw-upon these days, not much can come out of them if one insists touching on a subject that have been unfolded and rehashed more than a hundred times without the vanities of reform. You can possibly spring up something that has been on the same direction. But you can definitely, God bless neo-mockumentaries, put things into a much higher perspective.

Rating: 3/5

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Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert by Janina Gacosta and Cheska Marfori

Somehow, no matter how sparse the dialogues are, they sound like they were written by a young adult for an old person. And by god, the direction felt lacking that it may have theoretically muddled what could have been usually great performances from its veteran performers.  While it is earnest and charming, the film fails to yield a more intuitive if not a very powerful overtone  

Rating: 3/5

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Excuse Me Miss, Miss, Miss by Sonny Calvento

In a world of labor contractualization, continual economic decline, and social decay – the only obvious way to put the resolve is by picturing the bizarre.  Quirky, often sharp and witty, but the substantial demands of the materials are overwhelmed by the necessity to always elect the absurd.

Rating: 3/5

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Quing Lalam Ning Aldo by Reeden Fajardo

Visually polished and emotionally appealing, this short feature about a transgender woman who awaits the return of her adoptive son appears to be a good material for a television commercial but not much to stand as a fully realized film.

Rating: 3/5

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Living Things by Martika Ramirez Escobar

It’s quite jarring to empathize with a film that starts off quite a treat then opts to appear like an extensive afterthought.

Rating: 3/5

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Fatigued by James Mayo

No. Just no. Not for me. Not today.

Rating: 1/5

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