Top 6 Cinemalaya Favorites

With the tagline “The World Will Be Watching”, the ads promoting Cinemalaya 6 features three of its homegrown films that blossomed into international acclaim. Scenes from Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, 100, and Engkwentro were recreated to showcase the plaudits these films garnered in different international film festivals such as Berlin, Sundance, Pusan, Marrakech, Vesoul Asian, and Venice. If you haven't seen these ads, you can watch them here.

The said ads inspired me to make a list of my favorite Cinemalaya films. But before you read my choices, here are some reminders.

1. I do not claim that this list contains the BEST films from Cinemalaya.

2. I only included full-length films that were screened as part of the Main Competition (now called the New Breed Category).

3. I only considered films I actually saw. So no matter how good you think Tribu, Pisay, Tulad ng Dati, Sarong Banggi, or Donsol are, you won’t see them in this list because I haven’t seen them yet. But I will soon.

With that said, here are my six favorite films from Cinemalaya.

6. Engkwentro (Clash)

2009 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

Director: Pepe Diokno

Starring: Felix Roco, Daniel Medrana, Zyrus Desamparado, Eda Nolan

Engkwentro elicited mixed reactions during its Cinemalaya run last year. Some applauded its bravery and bravura, while some fell asleep or walked out. But I have always been a believer of this film. To quote my review: “Among the ten finalists vying for the Balanghai trophy in this year’s Cinemalaya, Engkwentro has the highest chance of being picked up by international film festivals. It may even snatch the top plum from festival frontrunners Mangatyanan and Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe like a real dark horse.” It may not have won the main prize. In fact, it was the only film from last year’s batch that went home with no award (that “special citation” does not count as an award), but Engkwentro vindicated itself when it bagged two major awards in Venice. All I could say was “I knew it”.

Read my full review here.

5. Dinig Sana Kita (If I Knew What You Said)

2009 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

Director: Mike Sandejas (Tulad ng Dati)

Starring: Romalito Mallari, Zoe Sandejas

Dinig Sana Kita was my favorite film from last year’s Cinemalaya, but its effect on me is starting to wear off a little. Nevertheless, I can still remember how kilig it made me feel, just when I thought no romcom could touch me. As I said before, it could have easily turned into a cheesy love story if it was made by mainstream film studios. What if GMA Films decide to remake Dinig Sana Kita? Directing duties will be courtesy of Mark Reyes and the leads will be Kris Bernal and Aljur Abrenica. What a horrid thought.

Read the full review here.

4. Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe)

2009 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

Director: Alvin Yapan (Huling Pasada)

Starring: Irma Adlawan, Nonie Buencamino, TJ Trinidad

I saw Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe in a private screening held weeks before the start of Cinemalaya. After the last scene, it was as if the audience froze for a few seconds before they clapped. I was not sure about how I felt about the film right after seeing it, but its memory lingered on my mind. I can’t stop thinking about it for days as if I’m under a spell. The film is hypnotic, dreamlike, and unlike any Filipino film I’ve seen. Up to this day, I still believe that Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe should have won the top award instead of Last Supper No. 3. It’s a good thing that this film found its rightful place in Cairo where it received the Golden Award for Digital Films. There is still justice in this world.

Read my full review here.

3. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros)

2005 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

Director: Auraeus Solito (Pisay)

Starring: Nathan Lopez, JR Valentin, Soliman Cruz, Ping Medina

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros is Cinemalaya’s first born. This poignant dramedy burst into the international scene and traveled to Berlin, Torino, Montreal, Rotterdam, Las Palmas, Sundance, and Asian First (thanks IMDB for the info). Maximo Oliveros made noise. Cinephiles took notice. Pinoys lined up to see it in SM cinemas. It brought prominence to the then-unknown Cinemalaya. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros started it all. It is the reason why I found myself sitting in Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo excited to see my second Cinemalaya film in 2008. Thanks Maxi for introducing me to Cinemalaya.

2. Jay

2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

Director: Francis Pasion

Starring: Baron Geisler, Flor Salanga, Coco Martin

I didn’t write a review of Jay when I saw it during its theatrical run last year. I’ve included the film in several lists where I was forced to make a write-up about it. But whatever I end up writing, I always feel that it’s inadequate to describe Jay’s complex design. Maybe, it isn’t meant to be written about, but should be experienced first-hand. It’s about distorted reality, sensationalist journalism, and consensual exploitation neatly packaged as a family drama, social commentary, and brutal expose of (un)reality shows. I could go on writing 500 more adjectives to describe Jay, but everything will end up as barebones definitions, so I suggest that you experience it for yourself.

1. 100

2008 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

Director: Chris Martinez (Here Comes the Bride)

Starring: Mylene Dizon, Eugene Domingo, Tessie Tomas

I’ve always been fascinated with deaths, in the context of films that is. I am deeply moved when the protagonist suddenly dies at the end. In fact, three of my favorite films killed their major character/s: Satine (Nicole Kidman) in Moulin Rouge, Robbie (James McAvoy) and Cecilia (Keira Knightley) in Atonement, and Selma (Bjork) in Dancer in the Dark. Ironically, my favorite Cinemalaya film and favorite Pinoy film is also about death. However, its treatment of death is very different. In the previously mentioned films, the demise of the main protagonists caught us by surprise. Whereas in 100, we knew right from the start that Joyce (played by the brilliant Mylene Dizon) will be six feet below the ground once her 100 days is over. She casually dealt with death as it is inevitable and imminent. She even bought her own casket (as seen on the Cinemalaya 6 ad) and chose her clothes for her wake. After all these years, 100 still occupies a special place in my heart. 100 is truly 100%

Read the full review here.

The world is anticipating what Cinemalaya 6 has to offer. How many cinematic gems will the premier independent film festival produce this year? Don’t miss Cinemalaya 6 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) from July 9 to 18.

I’m planning to watch all the films in competition, both in the New Breed and Director’s Showcase categories, and to catch up on repeat screenings of some Cinemalaya favorites. I will regularly update this blog to cover this event. Go to the sidebar for a list of articles related to Cinemalaya 6.

See you at CCP!


pinoyindiekuno said...

Jay's still my favorite Cinemalaya film.

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

Jay is such a find. Black comedy at its finest.


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