Our Thoughts on This Year’s Cinemalaya Full-Length Films

August is always an exciting time for Pinoy film fans. After taking a soft break in 2015, Cinemalaya is back with a vengeance this year with nine new films from up-and-coming directors.

Although the festival screenings officially ended last August 23, the entries will probably show up in theaters within the next months. We are here to help you break down each film in competition.

 

ANG BAGONG PAMILYA NI PONCHING

Directed by: Inna Salazar, Dos Ocampo

Main cast: Janus Del Prado, Ketchup Eusebio, Odette Khan, Lollie Mara, Joyce Burton-Titular, Jackie Lou Blanco

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues as a text scammer turned poser infiltrates the De Veyra clan over an inheritance claim. He bonds with his new titas, cousins, and grandma, surprisingly turning their lives around much more than he turned his.

Thoughts: This was the only straight-out comedy in the festival, which was uplifting after a series of depressing movies. One standout scene used Snapchat filters. The ensemble was hilarious although acting was at times broad. Situations occasionally felt contrived, and some characters like Odette Khan and Jackie Lou Blanco were underutilized. Moral of the story? No matter how different each person is in a family, they will always have each other.

Rating: 3/5

 

 

DAGSIN

Directed by: Atom Magadia

Main cast: Tommy Abuel, Lotlot De Leon, Benjamin Alves, Janine Gutierrez

Synopsis: Crippled judge Justino survived the horrors of both World War II and Martial Law, disillusioning him profoundly. Is there reason to hope or have faith after everything he went through? Is death the ultimate form of release?

Thoughts: Existentialist questions were problematized in this movie as we were shown vignettes of the hardened judge’s life. Tommy Abuel’s sensitive portrayal humanized his character, and Lotlot de Leon had funny moments. However, it did not offer a satisfying conclusion and left more questions than answers. The flashbacks were more interesting than present time, and Marita Zobel’s scenes, which offered levity, were too few. The slow pacing made the film feel longer than it really is.

Rating: 2/5

 

 

HIBLANG ABO

Directed by: Ralston Jover

Main cast: Lou Veloso, Jun Urbano, Leo Rialp, Nanding Josef

Synopsis: Sentimentality, memory, and forgetting: Four men at the twilight of their lives reminisce about their pasts, including old wounds that shouldn’t have been opened. Which is real or not real? Which is a fantasy? Regret and guilt bind us all.

Thoughts: The movie’s visuals and dialogue gave off a vintage vibe, as if you were watching something shot in the ‘70s. It was interesting to find out the backstories of each of the lolos – or what they perceived as such, being unreliable narrators. However, the plotting made it tedious. There were scenes that didn’t add up to anything, and there was also a character played by Lui Manansala that served no actual purpose. For a movie with “hibla” in the title, it had a lot of loose threads.

Rating: 2/5

 

 

 

I AMERICA

Directed by: Ivan Andrew Payawal

Main cast: Bela Padilla, Rob Rownd, Elizabeth Oropesa

Synopsis: Amerasians from Olongapo have long dreamed of reuniting with their fathers, hoping the reunion will complete them as persons and pave the way for a better life. But relying on this dream is farfetched for most. And they soon realize that in the end, family (and life) is what you make it.

Thoughts: Out of all the movies, this one felt the most satisfying. It concluded with meaningful and positive messages about female bonding, family, and self-actualization. The cast was a riot, and Bela Padilla was brilliant in the main role. There were several laugh-out-loud scenes, owing to the characters’ misuse of English. If there is one quibble, it’s that Rob Rownd’s character shifted personalities midway into the film.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

KUSINA

Directed by: David Corpuz, Cenon Palomares

Main cast: Judy Ann Santos, Gloria Sevilla, Joem Bascon, Luis Alandy

Synopsis: The kitchen has been Juanita’s sanctuary from childhood to adulthood. Cooking is her passion and becomes her sole means of expression.

Thoughts: For the longest time, society has confined the woman to domesticity. Kusina subverted this image by embracing this notion in its entirety and showing both its triumph and tragedy. Setting the entire movie in a kitchen (obviously shot in a sound stage) was inventive but at the same time constricting. Nonetheless, how it was all edited together to make transitions seamless is a feat. Judy Ann was moving in the title role of Juanita. Gloria Sevilla was a standout.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

 

LANDO AT BUGOY

Directed by: Vic Acedillo, Jr.

Main cast: Allen Dizon, Gold Azeron

Synopsis: Going back to school is never as simple as it looks. That’s what Lando learns the hard way as he returns to his senior year to lead his rebellious son by example. In the process, they also try to mend their relationship broken by past sins.

Thoughts: This inspirational story was utterly frustrating, as Bugoy was such an unsympathetic character – and the reason father and son reconciled was quite shallow. In fact, I felt like rooting for Lando to succeed and Bugoy to fail – which I think isn’t exactly the type of emotion the film was intending to convey. There was some humor from Lando’s fish out of water situation. Allen Dizon is always a reliable actor who adds depth to any role.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

 

 

MERCURY IS MINE

Directed by: Jason Paul Laxamana

Main cast: Pokwang, Bret Jackson, Lee O’Brian

Synopsis: “It’s the way this country works,” remarks Pokwang’s Carmen. While Carmen struggles to keep her carinderia afloat in a remote barrio in Pampanga, a desperate, mysterious American teen named Mercury suddenly appears, begging her to take him in. His charismatic presence is just the spice needed to invigorate her business – and her life.

Thoughts: The profound fascination of all characters to Mercury pointed to larger themes. Despite his glaring faults, he was still idealized and revered. In real life, Pinoys do extend undue preferential treatment to foreigners in a way it wouldn’t be granted to fellow countrymen. The movie expressed this notion vividly through the use of dark comedy. Pokwang and Bret Jackson shared undeniable onscreen chemistry as their characters blurred the lines between friends, family, and lovers.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

 

PAMILYA ORDINARYO

Directed by: Eduardo Roy, Jr.

Main cast: Ronwaldo Martin, Hasmine Killip, Maria Isabel Lopez, Moira Lang

Synopsis: Teenage street dwellers Aries and Jane are small-time thieves. Through a twist of fate, they are swindled themselves, entangling them in a web of corruption and crime.

Thoughts: The movie was just so gritty and realistic – from the CCTV footages, to the expletive dialogue, to the use of ambient city sounds. Credit goes to both leads who were so natural in their roles that it seemed as though they were plucked from the streets and made to act. They did a great job of humanizing both Aries and Jane such that despite some questionable decisions, you’d support them through and through. This is certainly the festival’s best this year.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

 

TUOS

Directed by: Derick Cabrido

Main cast: Nora Aunor, Barbie Forteza

Synopsis: As the new Binukot princess meant to honor an ancient pact with the spirits, Dowokan struggles with her fate and attempts to carve her own destiny, leading to dangerous consequences. Is there a way to reconcile tradition with choice? The solution starts with challenging the given.

Thoughts: This movie is a technical marvel – it’s superbly shot and beautifully scored. Mixing live action and animation helped marry the folkloric elements into the tale. The weak point though was its plot. The climax was underwhelming, and it felt there wasn’t a lot of effort required to beat the enemy. It also ended without providing any closure to Dowokan’s story. Nora Aunor is always a great presence, and Barbie Forteza is on a roll after her brilliant performance in 2014’s Mariquina.

Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

Film Rankings:

  1. Pamilya Ordinaryo
  2. Mercury Is Mine
  3. I America
  4. Kusina
  5. Tuos
  6. Ang Bagong Pamilya Ni Ponching
  7. Lando At Bugoy
  8. Dagsin
  9. Hiblang Abo

What do you think about this year’s festival? What are your favorite movies? Do you agree with our rankings? Sound off in the comments section below.

 

Image credits: CinemalayaCinema Bravo

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