Bago pa man maging bukang-bibig ang term na “indie” at bago pa man maglipana ang kali-kaliwang film festivals, ang Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival ang isa sa naunang maghanap ng bago at matatapang na kuwentong malayo sa kadalasang pino-produce ng mga commercial film outfits.
In 2005, the Cinemalaya Film Foundation gave birth to a film festival that served as a celebration of Filipino filmmaking—aimed at resuscitating what was proclaimed then as an ailing (or even already “dead”) industry. Cinemalaya: the rise of “indie”, the new breed.
Bago pa man mabigyan ng iba pang kahulugan ang term na “indie” at present (see: negative connotations that lean more on exploitation than art), it has long signified a valiant effort to bring forth compelling stories that are free from the control of profit-driven producers. Independent films, usually in the digital format, democratized storytelling and invited more and more filmmakers to bring their stories to the fore. Wala man silang magagarbong set-up, malalaking artista, Hollywood-esque visual effects, at marketing muscle gaya ng mga regular film outfits na kinalakihan na natin, nakamit ng marami sa mga Filipino independent filmmakers ang pagkilala ng mundo.
Sa independent films isinilang ang marami sa visible actors (either bilang support o bida man) sa ngayon gaya na lang nina JM De Guzman, Irma Adlawan, Neil Ryan Sese at siyempre si Coco Martin. Dito rin naman nabigyan ng pagkakataon na magbagong bihis at mabigyang panibagong lalim ang mga movie careers ng ilan sa malalaking celebrities ngayon gaya na lang nina Eugene Domingo, Joem Bascon, Gina Pareno, Mylene Dizon, at Merryll Soriano. Unti-unti namang umanib sa indie revolution ang ilan sa malalaking artistang usual na nating nakikita sa mga pelikulang ipino-produce ng malalaking film outfits gaya nina Angelica Panganiban, Piolo Pascual, Carlo Aquino, Vilma Santos, at maging si Nora Aunor.
Sa ngayon, the line that separates mainstream from independent films has slowly been blurred. May mga “digital fronts” na ang ilan sa malalaking film production houses, mayroon na ring independent film category ang ilan sa mga award-giving bodies sa bansa, at nahihiram na rin ng mga independent film houses ang mga mainstream celebrities in portraying roles that are “outside the box”. Cinemalaya, as the pioneer, has paved the way to this renaissance. Nagpasigla at nagpaexcite ng mga manunuod, mapa-estudyante, film enthusiast, o evolved, discerning, modern moviegoer man.
Heto ang limang pelikulang tatak-Cinemalaya na nag-succeed to cross borders and get mainstream attention and appreciation:
Hango sa nobela ni Eros Atalia, inilahad ng first-time filmmaker na si Erick Salud ang kuwento ni Intoy o Karl Vladimir Lennon J. Villalobos (played to perfection by then film newbie Edgar Allan Guzman) at ang highly un-romanticized at “undefined” relationship nito with Jenny (portrayed by Mercedes Carbral) in ‘Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me’. Packaged as a sex-comedy, this coming-of-age story relied greatly on its dry wit and uncomplicated narrative to give us a peek at the protagonist’s journey from innocence to adulthood, which goes beyond the obvious depiction: motel scenes, bed sequences, and profanity. Backdropped by devout Christians for parents, Intoy’s path to self-discovery gets confounded by the back-and-forth of affection from Jenny.
Edgar Allan Guzman showed screen charisma that made him a breath of fresh air, a break from leading men seen in romantic comedies of late. Natural pero may lalim. Buo ang character niya to the point na we rooted for him to find whatever it is he is looking for. The quiet sexiness of Mercedes Cabral was also commendable. ‘Di na niya kailangan mag-try nang sobra. While she fits a particular “hot girl in class” stereotype, her role was tackled delicately that we’ve grown to also “understand” where she’s coming from. Isa sa pinakapinilahan ng Cinemalaya 2011 ang ‘Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me’, particularly because it attracted young viewers and college students who were able to relate to it. And to cast two relative “unknowns” tackling the story of love and intimacy and be well-accepted by the audience is an admirable feat all its own. After the Cinemalaya screening, the movie also got a successful commercial run.
Isa sa mga naunang gawa ni Chris Martinez ang ‘100’, a black comedy na pinagbidahan ni Mylene Dizon. We follow the story of the beautiful, successful, and cancer-stricken Joyce, who is not only battling her disease but the idea of leaving behind the people who matters most to her. And that’s what made the movie unique and a far-cry from others that may have tackled the same topic. Hindi natin pinanood ang journey ni Joyce into accepting her condition, but we zoomed in on how she made her family and friends accept the fact that she will soon be gone.
Sa pamamagitan ng mga post-its, inilinya ni Joyce ang mga bagay na gusto at kailangan niyang gawin as she faced the remaining days of her life. Andiyan rin naman ang kaniyang bestfriend na si Ruby (played by Eugene Domingo), who held her hand till the end at ang kaniyang ina played by Tessie Tomas.
The charm of the movie is in its “nonchalant” discussion of death, depicting it with no hint of melodrama whatsoever. In fact, ang sundot ng dry humor sa script at ang effortless delivery ng triumvirate nina Dizon, Domingo and Tomas actually made the movie real, and not just another movie about death. Walang slow-motion, walang overwhelming musical score in the background, walang sigawan, sampalan, at overly romanticized look at one person’s demise. It is simple and straightforward and sincere. At iyon nga siguro ang dahilan kung bakit pinilahan at nanalo ito ng Audience Choice award hindi lang sa Cinemalaya kundi pati sa international film festivals.
On paper, the idea of a superstar playing the role of a television and film bit player, looked every bit a hit. And it was. When it was shown at the Director’s Showcase category of the festival that year, Vilma Santos supporters trooped to the CCP and showed interest and appreciation. Santos, the star-for-all-seasons, the governor, and the multi-awarded television and movie veteran, acted side by side with other real-life “extra’s” where she was shouted at, pinched, slapped, and burned with a cigarette. As her first foray into the indie front, Santos played the role of Loida, the optimistic bit player waiting for her big break while trying to make ends meet. As expected (or not), the film gained massive success.
Nagpakita ng suporta ang maraming malalaking pangalan sa pelikula at telebisyon na nagpatotoo sa pagsunod ng mga manunuod sa isang araw kasama ng isang ekstra mula kay Piolo Pascual, Marian Rivera, Eula Valdez, Pilar Pilapil, at maging si Cherie Gil. The story was simple but layered, showing a multi-dimensional character that welcomed us into her life without having the need to “explain” herself to be understood. May charm ang pag-arte ni Santos bilang the title character—perky, positive, and determined. Mahusay ang pagkakahabi ng narrative at ng script ng pelikula making it easily absorbed by the audience without being too overwhelming.
May dramatic undertones man ang pelikula, it was carried out so finely that it didn’t feel like a teleserye. ‘Di natin kailangan maawa sa protagonist, instead, sinundan natin kung paano siyang nagpunyagi. In a way, it was like being in a set of a teleserye. We became part of Loida’s life and that is considered director Jeffrey Jeturian’s triumph.
Kasabay ng pagsilang ng unang taon ng Cinemalaya, naintroduce din sa mga manunuod si Maxie, o si Maximo Oliveros, played by Nathan Lopez, a 12-year-old gay kid. Backdropped by the slums of Manila, we witnessed Maxie’s journey to adolescence with his brothers (played by Neil Ryan Sese and Ping Medina) and a doting father (played impeccably by Soliman Cruz). Typical or stereotypical man ang character ni Maxie—tight girl shirts, headbands, short shorts and all—di naman conventional ang set-up ng environment kung san siya lumaki, and it’s a welcome change. ‘Di tayo nakiusyoso kung paanong tinanggap niya ang sarili nya bilang homosexual, or kung paano man ito tinutulan ng kaniyang mga magulang gaya nang sa mga dati na nating napapanuod, sinundan natin kung paano siya nagkaroon ng mas malalim na discovery sa sarili niya bilang isang tao na hindi nakakulong sa diskurso ng pagiging bakla.
Like any coming-of-age story, ‘Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros’ banked heavily on the protagonist’s shift from innocence to adulthood with tragic events that forced Maxie to turn his back on being a kid and live a more “awakened” life. It also touches the idea of love with an idealistic new police officer Victor Reyes (JR Valentin) but it was delivered with finesse and charm without looking like another puppy love story. ‘Ang Pagdadalaga’ became one of the biggest proofs that new spins on old narratives can bear fruit to genius that will be appreciated by a wide audience. Recently, the film was turned into a musical and received raves from fans and stage enthusiasts alike.
Ang Babae sa Septic Tank is a movie about movies. This Marlon Rivera-Chris Martinez collaboration resulted in one of the highest-grossing Cinemalaya movies of all time, after which, a commercial run ensued. It is a tongue-in-cheek representation of independent cinema, represented by a team of indie-wannabes played by Kean Cipriano and JM De Guzman (and, sadly, a “why-is-she-there-anyway” role for Cai Cortez as the production assistant). In hopes of reaching international acclaim, the team of young filmmakers brought the audience to a shared experience of making a digital film work, zooming in on steps undertaken before an idea becomes a movie.
From the get-go, the film dares to make a caricature of filmmakers today, what with the rise of digital films that somehow churn out materials that exploit the marginalized. “Pornography of poverty” has since become a tried-and-tested formula to make an independent film noticed (so the film says), but when is it too much?
The disarming wit and the engaging dialogue pretty much made up for the plot-less telling of the team’s journey. Pero ang pinakamabenta para sa mga manunuod ay ang bida nitong si Eugene Domingo, who played a “caricature” of herself, alongside the many versions of how the protagonist of the team’s movie will be portrayed. Sino ba naman ang makakalimot sa “elevator acting”, sa “as-is-where-is acting” at sa “TV patrol acting” na in-enumerate ni Domingo in one of the most popular scenes of the movie? The movie solidified Domingo as a legitimate force to reckon with when it comes to acting for dramas and comedies.
As the Cinemalaya Film Festival enters its 11th year, nakakagulat mang walang full-length features in its roster of films in competition (although 10 short film entries ang maglalaban laban sa grand prize), ibinabalik naman nito ang ilan sa mga pelikulang tumatak sa manunuod in the decade it has been around. Kasama ang ilang international entries to be shown at ilang Pinoy classics, the Cinemalaya Restrospective will showcase some of the biggest films ever to have come from the festival and shaped it to the name that it has now. ♦