Through the years since 2005, the Cinemalaya festival, a project of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), has been providing the more discerning moviegoers—many of them young people—some memorable films.
During that first year, one of the independently produced movies in the full-length category was “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros.” It did not win as Best Film in the competition, but it went on to make waves locally and internationally.
The film was pre-LGBTQ+ but its perspective notably veered from the commonplace intolerance toward gays. It told the story of young Maximo, youngest in a family of petty thieves who treated him like a little sister. Maximo fell in love with a handsome policeman and they had a chaste, platonic relationship. Eventually, however, Maximo grew disillusioned and avoided the captivating “parak.”
The policeman tried to win Maximo back to his favor but the teenaged gay, in a quietly effective coda, ignored him and slowly went on his way.
Another Cinemalaya film that has stuck in my mind is “Rekrut,” which concerned a massacre in Corregidor. It was about a secret camp where young men who had been recruited for a foreign adventure were being trained by rough and menacing military types.
But there was a whistle-blower, and the mission was exposed. In the ending, the youths ran naked to a beach for a swim but were mowed down one by one.
The final shot showed a single swimmer. “Ah, this is the lone survivor, as in real life,” I thought. But a shot was heard and the young man slumped dead. The director or the screenwriter made no compromise.
To avoid possible lawsuits, perhaps, the filmmaker treated the story as fiction. But it was based on fact. During the late 1960s, there was a secret camp in Corregidor in which young Muslims were trained for an invasion of Sabah in Malaysia, which the Philippines was (and still is) claiming. The training camp and the killings therein was exposed and a scandal ensued, resulting in a Senate investigation.
As a newsman for the Associated Press (AP) bureau in Manila, I covered the Senate hearings on what came to be known as the Jabidah massacre.
There were Muslims who testified in heavily accented, tortured English. Then came a Christian-turned-Muslim, self-assured, with a distinct speaking voice and testifying in perfect English. After the hearings he was not heard from again; the scuttlebutt was that he had been liquidated.
Back on track
In the past two years, because of the Covid-19 pandemic which is still a threat today, Cinemalaya came to an abrupt halt, like almost everything else. Early this year it showed short films online.
But now the festival is back with a vengeance. It will be held live at the CCP and other venues on Aug. 5-14, as announced in a recent press conference that was presided over by festival director and retired CCP artistic director Chris Millado.
Director Jose Javier Reyes, who is overseeing the competition, introduced the directors of the full-length feature films and of the short film features at the press conference held at the CCP.
The theme of the festival is “Breaking through the Noise,” the “noise” being the lies, character assassination, historical distortions, misinformation and disinformation found in social media and other platforms and forms of media.
“The full-length films in competition were the finalists selected for the 2020 and 2021 editions of Cinemalaya,” Raul Asis of the CCP told CoverStory. “This year the full-length films vying for the coveted Balanghai trophies will break through the noise.”
In another communication with CoverStory, Millado noted: “Only two of the full-length filmmakers are from Manila. The rest are based outside of Manila. The region-based filmmakers are emerging.”
Films in competition
The full-length feature films are: TM Malones’ “Kargo,” Christian Paolo Lat’s “Ginhawa,” Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s “Blue Room,” Ronald Battalones’ “Batsoy,” Anna Isabelle Matutina’s “12 Weeks,” Cynthia Cruz-Paz and Milo Alto Paz’s “Retirada,” Real Florido’s
“Bakit Di Mo Sabihin,” Rain Yamson II’s “Angkas,” Roman Perez Jr.’s “Kaluskus,” Sheenly Gener’s “Bula sa Langit” and Carlo Obispo’s “The Basketball Player. “
Also in competition are 12 short film features. In addition, documentaries will be shown, to announce the fact that there will be a new category in Cinemalaya next year.
This year’s films will be shown not only at the CCP but also in commercial moviehouses nationwide, followed by selected campus and community screenings, and finally online in October.
See you at the (indie) cinema!