“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad” reels you in from the opening scene: An inmate swaggers along the corridors of a provincial jail while escorting two young men past rows of crowded cells into the cell of a jailed politician.
The young men are scholars of “Gov,’’ and they are there to shoot a campaign ad for his comeback bid, their way of paying it forward. From the cell they are led to Gov’s “VIP room,” which resembles the mess hall of a cozy, clean-smelling condo unit.
After the shoot, they get the shock of their lives when they are ordered to strip naked by their depraved, corrupt benefactor.
“How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad” is the opening film of an anthology of five shorts produced by Pelikulove on a shoestring budget and shot in a day or two during the pandemic “bubbles” in 2021.
The anthology, titled “Shoutout Pinas 2022,” will be shown on Aug. 10 as an exhibition film at the Cinemalaya Festival ongoing at the Philippine International Convention Center’s Bonifacio Room.
The second film, “No Trespassing,” is a gripping tale about two social development workers who travel to the countryside to document the killings of sacada, or sugarcane farmers, by the goons of a landlord.
The two women get caught in the unfolding conflict and face the dilemma of whether to stay to protect the farmers from the hired guns, or to seek help from the police, who they believe are in the pocket of the landlord.
The third film, “When a Manananggal Loves a Man,’’ offers an entertaining take on the struggle of a teen vampire to break free of her mother’s hold, even forsaking her own kind, for the sake of her mortal beloved. It was shot in a studio.
The fourth, “Libro for Ransom,’’ is a whodunit about a journalist’s investigation of the theft of Jose Rizal’s major works, “Noli Me Tangere,’’ “El Filibusterismo’’ and “Mi Ultimo Adios,’’ from the National Library in December 1961, in the age of fake news and disinformation.
Unlike the theft of the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre on Aug. 21, 1911, that made Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece famous, the heist at the National Library didn’t spark renewed interest in the national hero’s works, much less in Philippine history.
The anthology reaches a crescendo with “Quarantine 5,” a story about four former student activists who meet online amid the government’s pandemic lockdowns.
It’s an angst-filled reunion that runs the gamut of emotions: from a bitter confrontation about selling out on their ideals to capitalism, through grief as they confirm the killing of their “missing’’ friend—a lumad teacher in Mindanao—to solidarity over the latter’s death. It ends with the four friends humming a revolutionary song that promises to “uphold’’ their murdered friend’s legacy.
For this short, actors performing on the stage were filmed—a novelty in which theater borrows the medium of film to tell people’s stories as movie and theater productions lay crippled during the pandemic.
Producing an anthology wasn’t part of the plan, Ellen Ongkeko Marfil, Pelikulove founder and creative head, said during the pre-screening at the Sine Pop cinema in Cubao, Quezon City, on the night of Aug. 3.
“I was surprised [by the materials],” Marfil said. “You know the voices of the young; if you saw the struggles of the young, wherever they are, that’s what came out.”
Pelikulove, founded in 2019, launched its online courses on filmmaking and screenwriting during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a view to hosting an online festival of film and theater shorts.
The goal was to let the writers experience the sheer joy of seeing their works mounted on stage or made in film, said Raffy Tejada, program director of Pelikulove.
Of the 65 scripts for film and theater that were submitted, nine received the nod of the Pelikulove board of festival directors. These were streamed in an online festival. Five were eventually selected for the anthology.
But the cameras didn’t start rolling right away.
The artists had to be mentored by renowned writers in film and theater, including Ricky Lee, Rody Vera, Jeffrey Jeturian, Issa Manalo Lopez, Tejada and Marfil in a series of online courses on screenwriting and playwriting.
The scriptwriters were eventually paired off with directors and production teams from the Bicol region, Bacolod City, and Manila. The collaborators were given by Pelikulove P20,000 seed money for each project; they had to raise funds for other costs.
“What I really wanted to shout out came out in the script. The story was coming from my frustrations with the elections at the time,’’ said writer Quiel Dela Cruz, who was paired with director Roman Perez Jr. for “How to Make an Effective Campaign Ad.’’
It’s the first film festival that “put the spotlight on the writers,’’ said writer Ralph Morales, who partnered with director Gab Hernandez for “Libro for Ransom.’’
The collaboration between theater people and filmmakers was itself groundbreaking, according to Lopez, artistic director of Dulaang UP.
“It’s a big thing to hear the perspective of others who are part of the creative process even if you have different mediums,’’ she said, specifically citing the collaboration to film a theater play for the festival.
‘Just the start’
Pelikulove is now open to accepting scripts for its 2024 festival.
“Well, this is just the start,” Marfil said. “As I said, this was unexpected. It’s just shorts, but when we saw the quality of the works and saw that they could be strung thematically, they’re almost like a film.’’
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Sona “is recent,” Marfil quipped, referring to the State of the Nation Address that was delivered last month. “This is Sony, the state of the nation’s youth.’’