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Cinemalaya 2013 Winners

Now that Cinemalaya 2013 has closed, and the awards have been given last night, I am posting here my collated reviews that I uploaded in FB every night (tired and sleepy but delighted). Kaya siguro di na ko nakagawa for BABAGWA, NUEBE, and REKORDER.

For your consideration.

Jazz In Love (2013)

Cinemalaya Opening Film JAZZ IN LOVE (2013) tells a curious love story between two men from two different worlds, staged amidst a Christian setting where boxed ideals and traditions present a threat. It pictures a naive affection that promises hope and leaves the audience still dreaming. It is Director Baby Ruth Villarama’s thesis on a post-colonial depiction of how love can transcend gender and distance. However in the end, reason still prevails.

Curious, unusual, yet somehow misses delivering a point.

2.5 out of 5 stars.






Porno (2013)

If you’d like to see PORNO (2013) for all its hullabaloo, it will not fail you. It will give you everything you asked for until you go numb and uncaring. But Director Adolfo Alix Jr. will congruently tell a story with a prologue and three acts, each with a tragic narrative for three different Alexes.

The film opens with a 10-minute claustrophobic and a nauseating start (reminiscent of Nagisa Ôshima’s IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES), and continues with the three phases of film production – each with a different Alex and his own story. It is a discourse on the development of our own kind of pornography: an industry striving on hidden cameras and silently capturing the excitement of the unknowing.

Yul Servo as a hired killer on parole is as subtle as his previous roles, yet convincing and naive. Carlo Aquino, a voice actor for sex scandals, a blackmailer, and a DVD vendor, delivered a cruel depiction of a young mind corrupted by an underground industry of deceit and moneymaking. Angel Aquino couldn’t be more perfect for the role of a male transexual. Her depiction of a drag queen and a physically-absent father is something to watch out for.

At last, we have our own Felicity Huffman!

PORNO presents a critical analysis of an underground industry that is bound to meet a tragic end. Apart from the absence of art in the genre, the distant orgasms among its characters, is what Alix wants to focus on. Pornography may be a trade, clinging on sexual appetite, lust and passion, but its own nature of repetitions, routines and reoccurrences will eventually give birth to insensitive creators and desensitized followers.

It is a film of subdued themes, and it may take a few minutes or hours after you’ve left the theatre before you see what it was really all about. It was almost 3 hours, for me.

Who am I to blame the nature of Independent Filmmaking, anyway? Kaya nga “independent,” di’ ba?

3.5 out of 5 Stars.

Ekstra (2013)

The title may have used the job name we are so familiar with, but Director Jeffrey Jeturian’s EKSTRA (2013) attempted to go beyond the job and its descriptions. It is a thesis on the pretentious, hypocritical, unforgiving and self-serving industry that we so love. It is riveting, humorous, and funny, and it all stop there.

It is the story of Loyda (Santos), a bit player for a hit tele-serye. The movie follows her two-day adventures. It starts in the early morning hours and ends in a dinner party the following night. We see Loyda join her band of “talents,” portray different silent characters, woo over her celebrity idols, and swallow incomprehensible humiliation from an unprincipled director amidst a crowd of stars. Beyond the profession, this is the story of a mother, clinging a hopeful grasp to the promise of a future in an unpredictable industry where money, beauty and hierarchy is the name of the game.

EKSTRA is as entertaining as its teasers, and the promise of uncountable laughs and punchlines will not fail you at all. It delivers an array of cameo appearances that adds to the relevance of the plot. Vilma Santos as Loyda, delivers a performance that fits the fun and humour that film requires. She depicts a unknown player, a struggling artist and a hopeful mother, as expected by a crowd of loyal followers.

However, Santos’ first venture into the world of Indie is a subject of argument, as it always will be. Jeturian’s “tuhog” shots, for which he is known, does not fit well with Santos’ unnecessary movements and unsolicited nuances. She seems to find it difficult to sustain that “natural” element we often see in Independents.

But that’s Santos, for me. She did try, though. She really did, and I have to give it to her. Her closing scene somehow told me that she’s doing her best.

The story, may be entertaining, but the plot somehow avoided moving beyond the fun. Loyda’s character goal, however initially established, was intentionally set aside for the promised jokes, cameos, and punchlines. Coming in terms with the definition and stance of independent film making – the movie fails considerably.

EKSTRA focused more on making the audience laugh, than making them fully understand the ineffectual culture and unshakable hierarchy of a cruel industry. It is a movie satirizing on the dominant sponsors, and the bending artist; a critique worth discussing in such medium.

Had Jeturian missed fact that he did the thing he critiques to his own film? I say, yes.

As I stepped out of the Nicanor Abelardo Theater last night, I reminded myself that I am still in an Independent Film Festival, because the movie I just saw is everything that is not “Sine na Malaya.”

There, I said it na.

2.5 Stars out of 5.

Debosyon (2013)

It is a story relatively familiar to some. The archetypal handsome farmer in search for love and the lonely mountain nymph, trapped in a magical and a romantic narrative about their romance and the ultimate choice of leaving one’s identity. It is reminiscent of Severino Reyes’ Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang, our local folklores and the stories told by our fathers beside a candle light on our way to dreamland. But Alvin B. Yapan’s DEBOSYON (2013) delves deeper into the psychology of man and examines the controversial argument on the definition of what is moral.

Mando (Paulo Avelino), is a young farmer desperate to reap a bountiful harvest and invests on blind faith and devotion to Our Lady of Penafrancia. Everything was doing well until he meets Saling (Mara Lopez), a mysterious woman living a hermit’s life in the forest. Mando eventually takes interests, and pursues the lonely maiden, only to find out that she has a secret, so dark and ancient, that even a stedfast lover will have to think twice.

Yapan’s contribution to this year’s Cinemalaya presents a strong stand on the independence of man. It is a critical examination of our own varying definitions of what is moral and what is not. In DEBOSYON, we understand that we choose our own gods and create our own religions – a brave step in discussing a sensitive topic in a country bounded by invisible chains of blind fanaticisms.

4 Stars out of 5.


On another note, it is disturbing to see a director take a phone call on a stage in front of hundreds of anticipating audiences. Introducing fellow members of the production team, while talking to someone on the phone is much more ridiculous, if not disrespectful. It is but right for a director to give his/her audiences the attention he/she also asks from them, and the kind of attitude exhibited in tonight’s Gala Premiere was so uncalled for. If that is not arrogance, I don’t know what is.

But that’s just me…and the couple sitting beside me whispering their disapproval…and the group three rows down…and the lady to my left shaking her head.

Transit (2013)

Shot entirely in Israel (in brilliant cinematography), five Filipino actors took the strenuous task of learning a foreign language for its medium, and has delivered it with outstanding conviction. TRANSIT (2013) is all about everything that is heavy, and oppressive, yet hopeful. It is another take on the OFW story we are so familiar with; but its journey, bringing a new attack to a formulaic plot, makes this one great entry in Cinemalaya this year.

It is a story about a familiar threat among Filipinos in Israel as they silently battle deportation and fight for citizenry. Their continuing struggle to keep their families whole in a country of cultural familial ties, is what Director Hannah Espia tackles in a 93-minute narrative of five intersecting chronicles.

Performances by Irma Adlawan, Ping Medina, and Mercedes Cabral are done with a fondness that can par with international taste. Adlawan was at her best, Medina at his finest, and Cabral in her keenest. Above them all, new-comer Marc Justine Alvarez is something to look out for. This six-year old actor managed to study Hebrew and fluently delivers his lines with unquestioning familiarity. He is the center of the film, and does not fail his audiences; not even in one bit.

TRANSIT argues our own varying definitions of freedom, identity and preferences. In a world where life can be measured by how much we earn and where we earn it, Espia presents different characters that are imprisoned in their own interpretations of their existence, and that opting for an unlikely choice is freedom in itself.

Add this entry to your list. It’s worth every minute of it!

4 Stars out of 5.


Instant Mommy (2013)


There are a lot of things happening in Director Leo Abaya’s INSTANT MOMMY (2013). Too many, that one will have choices as to which you can focus on, or worse just forget everything and simply have fun.

2.5 out of 5 Stars.








Sana Dati (2013)

Of all the love stories, the closest to those who have been hurt is about letting go, yes? It is a struggle, as universal as love, itself. We often see these kinds in films and in literature, and we just can’t resist seeing ourselves in each character. Director Jerrold Tarog took advantage of this theme in his SANA DATI (2013). It tells the story of a woman about to be married to man she turned to as a rebound after a relationship that somehow went up in smoke. Sana Dati started with subtle and intriguing undertones and ended with a bang. The middle, however, was a bit problematic

Andrea (Lovi Poe) meets Dennis (Paulo Avelino) on the afternoon of her wedding day. Dennis was hired as the videographer to cover the entire occasion, from the early preparations until the reception. He interviews Andrea and the Groom (TJ Trinidad) for the wedding video’s additional snippets. As the hours of preparations draw to a close, Andrea remembers her past and realizes that the young man hired to cover her special day brings back a former love.

Despite the plot’s simplicity, Tarog experimented on a non-linear narrative in a set of intercepting flashbacks. Had it been done more carefully and with conscious consideration to rising action and interest, the film wouldn’t be much of a bore. There are unnecessary flashback fragments – incomplete and incomprehensible. The hours toward the wedding march stretches to a maximum, that I began to wonder if the characters are too insensitive, or the main character is just a self-absorbed bitch. This disconnect continues until the payoff scenes, that I didn’t care, anymore.

The story makes you want to focus on Andrea. It asks you to sympathize with her. But Poe’s ineffectual nuances and nonchalance throughout the film make her look more like a woman taking her bellyaches too seriously. Avelino is too detached in his scenes, that he misses establishing that needed connection with Poe – a critical point in their characters’ story. Trinidad was a better actor among the three. His confused and fretful depiction of a love-sick groom, worried that his bride might not show up at the end of the aisle, makes one sympathize with him.

Despite this unconventional structure, and the lack of chemistry between the lead actors, Sana Dati is still a decent entry this year. Tarog makes an effort in presenting an alternative retelling of a tale about moving on, and I salute the attempt. It is a story about a past love, and how one clings hopefully to that past until the last hour when a choice has to be made.

Finally, it silently whispers a lesson that all of us should listen to.

3 Stars out of 5.

David F (2013)

Sabi ni Direktor Emmanuel Quindo Palo’s ng DAVID F. sa Gala ng pelikula n’ya, “Dun sa mga bloggers at columnists…walang basagan ng trip.”

Pagkatapos kong mapanood ang entry n’ya, naintidihan ko siya. Kaya tikom na lang muna ang bibig ko.

Ayokong mabasag ang trip n’ya.

Pero magaling si Anita Linda at Shermaine Buencamino.
Maganda ang cinematography, nung ilan.
Maganda ang sound.
Medyo OK ang cinematic direction.

Daz ol.

The rest, nakakabasag na talaga ng trip.

2 Stars out of 5.



The Diplomat
The Diplomat Hotel (2013)

Maraming pwedeng matutunan sa THE DIPLOMAT HOTEL (2013) ni Direktor Christopher Ad Castillo.

ACTING 101 – Panoorin ang pelikula at wag gayahin ang lahat ng makikitang acting.

PRODUCTION DESIGN 101 – Panoorin ang pelikula at wag gayahin ang lahat ng makikitang designs.

CASTING 101 – Panoorin ang pelikula at wag gayahin ang ginawang pagpili ng cast.

EDITING and CONTINUITY 101 – Panooring ang _________ at wag _______ ang _________ editing.

SCRIPTWRITING 101 – ______________ ang ___________ at ________ gayahin ang ____________.

DIRECTING 101 – (answer in complete sentence) _______________________________________________


Wag na.




Quick Change (2013)

Director Eduardo Roy Jr. takes us to a world of unattainable beauty and ever-changing love in his Cinemalaya entry QUICK CHANGE (2013). It is a movie divided into two contrasting sounds – the quiet and the loud. Here, Roy brings us to the world of the Transvestite. He examines their need for love, acceptance and trust in a society ready to drop anyone who pales their superficial standards, and reject the unwanted.

This is a story of Dorina (played beautifully by Mimi Juareza), and her ventures to the world of illegal body enhancements. She works as a “quack” doctor for gay men, and at the same time, as a loving foster parent to his nephew.

The story was quite predictable, but Roy directed with utmost care to deliver a story that doesn’t lecture much. He simply lets the narrative flow. He follows each scene with quiet observance and allows the familiar nature of his subjects to flow through his lens. At some point, however, there are sudden head-splitting moments that contrast the silences, but the message was still there.

It is a film about fakes and failures. The theme delves into the hidden lives of people, however familiar – but we choose to look at the other side. Here, Roy makes the audience sit throughout Dorina’s story, as he engages them in an interesting plot without them knowing that he is teaching them a painful truth.

4 Stars out of 5.




Purok 7 (2013)

PAHABOL!!! Dun sa mga gustong kiligin, gustong matuwa, at gusto lang ng good time, this is the best entry for you.

Sa wakas, pinaiyak ako ng Cinemalaya. It’s been a while since a coming-of-age story made me cry like a child.

Ayoko nang mag-review. Hindi ako nakapag-jot down ng notes. Nanood na lang kasi ako…

…at natuwa hanggang langit.

Ang PUROK 7 (2013) ni Direktor Carlo Obispo, ay isa sa mga madaling maisisingit sa Top 5 ko this year. I’m sorry, Sana Dati (2013).

Kung kaya habulin, wag palampasin. Tulad ni Diana (Krystle Valentino), na bida sa pelikula, hindi kayo mabibigo.


4 Stars out of 5.



Til next year!

Tags : cinemalaya 2013david fdebosyonekstrafilmfilm reviewindependent filmsinstant mommyjazz in lovemoviespornopurok 7quick changereviewssana datithe diplomat hoteltransit
Orly S. Agawin

The author Orly S. Agawin

Orly has been writing for The Jellicle Blog since 2008. He is a training and development consultant by day and an art enthusiast by night. He lives in Parañaque with his mom.

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