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QCinema 2019 continues to hold its prime

This year, the QCinema International Film Festival exhibited a new set of entries from aspiring Filipino and International filmmakers, producers and actors who, in turn, showcased their top-caliber skills, featuring it through their unique, creative and enthralling films. 

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Photo from QCinema Facebook page

“One City. To the World.” 

Carrying ideals from years past to its 7th year, QCinema International Film Festival 2019 ensures stability and a promising future. This year, the film fest exhibited a new set of entries from aspiring Filipino and International filmmakers, producers and actors who, in turn, showcased their top-caliber skills, featuring it through their unique, creative and enthralling films. 

QCinema International Film Festival is the official film festival of Quezon City. Held last October 19 until October 22, the event was first set in motion in 2013 by the Quezon City Film Development Commission (QCFDC) and is the only Local Government Unit that has its own commission in the film industry.

This year, there were more than 60 film entries including three featured Filipino films in the competition under Asian Next Wave; Cleaners, Babae at Baril, and Kaaway sa Sulod. The film fest aired for one week in various cinema venues within the city which included Trinoma, Gateway Cinemas in Cubao and Robinsons Galleria and other micro-cinemas around the city. 

Within these 60 film entries, awards will be chosen among the best stars, hence, the film festival also gives annual pylon awards to the actors, producers and the entries that showed remarkable and exceptional performance.

The Filipino film entry “Cleaners,” garnered three awards, winning under the category of Asian Next Wave as The Best Film, Audience Choice Award, and Best Screenplay of the year. It was directed by Glenn Barit, who did a remarkable job as the film went beyond the standards of filmmaking. Barit dived deeper into the imagination—directing the film by photocopying the 43, 000 frames, painting the scenes and digitally arranging it in a way that gave the film its retro-vibe. 

One might wonder, what’s with all the neon lights in the monochromatic film Cleaners? The pictures of the characters were highlighted, hence, it appeared pleasing to the eyes of the audience. This creative strategy made it stand out among the rest. Moreover, the story was set circa 2007 to 2008 in a high school in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. The film showed the accuracy of how students struggled in this era, and the different kinds of people you will meet— making anyone feel nostalgic of their high school days. 

Photo from QCinema website.

In an exclusive interview with TomasinoWeb, instructor Marc Kevin Romulo, a National Service Training Program lecturer in Quezon City University expressed his sentiments towards the film Cleaners. “Wala akong masabi but standing ovation talaga yung movie,” he remarks.

Romulo is in curriculum development and has actively supported indie films since 2013, including Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP). He was amazed when he found out that the film was made in an entirely different manner. “The best film kasi ang ganda ng pagkakagawa, especially the creativity.”

Romulo exclaims after seeing the film, further commenting on its timeliness—especially for the youth. “Yung message ng movie is very quite related sa curriculum instruction development. Ipinakita rin kung paano nagaadapt yung mga bata ngayon sa mga problems, encountered feelings and kung paano sila gumagawa ng kanilang sariling mundo,” he added. 

In addition, Romulo’s take on the film’s title is centered on responsibility “It [Cleaners] shows our duty as being human and as a part of the society na lahat ng feelings and mistakes kaya nating linisin.” Assuredly, the film is a must-watch for all ages, leaving an impacting conclusion. 

Another interview with TomasinoWeb, instructor Marc Kevin Romulo also watched Babae at Baril and admired its concept which portrayed the harsh reality for a woman, “Ipinapakita doon ang realidad ng buhay—it’s a kind of indie film na ipinapakita yung pagkamatotoo sa nangyayari sa buhay ng tao.” 

Bagging the Gender Sensitive Award is another film entry under Asian Next Wave. “Babae at Baril” directed by Red Rae and produced by Iana Bernardez. Rae Red was victorious as the Best Director while the leading lady of the film, Janine Gutierrez won the Best Actress Award. 

The film speculates the reality amidst toxic masculinity in society, clearly illustrating how women are faced with discrimination, harassment, and unfairness—suffocating them in a life that could lead to the worst possible scenario: violence. The day that the meek sales lady, played by Janine Gutierrez, found a gun on her doorstep and clutching it in her hands,  a rush of empowerment went through her: the life that she knew starts to shift. 

Photo from QCinema website.

In an interview with TomasinoWeb,  Jholo Baybayon, an electrical engineering student and head editor chief of LIKHA Production at Quezon City University explained his depiction of the film’s setting, “The world is really cruel if you look into the deeper side. ‘Pag tumingin ka sa marginalized sectors, doon mo makikita ‘yung mga anomaly na ginagawa nila. Sa Babae at Baril, it’s unusual to see a woman that uses a gun. Pero dahil sa sitwasyon ng bida (Janine Gutierrez) nakita ko kung bakit niya kailangan gamitin ‘yun.” 

Gutierrez’s character as a timid sales lady went through work discrimination and sexual abuse. The gun was her way of finally defending herself, to feel empowered, and to be free from the shackles of the harsh environment she constantly lives in. 

Deviating from heavy dramatic themes, an Australian film entry, Top End Wedding, addresses the life struggles and culture within a family through comedy. Directed by Wayne Blair, co-written by Miranda Tapsell and Joshua Tyler, and starring Gwilym Lee and Miranda Tapsell.

Top End Wedding is a story about Lauren (Miranda Tapsell) and Ned (Joshua Tyler), an engaged couple euphoric on thoughts of their dream wedding. However, they are faced with the conflict of saving a marriage that is on the verge of falling out where Lauren’s (Tapsell) mother disappeared somewhere in the northern part of Australia. 

Photo from QCinema website.

Audience member Sofia Palmiano shared her views with TomasinoWeb. Stating that the film was unexpectedly beautiful, “[] nagustuhan ko yung twist. Nung yung mother ay naghanap ng alone time para makahanap ng courage to face her family, at noong broken siya eh bumalik pa rin siya sa family niya.” This portrayed how unbreakable their family bond is. When asked if she will recommend this film to her friends, her reply was a definite yes. 

Sketching a picture of cultural diversity welcomed wholeheartedly, the film’s marital nature played true to its word with the wedding scene. Samantha Palmiano, another audience member, recalls, “[…] pinaghandaan talaga yung wedding and with all the struggles, they were finally married.” Ensuring the reality of your dream wedding is truly a fairytale. Top End Wedding showed that no matter the conflict thrown your way, as long as you have your loved ones, you will find a way to resolve it. 

Generously bestowing grants to its entries, 1.5 million in peso was granted to the featured films under Asian Next Wave by the film fest. The chosen featured documentary entries received 500 thousand pesos and 200 thousand pesos was under QCShorts film competition. 

There were twelve deserving entries that received these grants under their respective categories. The winners from Asian Next Wave Competition are Cleaners, which won the Best Film Award, Audience Choice Award, and Best Screenplay. Babae at Baril as Gender Sensitivity Award and its director Rae Red as Best Director and Janine Gutierrez as Best Actress.

Best Actor was given to Por Silatsa of the film Long Walk. NETPAC Jury Prize was given to Suburban Birds directed by Qui Sheng. Best Artistic Choice Award for contribution in editing under Asian Next Wave Competition was won by Lee Chatametikool from the film Nakorn-Sawan. 

The winning entries under QCShorts film competition are Judy Free directed by Che Tagyamon as the Best Film,  Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss directed by Sonny Calvento as the recipient of Audience Choice Award and Tokwifi directed by Carla Pulido Ocampo as the winner of Special Jury Prize.

Truly one of the dazzling highlights in Quezon City, the film festival embraced local and international films of all genres, and provided a wide yet creative perspective fitting to all movie enthusiasts. The festival serves as a bridge to show the beauty and artistic capabilities of local and international filmmakers. 

QCinema is a perfect opportunity for anyone yearning to step up their game and showing their exceptional skills—leaving a mark in the film industry. 

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Sila-Sila in its spectrum

Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

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Screengrab from Sila-Sila movie trailer

Giancarlo Abrahan’s entry for Cinema One Originals Film Festival Sila-Sila is a groundbreaking film that sprouts a queer narrative molded by queer people. Anchored to the intimate stories of real people, this ghosting film pierces through the lens of post-breakup experiences.

Its lead actors, Gio Gahol and Topper Fabregas had a harmonious rhythm as Gabriel and Jared inside one frame. With Gab being helplessly displaced and Jared as someone who craves settlement, they were in an endless loop of push-and-pull, making every scene burst in different colors of expectations.  

The film revolves around the story of Gab (Gahol), as he tries to reconcile with his friends (Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar) and his ex-boyfriend, Jared (Fabregas) after ‘ghosting’ them for almost a year. Fueled by guilt and regret, the old lovers find themselves igniting a fire that once burned the bridges that connected their lives.

Five minutes in and the sensual relationship between Gab and Topper will cuff the audience with its bare exposure of same-sex actualities. These characters played by both theater artists allow the scenes to flourish with remarkable nuance.

The scenarios in the film allow you to peek at realities that manifest through Gab’s life as a person who fails to find his roots being settled in one place. As his portrayal walks you through the story of uncertainties, the progress of the film lets you trace into a deep contemplation whether or not you may be the Gab or Jared in your own story.

Despite having fragments of scenarios that lowers the momentum of the film, it serves as a breath of fresh air as Gab undergoes the phase of vacillation. Gab’s journey of finding a home in people he once felt was is a cycle anyone can relate to. His doubts linger in trust issues and the feeling of not belonging. It soon uncovers that the quest of settling in places, people, and experiences will be unending unless one finds their sense of home.

Phi Palmos and Dwein Baltazar’s characters are spices to the story as they portray a decade-long friendship of overcoming tendencies. Being under the constant waves of change, companionship paves through distances and personal struggles. The movie emphasizes that ‘ghosting’ also happens between friends and rekindling episodes are a challenge.

Sila Sila won the Best Picture Award. Its undeniably well-plated palette satisfies the eye of the audience. A lot of scenes will tickle one’s humor especially if you are used to friendships that blatantly roast each other as a way of showing one’s love language.

Alongside its award-winning cinematography, Sila Sila also received the Audience Choice Award and Best Screenplay by scriptwriter Daniel Saniana. Also, Fabregas was recognized as Best Supporting Actor for his role.

“We’ll always love each other, however it manifests, it’s just always going to be there.”, this line by Jared carves through the hearts of those who had to let go of a person but never the love that they have for them. Gab’s relationship with Jared shows that there is never just one way of loving someone. Every day, with every version of themselves, love prevails. 

Distance can never make things small. It only deceives you from thinking that you’ve escaped your troubles. One way or another, you will find yourself crawling back because time never lets anyone off its claws—Sila-Sila teaches this. Furthermore, sometimes, having no closure is not the closure.

The character of Gab serves as an example that a person will remain trapped in the past unless they find closure from people and from themselves. People are bound to face the naked truth that we need to find our sense of home in this world that is full of broken fragments of imperfect individuals.

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Metamorphosis, a film that challenges the conventional

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu.

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Screengrab from Metamorphosis Trailer

As a coming-of-age film that probes more extensively into the adolescent psychosexual conflict, J.E. Tiglao’s Metamorphosis is dangerously daring. The film stirred a wave of controversy when the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) classified it as X-rated for exploring intersexuality, later on, it was reclassified into R-16, permitting its screening in local cinemas. 

It opens with a scene at a waterfall in a 1:1 aspect ratio and ends in the same setting, where we find the protagonist, Adam, exceptionally portrayed by Gold Azeron, no longer irresolute. Supporting actress Iana Bernardez, who plays Angel, complements Azaron almost naturally—Adam isn’t without Angel, vice versa. However, the gorgeous visuals of Metamorphosis overshadow the disarray that’s often ignored in the film.

Tiglao tells this story through the never-before-seen character of a Filipino intersex teenager, and he tells it almost flawlessly, with the scenes that make you nostalgic, like you’ve been there before—a sort of déjà vu. Apart from the brilliant footwork of Tey Clamor, the film’s cinematographer, the musical score by Divino Dayacap, from the University of Santo Tomas Conservatory of Music, gave the film its oomph: as if the music understood the complexity of emotions portrayed, and the aesthetics with it.

Tiglao almost easily got away with poor writing by compensating for the other elements in the film. Instead of sustaining its relaxed delicateness, it lost its momentum when Adam’s exploration into his intersexuality was hastily overturned by uncalled-for predatory themes, and sexual awakening was realized by means of harassment.

The film relied heavily on aesthetics while leaving the plot unsustained and undernourished. It undermined the audience’s capacity to understand beyond the script because there was very little depth to it—the metaphors were surface-level and revealed themselves too easily. Some scenes appeared to over-explain themselves because expository writing was brought to an excess. Nevertheless, the film communicated what it sought to: the magnitude of embracing your own uniqueness in pursuit of self-acceptance.

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in the film was when Adam’s father, a conservative Catholic and a pastor with a strongly-held vision for Adam to reverse his intersexuality – an “Ok, boomer” moment – abandons his unyielding bigoted principles at long last, giving Adam the autonomy to decide on and for his own. Here, the conservative adult matures with the troubled adolescent—and it is this shared acceptance that is unique to Metamorphosis.

Although the film suffers from tacky dialogue and some questionable subplots, it does exactly what a coming-of-age film is supposed to: the audience becomes an echo chamber, where we feel for the protagonist while accompanying him into growth and resolution. 

Metamorphosis, along with its stillness and vulgarity, makes for an ample directorial debut. The “I” in LGBTQIA+ rarely gets talked about, but Tiglao changed that by giving us Metamorphosis: it contests machismo without overemphasizing the feminine, it astounds without unnerving, and most of all it is unrestrained. Metamorphosis, even with its sloppy writing, is sufficiently beautiful—it questions and challenges the conventional, and it does it without fear.

 

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Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo: An Endless Cycle

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose.

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Screengrab from Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo official trailer

Labels. There is a silent debate going on about whether labels are important or a factor for complications. Though there is a need to define relationships to know where to draw the line between friends and lovers, it is often terrifying to know what the truth really is. The word ‘commitment’ may seem an intimidating word for some, but it is also loved by many. 

Tayo Muna Habang Hindi Pa Tayo is one of the entries for the Cinema One Originals 2019. Written and directed by Denise O’Hara, who won an award for Best Director in this year’s Gawad Urian for a movie called Mamang, a film about dementia and the struggles of remembering one’s life. 

The film festival ran from November 7 until November 17 in selected malls and microcinemas. Starring Jane Oineza and JC Santos as Alex and Carlo, the story portrays the characters’ struggle in the process of falling in love, falling out, being confused, and being sure at the same time. 

Falling in love in this generation is like using a trial and error method that gets you nowhere. In the emergence of dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble and websites like Omegle, finding a prospective partner has become fairly easy but also quick to lose. 

Alex, played by Jane Oineza, is a woman with big dreams and ambitions, eager to prove to the world that she is more than just a pretty face. Carlo, played by JC Santos, on the other hand, is your typical go-with-the-flow kind of guy who works in the field of graphic design and freelance work. The story progresses as the two create something that neither of them knows what is and what to call. 

By slowly cracking her shell and breaking down her walls, Carlo manages to see the parts of Alex that no one really sees. Underneath her cold gazes and intimidating aura, lies a sappy and marupok girl. One night, after planning and talking about the design for Alex’s upcoming project, a cockroach scare prompts a rush to the bedroom; ensuing a somewhat emotional conversation that turns the atmosphere into purple and red hazes. 

After that night, awkwardness sits between them in the office. Alex, trying to figure out what happened, asks Carlo directly; as to his reply, along with the words “Masaya pa rin naman ‘diba?” creates a questionable feeling both to the characters and the audience. 

Stemming from the title itself, the movie—from start to finish—draws a problematic and complicated cycle that reflects dating and almost-dating. The dialogues lacked a bit of emotional appeal and the concreteness of thought cannot be easily grasped. The movie has a back and forth sequence, showing the past and the present, how the moments came to be, what arguments were thrown out to get to the scene where they chase each other in the sidewalk with pain and hesitation in their eyes. 

Cinematography-wise, the color palette of the film shifts along with the emotion that is being presented on the screen, making up for the lack of substance in the exchange of dialogues. It is a mess, paralleling to Alex and Carlos’ relationship, the shaky camera angles and the abrupt shift from one scene to another provides support in pulling off the movie’s complicated narrative. It could have had more backstory and fewer gaps in the storyline but it somehow works as it leaves you hanging and still questioning what happened. It keeps you in the cycle even though you have stepped out of the cinema already. 

Filled with contradictions and trouble waiting to happen, O’Hara’s work garners attention from those who are in the same position. The film dwells on complex-minded characters, pretty much like our generation, and their decisions on whether they should leave or keep fighting for something that is vague. It is a ticking time bomb of tears and regret or maybe, just maybe, something magical and worthwhile. 

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