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Heist School, pelikulang likha ng Communication Arts alumni, kalahok sa Cinemalaya Short Feature 2019

Isang grupo ng Communication Arts alumni ang tatahak ng kategoryang Short Feature ngayong Cinemalaya 2019. Mga nagsipagtapos noong isang taon, ang Last Minute Films ay kalahok sa nasabing film festival dala ang kanilang pelikulang Heist School. 

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Photo from Last Minute Films.
Litrato mula sa Last Minute Films

Isang grupo ng Communication Arts alumni ang tatahak ng kategoryang Short Feature ngayong Cinemalaya 2019. Mga nagsipagtapos noong isang taon, ang Last Minute Films ay kalahok sa nasabing film festival dala ang kanilang pelikulang Heist School

Desperadong maipasa ang kanilang klase sa matematika upang makapagtapos, ang apat na bida ng Heist School ay ‘di-inaakalang magtitipon at magtutulungan upang makamit ang imposible. Higit na naimpluwensiyahan ng pagkakaibigan nina Julius Renomeron, Jr., ang direktor, at Johmar Damiles na co-writer, ang ideya ng isang heist film na salin sa lokal na konteksto ay matagal nang nabuo. Ang mga pelikula ng Oceans Eleven at ang indie film na Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo ang nagsilbing inspirasyon ng grupo. Nilikha ng Last Minute Films ang Heist School bilang isang simpleng istorya ng magkakaibigan. Minabuti nilang siyasatin ang impluwensya ng eskwelahan at kapaligiran sa pagbuo ng mabuting asal ng isang tao.

Nagsimula bilang isang grupo sa film class, ang Last Minute Films ay sumulong mula sa pagpupulong sa loob ng silid-paaralan patungo sa pakikipanayam sa CNN Philippines. Sa likod ng Last Minute Films ay siyam na tao: si Klaire Dulay, ang production manager; si John Paolo Barrameda, ang sound recordist, sound designer, editor at manunulat; sina Pauline Carlos at Zhino Koe, ang mga casting directors; si Ezren Caneda, ang location manager at production designer; si Johmar Damiles, ang director of photography, editor at manunulat; sina Alvin Jamora at Keanu Managuas, ang mga assistant directors; at si Julius Renomeron, Jr., ang direktor at isa sa mga editor at manunulat.

Ngayong sila ay nakapagtapos na ng kolehiyo, dito nagkaroon ng problema ang grupo—nahirapan sila sa pagpupulong matapos nilang lisanin ang kanlungan ng mga Tigre. Kahit na mayroon itong dalang pagsubok, ang mga natitirang miyembro ay handang gumawa ng ibang pelikula. Sa ngayon, pinag-iisipan ng grupo na mag-angkat ng bagong tao sa Last Minute Films, ibinahagi ng direktor na si Renomeron sa isang online interview kasama ng TomasinoWeb.

Mula nang kanilang mapanalunan ang Sine Reel X, isang kompetisyon ng pelikula sa pagitan ng mga magtatapos na mag-aaral ng Communication Arts, ang Heist School ay unti-unting nakilala sa loob ng Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas hanggang sila’y makilala sa film festivals ng ibang unibersidad. Ang Heist School ay lumahok sa One La Salle Film Festival noong Hulyo ng nakaraang taon kung saan ibinahagi nila ang pelikula sa mas maraming tao.

Inilarawan ni Renomeron ang karanasan bilang “humbling and pressure-filled” na mapaligiran ng kapwa mga direktor, mga manunulat at filmmakers mula sa iba’t-ibang unibersidad. Dito, sila’y nagbahagi ng kaniya-kaniyang karanasan sa produksiyon ng kanilang mga pelikula. 

[B]eing a filmmaker din siguro ay yung pag-build mo rin ng support system from your fellow filmmakers kasi in the end naman, kayo-kayo din ang magkikita sa industry,” dagdag ni Renomeron. Nais niyang magkaroon ang Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas ng ganitong uri ng kulturang pelikula dahil ito’y mas maliit kumpara sa ibang unibersidad.

Pagkatapos ng One La Salle Film Festival, ang Heist School ay nakilahok sa Indie Un-film Festival, at sa Maginhawa Film Festival noong huling Disyembre. Para sa ibang Tomasinong filmmakers, ibinahagi niyang huwag sumuko sa sariling mga pangarap, maging maunawain sa mga pagpuna at “it takes time to learn how to master a craft you want to pursue but it also takes patience to survive”.

Sa pamamahagi ng kanilang pelikula sa mga film festivals, malaking bagay ang pagkakaroon ng matinding suporta, paliwanag ng director of photography na si Johmar Damiles. Mula sa mga dating propesor tulad nina Sir Nico Hernandez at Sir Seymour Sanchez, mga kasamahan sa organisasyon tulad ng TomasinoWeb at Thomasian Film Society at lalo’t higit nang mula sa mga kaibigan at pamilya, ang kanilang tulong ay malaking bahagi ng kanilang pagpapatuloy. 

Pagkatapos ng Cinemalaya, nais ng Last Minute Films na isumite ang Heist School sa iba’t-ibang international film festivals kung kakayanin ng kanilang pondo. Nang tanungin ng TomasinoWeb kung may kasunod na kabanata ang Heist School, sagot nila’y ibig din nilang lumikha ng iba pang pelikulang hindi pa nila nakikitang ginagawa.  

As young filmmakers, the Cinemalaya experience has been overwhelming for us,” bahagi ni Johmar Damiles. “It gives me anxiety and at the same time, excitement as [a] Thomasian filmmaker.” Salaysay niya, ang pagiging kalahok ng Cinemalaya ay isa nang malaking pribilehiyo para sa isang grupong hindi ganoon kasanay sa paglikha ng pelikula. 

Opisyal na poster ng pelikula

Ang Heist School ay ipapalabas kasama ng ibang kalahok na pelikula sa ika-labinlimang iterasyon ng Cinemalaya Film Festival mula sa Agosto 2-13. Maaaring mapanood ang mga pelikula at short features hindi lamang sa Cultural Center of the Philippines, kundi pati rin sa mga piling Ayala Malls sa Luzon, Ayala Malls Legazpi, Capitol Central Bacolod, Abreeza Davao, Vista Cinemas Pampanga, Vista Cinemas Naga, at Vista Cinemas Iloilo.

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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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