Tuesday, November 21, 2006


by Ed Saludes

Here are a few notes on the recently concluded short films competition of 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival which ended last November 16 after a two-week run at SM and Ayala malls cinemas.

The top award for shorts is the Ishmael Bernal Award for Young Cinema which, with all humility, has produced the most talented young Pinoy film makers today. There’s Mes de Guzman, 2002 Ishma winner whose Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong gave him the 2006 Urian Best Director. Kalimugtong, by the way, was also a Cinemanila winner in 2005 in the Digital Lokal competition – the programme for (longer) full-length narratives. Notable also is Raya Martin (2004 Ishma awardee) who became the first Filipino to be given a film scholarship by the most prestigious Cinefondation, the film residency programme of, again, the most prestigious Cannes Film Festival. It came after his victory in Cinemanila when he was endorsed by the festival director, direk Tikoy , to the French embassy.

Ryan Martin and his award-winning 2004 work Bakasyon

The ‘prestige’ list won’t be complete without mentioning the latest ‘golden boy’ of Southeast Asian cinema. His name is John Torres (2005 Ishma recipient), whose recent triumph in Vancouver Film Fest put him in the ‘hottie list’ now being lorded over by of Thailand’s Apitchapong Weerasethakul (Cannes 2004 and 2005 winner) and our very own’s Jeffrey Jeturian of Kubrador fame.

John came out of nowhere and surprised the film community with his very personal Todo Todo Teros which is a film about how we terrorize our loved ones and those people around us emotionally, psychologically, physically and politically. Even Philip Cheah of Singapore fest is gushing just by the mere mention of Torres’ name and his outstanding first feature.

Stills from Todo Todo Teros and The Ballad of Mimiong's Minon

Joining the ‘prestige’ list is Jon Ballesteros of Negros. He just won the short film competition of this year’s festival as the new Ishma discovery. His entry, The Ballad of Mimiong’s Minon, was the standout for the selection committee and which was also the longest in the field of 8 at 35 minutes. Shot with a low-grade video, it relied on the power of its seamless story telling of a folk singer who loses his guitar and finds himself in the company of a blind minstrel whose music brings him to a place, nonexistent perhaps, except in the imagination of the blind as a bat artist.

Ishmael Bernal Awardee for Young Cinema, Jon Steffan Ballesteros for The Ballad of Mimiong's Minon

Peque Gallaga is probably beaming with pride again after another of his Ilongo protégé made his dent in the indie scene after Lawrence Fajardo of Kultado fame (Ed. - Kultado premiered during the 1st edition of Cinemalaya at the CCP in 2005) opened new doors for regional film artists and revitalize their forgotten film industries.

Then there’s Hopia Express of Ateneo’s Janus Victoria. Adjudged as Best Short Film (2nd place after Ishma Award), it presents an improbable romance between a GI (genuine Intsik immigrant) working as an attendant at a hopia store in Binondo, and a call center employee (played by Mark Anthony Fernandez). This is obviously a homage to Wong Kar Wai’s In The Mood for Love with the touches of a Joyce Bernal kilig flick. Clermont Ferrand’s festival director, Jean Michele Dissard, is so impressed with Hopia, he is bringing it to the Cannes of short films in France next year.

Stills from Janus Victoria's Hopia Express and Marc Laureano's Embers

Another stand out is Embers from New Zealand, megged by a New Zealand-based Pinoy film maker Marc Laureano. Set in rural Kiwi land winter of 1946, it tells the story of of an isolated young wife who awaits the return of her husband from WWII. Her fears about his demise come to vivid life in her imagination, but his sudden return only brings new fears. Laureano flew all the way from NZ to present his film and he was delighted to have met his fellow young directors and watch Pinoy shorts for the first time.

Five more shorts vied for the top Ishma award. Grandma’s Recipe by Imelda Betiong, a San Francisco-based Filipina film maker is the ice breaker of the competition whose wry humor and relaxed clip is a parable of the cooking contests our US based kababayans indulge in as a means of evoking memories of home. There’s also the very eerie Buog ("sleep" in Tagalog) by Milo Tolentino. It is a 30-minute short on a victim of child abuse who finds a mysterious playmate in a lighthouse. By using real-time spacing and long lingering shots, the film succeeded in evoking atmosphere of fear, sadness and suspense among the audience. Hubert Bals Film Fund’s Gertjan Zuilhof approached the film maker after the screening and offered to present his film in Denmark this February.

Stills from Imelda Betiong's Grandma's Recipe and Milo Tolentino's Buog

Finally, the young cinema competition won’t be complete without the outstanding works from UP Film institute. Shut out last year in the competitive list, three thesis projects of the state U’s film program made the cut. Working on the central method of theme and dance, Misteryo ng Hapis by Mark dela Cruz, Sakdal Laya by Tey Clamor and One Man Show by Dohna Sarmiento and Glenn Ituriaga are all creative triumphs because of their confidence in the power of visuals to tell their stories.

Stills from Tey Clamor's Sakdal Laya and One Man Show of Dohna Sarmiento / Glenn Ituriaga

Among the three, perhaps One Man Show easily leads the pack. It focuses on the sad tale of a vaudeville act in a medium slowly being eased to extinction now replaced by slapsticks-ridden one-man-shows in comedy bars. Comedian Gary Granada played the performance of his career as he essays his role well of a solitary showman in bittersweet restraint. What happens when the last note of the song dies down? This short is a must see for old folks for a 15-minute trip down the memory lane of music and dance with the bygone eras of the golden days of Pinoy vaudevilles.

Ed Saludes is from Journals. He was a volunteer in the recently-concluded 8th Cinemanila and was a member of the production of the award-winning film Kubrador.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The sole actor performing in "One-Man Show" is not Gary Granada. The actor is Garry Lim. Gary Granada is a folk musician, best known for his "Barangay Ginebra" jingles. :)