These Cinemalaya movies are poised to shake you up 2
There are 10 movies in the feature film slate of this year's Cinemalaya.

These Cinemalaya movies are poised to shake you up

Xian Lim goes behind the camera for this year’s festival, the movie slate of which has overwhelming themes of kids coming-of-age, women being pushed around by society, and social media notoriety.
Susan Claire Agbayani | Jul 15 2019

At this year’s Cinemalaya, there are three themes that dominate the feature film lineup. First, we have movies on young people forced to reckon with situations that are not of their own making. Second, titles on women of different ages and backgrounds that have to deal with challenges that come up in their relationships and careers. And finally, two films tackle how social media can adversely affect lives, causing them to spin out of control.


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Directed by Xian Lim

Starring Christopher Roxas, Ynna Asistio, Dexter Doria

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Xian Lim makes his directorial debut in Tabon.

Xian Lim’s debut in Cinemalaya was in Gil Portes’ 2009 entry, Two Funerals. On his tenth year at the festival, Lim has opted to sit in the director’s chair. Lim’s built his interest in production work by observing the professionals in the projects he has had acted in. He also became a fellow at the Ricky Lee Screenwriting for TV and Film workshop, and his batch 17 classmate there, Eseng Cruz, helped in finishing the script for Tabon. His film revolves around a family’s unexpected homecoming to discover the mystery that lurks behind a murder.


Belle Douleur

Directed by Joji Alonso

Starring Kit Thompson, Mylene Dizon, Marlon Rivera

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Mylene Dizon stars in Belle Douleur.

Fifteen years into her career as a producer, Atty. Josabeth “Joji” Villanueva Alonso shifts gears into directing Belle Douleur, which translates to “Beautiful Pain.” It is about a 45-year-old clinical psychologist who finds herself alone after the parents she had been taking care of for much of her adult life, pass away. She then develops a special bond with Josh, an antique dealer who had also lost his father and grandfather, and who doesn’t remember much of his mother. Alonso worked on Here Comes the Bride, Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, Ekstra, Beauty in a Bottle, English Only, Please; and That Thing Called Tadhana



Directed by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez

Starring Enzo Pineda, Sunshine Cruz, Raymond Bagatsing

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Leilani Chavez (also the screenwriter) and Danica Sta. Lucia co-direct Malamaya, which is about a middle-aged artist who’s undergoing a period of transformation, both as a creative and as a woman. “Malamaya wasn’t inspired by any existing material when it was created,” Chavez says. “If at all, it would be a black and white Italian film done in the 1940s in terms of storyline.” For the film, Sta. Lucia says that they collaborated with “Ninel Constantino and Rita Gudino by borrowing their existing artworks which we may use to match the theme of our film.”


Pandanggo sa Hukay

Directed by Shéryl Rose Andes

Starring Iza Calzado, Ybes Bagadiong, Acey Aguilar

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Iza Calzado plays a midwife in Pandanggo sa Hukay. Photograph from @Cinemalaya on Facebook

After her role in last year’s Distance, Iza Calzado plays another mother in Sheryl Rose Andes’ directorial debut Pandanggo sa Hukay. This time though, Calzado is a midwife who gets kidnapped at work. “I’m giving birth to this baby about women, women empowerment, and reproductive rights of women, told by a woman!” shares Andes. After having done development work for a decade, she says she has “embraced filmmaking.” The director admits that she was inspired by Ramona Diaz’s Motherland.



Directed by Theodore Boborol

Starring Ruby Ruiz, Soliman Cruz, Ricky Rivero

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Ruby Ruiz is a grandmother determined to take care of her abandoned apo in Iska.

TV and movie director Theodore Boborol (Vince, Kath & James, Finally Found Someone) joins Cinemalaya for the first time. This is also the director’s first non-romcom, and first indie. Boborol considers Iska as his most personal film ever, and he shares that it is loosely based on his house cleaner. In her first leading role, Ruby Ruiz plays a grandmother determined to take her grandchild into a special needs orphanage—despite being deemed an unfit guardian by the government. The film was shot entirely in University of the Philippines in Diliman, where Ruiz, Boborol, and screenwriter Mary Rose Colindres graduated.  



Directed by Thop Nazareno

Starring Louise Abuel, Dido dela Paz, Elijah Canlas

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After directing Young Critics’ Circle winner Kiko Boksingero last year, Thop Nazareno conceptualized with Denise O’Hara for another father-son story, but this time, with a strong statement about the sorry state of the Philippine health care system. The result is Edward, a film about a 15-year-old boy who spends three years in a hospital taking care of his father (Dido de la Paz). There, Edward (portrayed by Hundred Days to Heaven’s Louise Abuel) spends his teenage years, makes friends, falls in love, and “wakes up to the realities of life.”



Directed by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro de Rosario

Starring Zyren dela Cruz, Ricky Davao, Miguel Valdes

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This year, Cinemalaya presents its first ever full-length sci-fi film, ANi. Set in 2050, the film highlights the unlikely friendship between an introverted, lonely young boy Mithi (Zyren de la Cruz), and ANi (Miguel Valdes), a malfunctioning robot. “We’d like to inspire more filmmakers and audiences to make these kinds or genres of films to develop the Philippine film industry,” says co-director Kim Zuñiga.


Children of the River

Directed by Maricel Cariaga

Starring Noel Comia, Jr., Ricky Oriarte, Dave Justin Francis

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Inspired by the Marawi siege, director Maricel Cariaga describes her masterpiece as a coming-of-age film about family, friendship, love, acceptance, and, her advocacy, peace. “We believe no one wins if you choose war because of the collateral damage,” she says. Noel Comia, Jr., who won Best Actor in Kiko Boksingero, portrays the role of 15-year-old Elias. The intelligent leader of his barkada, the teenager later makes a revelation about his identity.


John Denver Trending

Directed by Arden Rod Condez

Starring Jansen Magpusao, Meryll Soriano, Glenn Mas

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First time actor Jansen Magpusao is the lead in John Denver Trending.

The film’s lead, Jansen Magpusao, is from the same Pandan, Antique hometown as director Arden Rod Condez. The first time film actor plays the titular character, a student who snaps after a classmate accuses him of stealing an iPad. Someone records the incident and posts the video on social media, and in five days, the boy’s life turns upside down.



Directed by Eduardo Roy, Jr.

Starring Royce Cabrera, Kokoy de Santos, Ricky Davao

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“Social media rules our generation,” says Royce Cabrera in the vernacular. He is one of the leads in director Eduardo Roy, Jr.’s entry for this year’s Cinemalaya. “People will accord you respect depending on your name, and fame.” Cabrera and Kokoy de Santos play two guys whose desperation to become famous actors leads them down a twisted path.


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