1. City of Flowers
Directed by Xeph Suarez
Written by Cenon Obispo Palomares
It was 2013, Zamboanga City was about to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. Tausug man Nasser (Ramli T. Abdurahim) and his pregnant wife Elena (award-deserving Czarina Yecla) were flower farmers living in a small farm outside the city. When he came home after selling their flowers in the city, Nasser told Elena that he had accepted an offer to attend a peace rally the next day which promised a pay of P10,000 just to go and join.
Even before you hear Nasser talking about that job offer, you just knew something bad was going to happen. There was so much foreshadowing before the climactic revelation -- a destructive drought, the swarming ants, the blood sacrifice done to save the soil. This was the best of the lot for me -- thematically (tackling sensitive Muslim Mindanao issues) and technically (cinematography by Carlos Mauricio and lighting by Joey Castillo).
Written and directed by Chuck Escasa
It was 1979. Two high school boys, Tonton de Leon (Dylan Ray Taleon) and Martin Encarnacion (Alexis Prins Negrite), could not concentrate in their classes because of a new report that the American satellite Skylab was falling to Earth that day causing the world to end, much to the irritation and consternation of their teachers, Mrs. Perez (Lotlot Bustamante), Miss Fonacier (Antonette Go) and Mr. Perez (Jonathan Tadioan).
This was presented in nostalgic black-and-white with humorous anecdotes about high school life in the 1970s, with narration by Joel Saracho. At first, this seemed to be a whimsical short film about shenanigans by naughty students. However, the mood would gradually turn darker as the boys realized that the dark forces that threatened their existence were much closer to home than they feared.
3. Ampangabagat Nin Talakba Ha Likol (It's Raining Frogs Outside)
Written and directed by Maria Estela Paiso
Maya (Alyana Cabral) felt trapped inside their house in Zambales as frogs fall like rain outside. Sitting at the window wearing her maroon Two Brothers Bakery t-shirt, she expressed her depressing thoughts about the world around her. Beside photos and videos of her childhood, Maya imagined disturbing images of herself with a cockroach entering her eye, getting entangled in long clumps of hair underwater or her whole body turning into melting wax.
This short dark fantasy film had a very unsettling overall atmosphere, up to its closing credits. The sounds and music were distorted, the images and graphics were distorted. It felt like a very highly personal project by writer-director Maria Estela Paiso, as she shares her innermost thoughts in a deep guttural voice barely above a whisper, describing what she called her "personal state of emergency." It felt like a cry for help, with a sense of urgency and desperation all through out.
4. Mighty Robo V
Written and directed by Miko Livelo and Mihk Vergara
The Earth's robot defender Mighty Robo V had suffered a humiliating defeat from its rival robot, amidst accusations of corruption in the operations of the Philippine Giant Monster Defense Institute. This prompted its embattled director of operations Dr. Benhur "Rody" Rodriguez (GB Labrador) and his assistant Lani "Laser" Panganiban (Aryn Cristobal) to assemble an all-new crew for their new robot whose every weapon was sponsored.
Compared to the other five shorts in this set, this one stood out because of its high energy, vibrant colors and absurdist sense of humor, as it took on a mockumentary approach to telling its story. Obviously based on the '70s robot anime Voltes V, this over-the-top farce/satire poked fun at incompetent personnel in key positions of national importance, whose image and influence on social media were deemed more important than their ability to serve and fight. Fun but messy.
5. i get so sad sometimes
Written and directed by Trishtan Perez
Jake (JC Santiago) is a discreetly gay teenager who was engaged in an anonymous online relationship with an older man he only knew as lonely_prince68 (Russ Ligtas). In their virtual encounters of a sexual nature, the other guy's camera only showed his torso and mouth. Jake's secret frustration has made him distant from his mother (Janice Suganob) and best friend Marco (Karl Louie Caminade).
This short film depicts a darker aspect of the internet when people can anonymously live out fantasies that they are not ready to face in real life. Presented in an unusual square aspect ratio, this short film quietly captured the inner turmoil of a teenager with a secret life he could not share with anyone. The sordid subject matter is very disturbing and uncomfortable to watch, but the direction of Trishtan Perez and cinematography of Steven Paul Evangelio were commendable.
Written and directed by Kaj Palanca
Ian (Io Balanon) fell from a scaffolding at the house where he worked, rendering him invalid. While their ailing mother Marita (Wenah Nagales) was forced to go find work, his younger brother Henry (Carlos Dala) went over to the construction site where Ian got injured to collect the compensation for his older brother’s work injury. There Henry met Ian's co-worker Danilo (Tommy Alejandrino) who attended to him while he waited for the employer.
This one had a simple slice of life concept behind it. No specific issues were really expressly mentioned, just regular daily activities were being shown. There was subtle commentary about labor issues, even if the central character Henry was still an unemployed teenager. There was a suggestion that Henry wanted more in his life than being a laborer like his brother and mother. Ultimately, it may just be saying how acts of kindness can go a long way.