MANILA -- After two years, the Philippines’ pioneer independent film festival was finally able to find its way back to the theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
For the first time since COVID-19 broke out, the winners of the 18th Cinemalaya film festival were again recognized in front of a roaring crowd.
Prior to its homecoming, due to the global pandemic, the country’s biggest independent film festival was anchored on the digital landscape.
“Cinemalaya is finally live and back to where it belongs, CCP. We missed Cinemalaya and it is good to be back,” CCP President Maria Margarita Moran-Floirendo said.
“The filmmakers were able to bring their vision to the screen despite all the odds. For that, I consider them all winners. For keeping their passion for story telling, for bringing voices to those who can’t speak, for showing hope for this trying time, and for breaking through the noise. Each filmmaker deserves a job well done,” she added.
“Blue Room” bagged five titles, the most awards for the prestigious night. Among the prizes were ‘Best Production Design,’ ‘Best Cinematography,’ and the ‘Special Jury Award’
Soliman Cruz also won the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ category while Ma-An Asuncion Dagalan, a former ABS-CBN employee, was named “Best Director.’
“Blue Room” revolves around principled albeit sheltered teens of an indie rock band who were arrested for illegal drug possession. Instead of going through the standard procedure, however, they were brought to a VIP detention area where they are faced with a daunting choice— bribe their way out or stand by what they have been preaching.
According to Dagalan, she started writing the script over a decade ago. She admitted the journey had been arduous, at times even seemingly impossible. But she nevertheless encouraged aspiring filmmakers to shoot their shot.
“Just don’t lose hope. I’d written this script 2010, I just filmed it in 2021, just imagine that. I shelved it,” she enthused. “Maraming natutuwa sa film.”
Women dominated the ‘Best Director’ and ‘Special Jury Award.’ 20- something-year old Gabriella Serrano, joined Dagalan with her short film “Dikit.”
“I’m just happy to be representing the young guard. I’m happy opening up to young voices and female voices,” she said.
“I feel like women have really led the way in Philippine cinema all these years, and I'm glad to be part of that, to continue the legacy. I hope there will be more of us in the coming years,” she added.
The tale that tackled in-depth the plight of a woman also took center-stage. “12 Weeks,” which follows a 40-year-old new single mom who finds out she was pregnant, was granted the NETPAC Award.
“I hope this means there will be more opportunity for women to tell their story,” the film’s director said Anna Isabelle Matutina said.
Best Actress award was also plucked from "12 Weeks" with Max Eigenmann securing the title.
“Black Rainbow” by Zig Dulay, which illustrates the struggles of Aetas who dream of a better education, was granted the short film counterpart of the NETPAC Award.
“Black Rainbow” also won “Best Screenplay (Short Film)” and the most coveted title of the night “Best Film (Short Film).”
“Galing siya sa totoong buhay. Ginamit lang nila ako. Ako ang ginamit, ako ang lagusan ng nga mensahe ng boses nila na hindi naririnig sa ating lipunan. Inutang ko ang Kwento ng ito sa kanila,” the director and screenwriter said.
Dulay also received the trophy for “Best Editing” for his work on the film “The Baseball Player.”
Carlo Obispo’s “The Baseball Player” emerged as the biggest winner of the night , taking home the title “Best Film (Full Length)” as well as Best Screenplay (Full Length).”
Obispo said he did not expect they would emerge with the most coveted trophy, given the talented and diverse roster but was nevertheless grateful.
“This is an affirmation we are doing well, Napakaganda na boost, na recognize ang hard work ng team, we are grateful,” he said.
The director, however, said the prize is just a bonus.
“Just finishing the film… and makarating sa dapat makapanuod… already makes you feel like a winner. Ang hirap talaga hindi lang dahil pandemic, ang hirap talaga makahanap ng producers to do films, do certain investments,” he stated.
“Magpapatuloy tayo sa pag kwento ng mga kwento na hindi masiyado tinatalakay sa main stream,” he added.
Tommy Alejandrino who starred in “The Baseball Player” was also accorded as the “Best Actor. “
Other winners of the night were “Mga Handum Nga Nasulat Sa Baras” and “Kargo”, which got the Audience Choice Award for a Short and full length feature, respectively. Best Sound design and Best Original music score was accorded to “Bula sa Langit” and “Retirada.”