Cinemalaya: after the storm

It was a dark and stormy night. If there was any occasion for which the notorious words of Edward Bulwer-Lytton were most appropriate, it was the final night of Cinemalaya 2012. The other line, less of a cliche but almost equally appropriate, were the Dodo Bird’s words from Alice in Wonderland: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes!”

I was not really too happy with the prizes handed out at the awarding ceremony, except for a handful of these. The tone was set by the seeming endorsement of a jury member, in a public address, of films that raised awareness of the divisions in our society. Interpretations of his speech varied, according to discussions elsewhere about it. But my take-home was that the jury could not, in good conscience, award either The Animals or Ang Nawawala a major (read: any non-technical) prize. And in hindsight, I was right. Given that, I think the crucial prize was the audience choice award. Joel Shepard noted at an earlier stage of the festival that the buzz film was the latter. And we had proof that it was buzz-worthy–it was the New Breed Audience Choice winner. It does boost its chances of wider distribution here, and it could guarantee it a place in the festival circuit among more open-minded programmers.

The other prize it won was for best musical scoring, which, if I heard the citation correctly (and I will confirm it once the CCP gets around to emailing me), was as much for the film’s music supervisors as the three composers. (If you’ve been reading the press about the film, you’d have figured out who they are.) However, I must say Mikey, Diego, and Jazz came up with interesting incidental music and I am glad the jury recognized their efforts. (Not to mention that between them, their bands provided great music for key moments in the film.)

The night before, in the same place where the awards were held, we witnessed the last gala premiere for the festival, the Shorts B set. The films that won Audience Choice (Ruweda, by Hannah Espia), the Special Jury Prize (Manenaya [Waiting], by Richard S. Legaspi), and Best Screenplay (Ang Paghihintay sa Bulong [Waiting to Whisper], written and directed by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo) were all in this set, and they were indeed of good quality. Indeed, the shorts program this year had some films that were more interesting than some of the full-length films I watched. And yet, it was not by much. This year’s film line-up was generally good, but I felt that the jury was not making adventurous calls in many cases. It turned out that all the films in the New Breed category, save for two, won prizes–hence my Alice reference.

I did mention elsewhere that my best film of the festival was not in competition. The documentary Harana is hopefully getting a second screening somewhere in town within the month, and I won’t be watching it again–because a lot more of us need to see it.

And yes, I hope UP’s second run gets to show the shorts program.

****

A final word about the festival: I honestly do not know whether there will be a next one. Even if all appearances are that there will be, a string of recent events have ensured a degree of uncertainty. But I think it deserves a reboot. Perhaps a clarification of the festival foundation’s role (producer or grant-giver?) is in order. More importantly, and I could not emphasize it enough, the work of the festival must be separated in some way from the personalities involved in it. Though it is the case that, as I learned, one cannot separate awareness of personalities (especially of festival programmers) from what happens in other festivals, at least there is a degree in which, publicly, such a separation happens and, except to those in the know, the people involved fade into the background somehow.

So the next big one, I understand, is the Cinema One Originals festival in October and November. As with this festival, some people I know from the non-studio film sector are having entries this year. I am looking forward to seeing the films in this one.

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