Death, Cinemalaya and the indie films

DEATH, or the fear of an impending loss, as main plot can make or break any movie. Cinemalaya is not complete if there is no film with death as the storyline.

Last year’s best film “Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon” revolves around an old unmarried couple. The monotony of their daily lives was broken when the woman’s estranged dying husband reached out to them, seeking reconciliation and forgiveness.

For the current sets of entries, the film “EDWARD” caught everyone’s attention and became one of the early favorites.

It is a film about a 15-year-old boy who spends time in a hospital taking care of his father (Dido de la Paz). There, Edward (Louise Abuel) spends his teenage years, makes friends, falls in love, and “wakes up to the realities of life.”

The public hospital serves as a witness to the young boy’s rite of passage when he is stuck to take care of his ailing father. Caught in a place where life itself is in limbo, the boy treats the hospital grounds as his playground, not knowing that it will be his source of liberation in the end.

The film also delivered a strong statement about the sorry state of the Philippine healthcare system.

A friend posted on his Facebook wall a brief but concise description: “When members of the audience wipe their tears as they stream out of the CCP Main Theater after the gala screening for ‘EDWARD’, no amount of flowery phrases, no matter how elegant their turns may be, would be enough to say one must watch this intelligent and finely-crafted film. A star is born: his name is Louise Abuel, a relative of actor Tommy Abuel. The final 10 minutes of the film stilled the audience. I guess this was the time tears started cascading from their cheeks.”

I also became teary eyed during the film because of my experience with my father during his last days.

Unlike the not-so-good father-son relationship in EDWARD, mine was the opposite.

All throughout their more than 30 years of marriage, we never saw our parents

engage in physical fight. Papa usually said that before my mother could offend his feelings (perhaps due to Mama’s erratic mood) he had already forgiven her. If Mama was angry, Papa would just step back.

They had reverse roles: Mama took care of our financial well-being while Papa was in charge of our spiritual and emotional needs. He would tell me stories of life, of how proud he was of us, his children.

He often stressed that he had nothing to give us but our future. We did not have money but we had the respect of people, especially for the fact that two of his sons entered priesthood, Fr. Philip and Fr. Stephen.

I have always been a fan of Cinemalaya since it started 15 years ago.

Cinemalaya aims to encourage the creation of new cinematic works by Filipino filmmakers – works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity. It also aims to invigorate Philippine filmmaking by developing a new breed of Filipino filmmakers.

Some of the past winning films in the New Breed category included “Pepot Artista” (2005), “Tulad ng Dati” (2006), “Tribu” (2007), “Jay” (2008), “Last Supper No. 3” (2009), “Halaw” (2010), “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” (2011), “Diablo” (2012), “Transit” (2013), and “Bwaya” (2014). 

The winners in the Directors’ showcase included “Donor” (2010), “Bisperas” (2011), “Posas” (2012), “Sana Dati” (2013) and “Kasal” (2014).

The recent winners in the Main competition included “Pamilya Ordinaryo” (2016), “Respeto” (2017) and “Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon” (2018).

My passion in watching Cinemalaya films perhaps is an offshoot of my exposure to experimental films during my college years in the late ‘80s and ‘90s at the UP Diliman where I saw several highly sensitive and political films. The then UP Film Center served as a venue to screen films free from censorship as some of them were even banned from commercial viewing.

Some of the films I saw included Lino Brocka’s “Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag” (1975) and “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim” (1985), Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” (1982), Mike de Leon’s “Sister Stella L.” (1984), and Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Karnal” (1984) and whose daring works portrayed revolt, labor unionism, social ostracism, and class division. Even “pene” films that had grown more pornographic and taboo were also screened.

Decades before the word “indie films” became a trend, I had the opportunity to meet and see the works of alternative filmmakers.

I always talk to award-winning writer Ricky Lee during Cinemalaya regarding the breed of young movie makers. It was essentially captured by his recent speech: “Magkaroon ka ng boses. Ng opinyon. Mundo mo ito. Di ka parang hanging nagdaan lang. Mag-iwan ka ng marka. Huwag kang matakot magkamali. Kahit mabigo ka, huwag kang mag-alala. Sa paulit-ulit na pagkabigo ay mas matututo ka. Para kang sinusulat na nobela na kailangang paulit-ulit na i-revise. Hanggang sa kuminang.”

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 Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)./PN

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