I always find myself half-satiated when I walk into a screening of Cinemalaya shorts. Every year, there has always been one or two bad films mixed with good ones. Fortunately, not one of the five films in this year’s Shorts A was atrocious.
Boca, Chavacano for mouth, is a study of oral fixation. It follows a jaded telemarketer named Charlemagne who is well on his way to 500,000 sticks of cigarettes smoked in his lifetime. His addiction, Charlemagne explains, is just a transference of his fixation from his mother’s breasts when he stopped drinking milk when he was 12 years-old. Director Zurich Chan’s use of visual metaphors and the Chavacano language give the film a suave, sexy, Wong Kar Wai-esque quality which piques the audience’s sensibilities.
Breakfast with Lolo is on a league of its own. Part tribute and part advertisement, Steven Flor’s short tells a delightful anecdote of a grandson taking his grandfather out for pancakes… and what glorious towers of pancakes they are. After viewing the movie, I had the sudden urge to check out Trigo Café in Diliman.
Janus Victoria’s Dalaw plays like a long diary entry in the life of a woman (Che Ramos) going back to stay with her grandmother. Both women are stricken with grief, which they briefly remedy with distractions such as the little hanging trinkets that bring them no true consolation. The women are much like the film’s other character, the Pasig river, as its steady current depicts their ebbing of emotions.
For his sophomore Cinemalaya entry, Borgy Torre’s Despedida seems a tad bit contrived. The film is technically superior on top of the poignant performances of its cast. This time, Angel Aquino plays a quirky muse to Michael, a guy chained to nursing his bedridden parents. Although Torre’s twist on a person’s dilemma between rationality and lust is both shocking and humorous, it somewhat lacks the compassion and humanity that his previous film, Bonsai, possessed.
Despite having protests against Jerrold Tarog’s ANC Ambisyon entry Faculty being included in this year’s roster, I will digress for the sake of the film’s impact. Tarog’s commentary on the nation’s crumbling educational system—shown through the divided polarities of teachers—is as sharp and as piercing as the brilliantly written dialogue thrown by the actors. Though the film takes no sides, its biting last line gives us a hope that changes do result from good education reinforced by strong values.
When Cinemalaya started back in 2005, the short films were vastly underrated. Instead of being grouped together and presented as the main attraction, they were used as primers for the films in the main competition. But mind you, this did not take away the intensity and the beauty of the stories told. In the past five years of Cinemalaya, I’ve seen some of the Philippines’ best, weirdest, most intellectual and downright absurd short films ever made. I laughed my butt off to Enrico Aragon’s Nine Ball, a tribute to the once popular Pinoy past time. I let out my share of smitten sighs to Milo Tolentino’s Andong, a story of a little boy and a television set. And I stared in shock at the last few minutes of Lawrence Fajardo’s Kultado, a grim crime flick set in a meat market.
Yet among all the shorts previously screened, these three stood out for me:
Two girls from the slums grow up into two different individuals. One is a looker and the other is a lesbian. Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s Babae is a film that celebrates the Filipina. The movie is feminist and yet it doesn’t shove its principles down the viewer’s throat. For something that’s barely an hour long, it was successfully able to showcase several of the facets and struggles of the everyday Filipina with much intensity, flare, and fun.
Doble Vista (2007)
Who can deny the fact that Doble Vista is amateur cinematic pastiche at its best? Emphasizing style over substance, directors Nicia Alicer and Nix Lañas’s witty use of self-referential pop and alternative film tricks give life to the potentially idle story of a writer investigating the affair of his lover. Though claustrophobic with absurd amounts of pulp and style evident in its use of music, visuals, and dialogue, the movie breathes all thanks to a fresh twist so cunningly set up by the filmmakers.
Borgy Torre’s Bonsai is a subtle charmer. Its glacial pacing creates an ample leeway to establish rapport between the audience and its lead—a chubby security guard who does his best to get the affection of the girl of his dreams. Just like the titular plant, the film is simple yet intricate. The light-hearted banter of the characters played by director Richard Somes and Angel Aquino, not to mention the pleasant mise en scène, serve as excellent veils for this short’s jaw dropping conclusion.