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2018 Cinemalaya Shorts B: Eclectic—Not a Review

There is an overwhelming promise among the official entries to the Competition Section of the 2018 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival Shorts initially in the teasers and trailers provided for each film. In the Cinemalaya screening schedule, the short films were divided into two clusters: Shorts A and B (each one is composed of five films from out of the ten entries) primarily the overall length of one omnibus lineup was based on the running time of each movie. Ordinarily, in most films in the commercial cinemas, a viewer is traditionally and normally fed with as much as a two-hour TRT (Total Running Time) viewing experience, otherwise, it would be too much for the visual threshold although there are persons who could put up with a Lav Diaz film of seven or more hours. On the business side, meanwhile, a film longer than two hours would mean additional usage of power tantamount, more or less, to profit loss and debit, extra manpower to pay (like overtime) to man a movie house with extended screening time etc.

Even as a state agency on arts and culture, the Cultural Center of the Philippines or CCP—the main venue of the short film showing apart from selected Ayala cinemas—is also an establishment covered by the policies of utilities, Meralco for one or a water system and other interagency companies—public, private, government controlled or NGO.

Screening of shorts is a novel film experience especially during the burgeoning of independent and experimental filmmaking but it also has its commercial considerations and many filmmakers are also toeing the line no matter the indie spirit.

Jav Velasco’s “You, Me & Mr. Wiggles” is nearest to the trade of bold and sexy films as its material speaks of erectile dysfunction juxtaposed in a thematic labyrinth of domestic relationship tensions among couples making a shot to the flesh market. No wonder the smartest DVD pirate might be ahead in spreading the fare to the underground economy.

The film talks a lot about the nuances of love and sex, from the profoundest to the most trivial of them like affection over body heat if not lust.

Velasco’s camera angling is omniscient as he meant it to be. Things like erectile dysfunction, suggested by the filmmaker himself, should be an open issue and must be addressed publicly in a screen where all the mise-en-scene is top shot. It’s novel in this particular discourse.

Kiko Matos and Elora Españo are highly charged as a young couple in distress over the man’s getting hard we only witness them in one sitting but how about the preceding days of their live-in arrangement or is it a ceaseless daily confrontation of the problem as much as the guy takes pills to erect?

Keith Deligero’s “Babylon” is a take on the absurd (perhaps the style was adapted from the principled of the Theater of the Absurd) and the black comedy mostly characterized absurdity. It is an interesting piece of political film underneath the symbols and the personifications where and when animals talk.

It talks about the assassination of a local dictator by the connivance of a bunch of oppressed and angry youth and rebels.

Deligero is also introducing a lot of creative devices like Cebuano folk songs, digital graphics and noises both the natural sounds and the airwaves to stress his point and in the end lend an alienation effect between the film as a stimulus and the audience as the reactor. In a way, it’s theatrical most of the time only the palpable various locations determine its plasticity.

Jojo Driz, Jr.’s “Kiko” is a noir melodrama about a gay laundress in a coastal community in Batangas City who has a lover drug addict and an adopted son.

Obviously, there is an influence of the social realism in a peripheral society of the marginalized yet compassionate residents of a seaside barrio its melodramatic touches of Lino Brocka. It can also be a found story of the Brillante Ma. Mendoza and Armando Lao’s school of filmmaking.

What makes “Kiko” more melodramatic is its real sad moment with Jojo who was wheelchair-bound when he was recently presented at the gala premiere of the film. I talked to Driz after the showing of his masterpiece when I saw him at the lobby of CCP and learned that he suffered a stroke last April, days after his shoots of the film. “Nandito ako ngayon (I am here to feel what is really like to be in Cinemalaya),” he said triumphantly. He came all the way from Batangas City where he resides just to represent his entry.

Driz took scriptwriting class under Ricky Lee, also known as Ricardo Lee and together with his classmates they produced “Kiko.”

He has a new project and even if he is sick, he would still be doing films.

Meanwhile, Jarell Serencio’s “Siyudad sa Bulawan” is a proletariat lit with real child gold miners in Mt. Diwalwal in Compostela Valley. The film is replete with raw scenes straight from the tunnel the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) would be very proud and happy it was able to give support to the project considered a champion of the working class among children and the guidance they should be getting to protect their rights and dignity as human persons.

Mika Fabella and Rafael Froilan’s “Yakap (Embrace)” is a testament of how the poetry of National Artist for Literature Jose Garcia Villa can be a good source of material for a dance movie. “I Can No Longer Hear Love’s Voice” maintains its universality of language and message even onscreen.

These shorts are also testaments of how creative, resourceful and committed to the art our young filmmakers are.

What more if they are given opportunities to direct full-length features and still inject their two-cent worth of know-how and insights on life no matter how young still they are.

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