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Four woman films or so at the 15th Cinemalaya

There are ten (10) official entries to the Full-Length category of the 15th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival to be held on August 2 to 11, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and other affiliated venues.

Actress Mylene Dizon in "Belle Douleur (Beautiful Pain)"

Five of them are being directed by women, namely Leilani Chavez and Danica Sta. Lucia’s “Malamaya (The Color of Ash);” Joji Alonso’s “Belle Douleur (Beautiful Pain)”; Sheryl Rose M. Andes’ “Pandanggo sa Hukay” and Maricel Cariaga’s “Children of the River” while one is being co-directed by a female, Kim Zuñiga and Sandro del Rosario’s “Ani (The Harvest).”

If the three earlier aforementioned filmmakers are to be gauged against their social and professional backgrounds (Chavez a former writer in ABS-CBN Interactive news online and later moved in to write and to direct TV shows; Sta. Lucia an advertising major in education; Alonso a seasoned film producer and corporate lawyer and Andes a development worker and an NGO volunteer on community advancement) they seem to be exponents of artists who give sense to the quotidian and women’s rights and emancipation in male-dominated professions. There milieu is most of the time a tension in daily, ordinary life and in gender equation given the traditional landscape of the hegemony of man over woman.

The lead stars of "Belle Douleur (Beautiful Pain)" Mylene Dizon and Kit Thompson

They are, therefore, sensitive to the significant role a woman plays in a patriarchal society.

Zuñiga, on the other hand, is an equal player in the game-changing arena of collaborative directorial efforts between a male and a female. This time, however, they are boyfriend and girlfriend in real life. “Nagbibigayan kami ng ideya sa pagdidirek. Nag-uusap kami. Mabuti at may relasyon kami kaya may pang-unawa sa bawat gusto naming gawin sa bawat eksena (We exchange ideas in directing. We talk about them intently. It’s good that we are in a relationship so we understand what we wanna do in every scene),” revealed Kim, a Bicolana.

Obviously, Leilani and Danica want to explore the gender politics of when, according to the logline of their movie, Nora Simeon, the lead character, a pessimistic, uninspired middle-aged artist finds spark with a millennial amateur photographer who leads her on a road to creative and sexual awakening. “It’s the freedom a woman enjoys while a man invades her space and senses and eventually her art and body and how she is able to emancipate herself from the control of the opposite sex,” said Lani, a very enterprising and promising film artist. In every endeavor Chavez is into she sees to it that her being a woman is protected and her rights upheld.

“This film is homage to our moms and all the strong women in our lives whose mere presence inspire us to survive,” added Leilani.

Director Joji Alonso motivating her actress Mylene Dizon in "Belle Douleur (Beautiful Pain)"

Alonso chooses to tackle a woman’s search for happiness in her lonesome. Her narrative is about Liz, a 45-year old, single, clinical psychologist, finds herself alone and resigned to a solitary life after her parents who she spent her adult life looking after passed away. Through her friends’ advice, Liz begins downsizing her home and meets Josh, a young antique dealer who has been living on his own for years after losing his father and grandfather and without much memory of his mother. With their loneliness drawing them together, Liz and John create a special bond.

Woman director Sheryl Rose Andes of "Pandanggo sa Hukay"

“What happens when a woman breaks free from the confines that society puts on women?” asked Joji about her journey as a director and the main character she creates, motivates, thinks and decides as a woman free from all the chains of feudal and oppressive society.

Meanwhile, Andes focuses on the life of Elena, a midwife in a small community as she aims for a better future for her family when she applies for a job in Saudi Arabia.

“It is also a woman’s freedom at hand. It is how a woman finds her way out in case of trouble,” quipped Sheryl.

Filmmaker Maricel Cariaga at the helm of the movie "Children of the River"

Cariaga, whose opus, “Children of the River” might be about childhood friends it nevertheless centers on the liberation of feelings among themselves—a feminist pursuit of happiness no matter the gender.

Intuition and compassion are two of women’s arsenals in fighting for her life and for others, the sphere in which these movies are hinged on.

It is a happy note that many women directors are taking the helm of film productions a feat not seen in the past Cinemalaya editions. Laurice Guillen, the Cinemalaya President must be proud her fellow women are taking center stage in this year’s fest. It’s not only because they are women but more so, they have wonderful and independent stories to tell.

Meanwhile, the other entries such as “Edward,” “FUCCBOIS,” “Iska,” “John Denver Trending” and “Tabon” might be directed by male helmers Thop Nazareno, Eduardo Roy, Jr., Theodore Boborol, Arden Rod Condez and Xian Lim, respectively, they don’t mean to be anti-women or even unsympathetic to women.

“Iska” for one is a glaring example of a woman story by a male director about a grandmother who wants to take her 10-year old autistic grandson to a special needs orphanage but she is deemed an unfit guardian by the media and the government. According to the synopsis of the film, despite Iska’s dealing with life’s blows one after the other, she never loses her tenacity to survive. That’s a woman’s strength, for sure.

Award-winning actress Ruby Ruiz as titular star in Theodore Boborol's "Iska"

Ruby Ruiz, a very competent and award-winning actress does justice to the role of Iska. Ruby as an innate actress has also acquired the range of acting depths in her long stint as a member of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and her exposures to myriad roles she took on in her entire thespic years.

As an artist, Ruiz is a generous person has been sharing her talents with multigenerational actors in theater, television and film since the 80s. DUMALO (Dulaang Don Mateo Lopez), a community-based theater organization in Lopez, Quezon is a living witness to the generosity of Ruby in her giving away her ten-cent worth of artistry to her PETA students like Sidney Dalanon (DUMALO’s Artistic Director) and Cymbie Licup, one of DUMALO’s facilitators during the theater workshop of the local group.

Rudy is indeed a feminist—selfless and motivational teacher—in the real sense of the word. Iska the character is a creation of free spirited Theodore.

Meanwhile, Thop is also an open-minded filmmaker who takes in liberal ideas about feminism in his movies while Eduardo has been a supportive of women’s movements in the arts. Arden Rod and Xian are also supporters of women’s causes in an out of showbiz.

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