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2020 Cinemalaya of the Philippines reaches US, Europe, Asia, Latin America and other continents

For the first time in its sixteenth year history, the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, a co-venture of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Cinemalaya Foundation, is reaching not only the Philippine soil but intercontinentally as well.

It is because the country’s most awaited film festival is going virtually albeit sans its former physical form like gala premiere nights; stage presentations of each official entry, its creative teams and stars appearances; recognition and handing in of plaques of appreciation to each film entry by Cinemalaya officials; photo-ops; selfies with stars; autograph signings; theater screenings; physical awards night; seminars; lectures; project pitching and other original movements.

First, let’s start off with a historical account of the new medium of the fest.

As early as the last quarter of 2019, Cinemalaya had announced its proceedings on August 7-16, 2020 at all CCP venues and other movie houses like the Ayala cinemas and other representative partner outlets. It had even announced the participation of ten (10) full-length features and later, the ten (10) official selection short films.

On September 21, 2019, Mel Chionglo, Head of the Monitoring Committee of Cinemalaya passed away. The following month, Jose Javier Reyes succeeded Mel when the former was appointed the post and Chairman of the Main Competition while Laurice Guillen was President of Cinemalaya Foundation.

Meanwhile, official selections to the Full-Length Features were already rolling and everyone was anticipating excitedly the sixteenth Cinemalaya.

Until the new decade dawned in and still, the local film community was all eyes and ears at the images and surprises the 2020 Cinemalaya might pull off.

Until the invasion of the invisible and deadly novel coronavirus when three Chinese nationals infected with the disease were allowed entry to the country in the duration of the Chinese New Year. Eventually, the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines increased and a pandemic was announced in March when the whole nation was placed under strict quarantine health protocols to mitigate the spread of the new lethal pathogen.

Not only were most numbers, if not all, of the Filipinos were affected by the lockdown, many industries were directly hit by the plague including the local movie industry and all its inter-agencies and their projects, one of them film festivals.

Several local film fests were scrapped in time of the pandemic like the 6th Sinag Maynila International Film Festival in March and the first ever Summer Metro Manila Film Festival in April.

At this time, Cinemalaya, even if it would still hold its event in August, couldn’t decide yet to pursue or not its event until its officers finally met up and came into a concession that it would still go on with the annual fest but this time an online edition just like many international film events like the 2020 Cannes in France, 24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan) in South Korea etc.

During the recent virtual presscon via Zoom of Cinemalaya organized by the CCP Publicity Department, CCP President Arsenio J. Lizaso—also known in the biz as Nick Lizaso, actor, writer and director—said that the virtual Cinemalaya this year was an idea of Chris Millado, CCP Vice President and Cinemalaya Festival Director. Lizaso said Chris called him up to present his idea of a virtual film festival. Nick added he then presented the plan to the members of the CCP Board of Trustees which unanimously agreed on the design and promised to support it. Although Nick acknowledged that a budget was already allotted to Cinemalaya as early last year, the yearly event is a co-production of CCP and Cinemalaya Foundation which also forked out money and other resources for the gig not only this year but since its maiden edition in 2005.

Although apparently Lizaso was generalizing, the idea of an online Cinemalaya 2020 could also spawn from the vision and background of Laurice and Joey, collectively brainstormed with their triumvirate Millado.

Cinemalaya 16 was ready to sail once more on its original dates.

Thus, a common thematic blurb of the whole exercise was thought out: “Stream Consciousness.” Anyway, it should be differentiated from the literary device as “stream of consciousness” introduced by American novelists Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. 

“Well, it is because the platform now is online so it’s kind of streaming as in live streaming. And consciousness because of the workings of the mind which is a continuous process,” explained Guillen.

Unlike in the past Cinemalayas, this year’s celebration will only have screening of the ten (10) selected short films minus the main dish of ten (10) full-length features films even if they were initially announced. “Some of them had already shot parts of their movies but because of the pandemic and its restrictions, they were stuck out. One of them has already backed out. One was supposed to shoot in Thailand but with the global pandemic, couldn’t proceed,” elucidated Javier Reyes.

Joey joyfully declared ahead, though. “But we promise you, next year, in 2021, you’ll feast on the twenty (20) feature films including the ones to be selected this year,” the hip director chuckled.

These are the ten short films that will vie for Best Film and other plums: “Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert (The Broken Vinyl Record)” by Janina Gacosta and Cheska Marfori; “Ang Pagpakalma sa Unos (To Calm the Pig Inside)” by Joanna Vasquez Arong; “Excuse me Miss, Miss, Miss” by Sonny Calvento; “Fatigued” by James Robin Mayo; “Living Things” by Martika Ramirez Escobar; “Pabasa Kan Pasyon” by Hubert Tibi; “Quing Lalam Ning Aldo (Under the Sun)” by Reeden Fajardo; “The Slums” by Jan Andrei Cobey; “Tokwifi” by Carla Pulido Ocampo; and “Utwas (Arise)” by Richard Salvadico and Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay.

In “Ang Gasgas na Plaka ni Lolo Bert,” an old vinyl record alters a closeted gay man’s life. Meanwhile, memories catch up as a girl visits a ravaged port city in “Ang Pagpakalma sa Unos.”

“Excuse Me Miss, Miss, Miss” tells the story about a department store sales lady who unearths the ultimate secret to regularization while “Fatigued” is about an employee who overslept and must wake-up from a nightmare.

“Living Things” is about a woman who discovers that her decade-long lover has turned into a cardboard standee. “Pabasa kan Pasyon” follows a Bicolano family that turns to religion to make both ends meet.

“In Quing Lalam Ning Aldo,” a transgender sampaguita farmer decides to renovate their neglected kitchen as soon as she hears her son is going home. “The Slums,” on the other hand, follows a documentary team who progressively intervenes and trespasses into the lives of a poor family living in the slums as they try to cope with the loss of their TV.

In “Tokwifi,” a 1950s mestiza star, trapped inside a television that fell from the sky, dreams up a romance romp with a Bontok Igorot man who does not know how to kiss. Meanwhile, “Utwas” narrates how a young boy discovers the ocean as he tries to learn how to dive and fish.  

Aside from these outstanding shorts, an exhibition section of short films is in order and the ten (10) reps are “Ang Meron sa Wala (Beyond Nothing)” by Arby and Christian Laraño; “Ang Nawalang Haligi (Pillar)” by Sarah Mya Regacho; “Dama de Noche” by Lawrence Sibug; “Grand Gestures” by Cody Abad; “Gulis (LINES)” by Kyle Jumayne Francisco; “Habak” by Paolo Matibag and Mia Salisbury; “HImagsik ng Hiwaga (Revolt of the Msytic)” by Geoffrey Solidum; “Igib” by Joey Paras; “Jepoy” by Avid Liongoren; “Kung Saan Patag Ang Bundok (Where The Horizon Meets the Mountain)” by Dolliete Echon; “OctoGod” by Shiever Olegario; “Paon” by Seb Valdez; “Pinakanakapagpapabagabag-Damdamin (Most Disturbing Feeling)” by Jermaine Tulbo; “Si Gloria at si Juan” by Gilliano Salvador; “Sumasaiyo (Yours truly)” by Jermaine Tulbo; “Tarang (Life’s Pedal)” by Arvin Alindogan Belarmino and “The Rooftop” by Avirup Biswas.   

Aside from Vimeo and other social media platforms, Cinemalaya 16 will be shown in iWant live streaming. Therefore, the whole world—the continents of North America, Europe, South America, Africa, Asia etc.—will witness its unfolding of an extraordinary and meaningful Philippine cinema. 

There are problems, of course, admitted Chris, in mounting this year’s event. True enough, it’s supposedly the most challenging version among the past Cinemalaya editions.


In terms of sponsorships and advertisements, Millado said there are still avid supporters of the project “although this is a rough sailing adventure but we will prevail.” 

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