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01 August 2014

Which Films You Should Watch in this Year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival (2014)

“Which films should I watch? Do you have some recommendations?” asked a reader. My answer is “trust your instinct or give every film a chance.”  Choosing the best films, especially in the New Breed category, is a hit or miss endeavor. If you are lucky, you may end up choosing a gem. If that will be the case, spread the word around.

Based on my experience in 2013, the synopsis of the film does not guarantee that the film will be excellent. For example, last year, “Nuwebe” was at the top of my list before the start of the festival. The film tackled child rape, which is a very sensitive and serious subject matter.  The film was also partly based on a true story, which made it more intriguing. In the end, “Nuwebe,” at least for me, was one of the most disappointing films of the festival. I was also very interested in “David F” because it was about an African American who sided with the Filipino revolutionaries during the Philippine-American War, and the film followed the forgotten history of African Americans living in the Philippines from the 1900s to the present. Regrettably, “David F” failed to deliver its promise.

On the other hand, movies like “Transit,” and “Quick Change” were at the bottom of my list. “Transit” was about Filipinos living in Israel, which many viewers may not empathize. The actors speaking in Hebrew was the only thing that fascinated me. In fact, “Transit” was the last film in the New Breed category that I watched but I ended up choosing it as the Best Film of the festival. “Quick Change” was about the lives of transgender individuals, and having watched so many films about the LGBT community, I thought that I could defer watching “Quick Change,” given my limited budget. Thankfully, I was able to save enough money to buy more tickets, and the film was worth my money. “Quick Change” is outstanding and I chose it as the second Best Picture of the festival. The film also was chosen by our critics as one of the three Best Films of 2013 during the First Brun Film Awards. 

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However, the real discovery of the year for me was “Purok 7.” On paper, the movie could easily be ignored. It was a story about two children living alone in a rural town as their mother worked abroad. For some, “Purok 7” was just another movie about OFWs and their families. The uncomplicated title also did not attack much curiosity. In the end, it became one of my favorite films of the festival. The direction was confident, the approach simplistic and unpretentious but not sacrificing warmth and reality.  On top of that, newcomer Krystle Valentino gave a naturalistic and nuanced performance.

Therefore, there is really no way of knowing which among the entries are great. You just have to take risks. Alternatively, you can also read the first batch of reviews, and use them as guides. Critics were mostly in consensus as to which films were the best during the 2013 Cinemalaya Festival.

Enjoy and give all these films a chance. If you want certainty, wait for the next Metro Manila Film Festival in December. This early, I can confidently say that most of the entries will certainly be crap. 

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