MANILA, Philippines - From September 11 to 17, take a break from Hollywood and rediscover Filipino artistry in cinema, through the new films presented by some of the country's top directors at the Sineng Pambansa National Film Festival.
For this period, SM cinemas nationwide will serve as exclusive venues for Sineng Pambansa's Masters Edition entries.
The national festival, a flagship program of the Film Development Council of the Philippines, is now on its second year and has as its main theme, "Bringing the Filipino films to Filipinos."
Veteran film director Mel Chionglo affirms this endeavor, as it also involves moviegoers.
"Challenge sa mga manonood kung paano muli maibabalik ang sigla ng pelikulang Pilipino," he said at Sineng Pambansa's press conference on August 29.
(How to revive the vitality of Philippine cinema is a challenge to the moviegoers.)
"Sana ang audience natin ay mabuksan ang isip na ang mga pelikula ay iba-ibang klase." (May our audience open their minds to the diversity of our movies.)
"We can make movies throughout the year for as long as there will be audiences who will appreciate Filipino films."
This festival's roster of directors, including Chionglo, are among the most admired seasoned filmmakers in the industry - including Tikoy Aguiluz, Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes, Joel Lamangan, Elwood Perez, Gil Portes, Jose Javier Reyes, Maryo J. Delos Reyes, Chito Roño, and Romeo Suzara.
The Sineng Pambansa films are as follows:
"Otso" by Elwood Perez
A man who travels to Manila to connect with his roots writes an indie screenplay based on what he believes goes on behind his neighbor's closed doors. He soon discovers that "the truth is never what it seems." The film stars Vincent Tañada and veteran actress Anita Linda.
"Ang Tag-Araw ni Twinkle" by Gil M. Portes
Portes said the concept for this film had been lingering in his mind since childhood, when he heard about the mlitary's abduction of a child of a neighbor who was a member of the Hukbalahap.
With his good friend and fellow filmmaker Joel Lamangan as consultant, Portes was able to develop further the film's plot, this time adapted to a more contemporary context.
He describes "Ang Tag-Araw ni Twinkle" as a "simple family drama," about a girl undergoing rehab in the course of her complex relationship with her adoptive father, a retired Army general, and her biological father, a former NPA guerrilla dying of cancer.
The film is model Ellen Adarna's first big screen role, which the young actress said she relates to.
"Growing up, I experimented with a lot of things, so this role was actually me," she said. "I didn't [need] preparation because I was a rebellious child. The character was pretty easy."
"Sonata" by Lore Reyes and Peque Gallaga
Described by the two veteran directors as their "love song to Negros," the film tells the dramatic story of a singer (Cherie Gil) who struggles to rekindle her spirit after she loses her voice. She secludes herself from the world but a young boy brings her back to the light.
Gil, who starred in Gallaga's 1982 wartime masterpiece "Oro Plata Mata," regards this new project with the director as a way of coming "full circle" in her career.
"Full circle para sa akin 'to," she said. "Peque has mentored me as an actor since I was 17. Peque has seen me grow and he's known me better than anyone I've worked with," she said.
Gallaga is all praises for the actress' ability to embody any role.
"She'd go in deep," he said. "She was really, really going into her personal pain, that's preparation pa lang." (That's just preparation.)
"Sige nang sige [she'd carry on], so much so that even the lighting people couldn't look aymore."
For Gil, "Sonata" is a product of perfect combination.
"The creative collaboration, for me, is just perfect. 'Sonata' is a symbol of that journey: two instruments coming together and creating a beautiful harmony. Here we have Peque and Lore. It's the truest performance I've given in my career."
"Ano Ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?" by Jose Javier Reyes
Rustica Carpio, Angel Aquino, Ryan Agoncillo, and Bobby Andrews star in this tale of loneliness and old age. The film narrates the story of a housekeeper who has spent 60 years of her life in the service of a family. After the matriarch dies, the housekeeper's fate is left in the hands of the balikbayan children.
"Tinik" by Romy Suzara
This latest addition to the LGBT film catalogue is about a middle-aged couturier who struggles with the challenges that come with his sexual orientation.
"Eman" by Tikoy Aguiluz
Photo from the Eman Lacaba Facebook
Derek Ramsay stars in this biopic on the poet, journalist, and activist, who was killed in an encounter with the military at the age of 27. Aguiluz' film traces Emmanuel A.F. Lacaba's transition from poet to people's warrior, which also reorients his poetry.
"Lauriana" by Mel Chionglo
Set in a small barrio in Lucena, Quezon, Chionglo's film tells the story of a soldier and his wife living with a disturbing secret that eventually implicates the whole barrio. Forgiveness and retribution are the themes of this film.
"Badil" by Chito Rono
Chito Roño's politically charged film explores rampant impunity and violence as Nonoy, the kapitan and party leader's son, is tasked to monitor and stop a vote-buying operation on the eve of an election. He soon finds himself in a life-changing situation as he faces the so-called "dynamite fisher" or mastermind.
Screen grab from Youtube (TheABSCBNNews)
"Lihis" by Joel Lamangan
Set during the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s, Joel Lamangan's "Lihis" narrates the story of two NPA rebels who get caught in a complicated romance amid their participation in the armed resistance.
"Hindi lamang ito tungkol sa kabaklaan [This isn't just about homosexuality]," explained Lamangan, a political prisoner during that era.
"Ito ay tungkol sa mga taong binura sa kasaysayan dahil sa kanilang ibang paniniwala, dahil sa kanilang ibang kasarian."
(This is about people who have been erased from history because of their convictions, because their humanity is different.)
Lamangan teamed up with fellow political detainee, screenwriter Ricky Lee, for this project.
"Ito ay sumasalamin sa mga katotohanang ganoon. Lalo na sa mga kabataang hindi alam ang mga nangyari sa kasaysayang iyon," said Lamangan.
(This film mirrors those truths, especially for the youth who are not familiar with that history.)
The film stars Jake Cuenca, Joem Bascom, Lovi Poe, Isabelle Daza, and Gloria Diaz.
"Bamboo Flowers" by Maryo J. Delos Reyes
A dramatic look into the ambitions, the heartaches, and the lives of Boholanos, as they adapt to the changes brought about by the demands of today's milieu.
Bamboo Flowers are chandelier-shaped leaves or blossoms on bamboo trees in the final stages of death. In the same way, the film depicts the lives of young and old Boholanos, in their transition from traditional to modern times.
The film stars Mylene Dizon, newcomer Max Collins, Neil Ryan Sese, and Ruru Madrid.
The festival also includes a tribute to late film legends Celso Ad. Castillo, Lino Brocka, and Manuel Conde, with special screenings of "Bahay ng Lagim," "The Gospel According to Celso Kid," the recently restored "Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag," and "Ghengis Khan," which was well received in the 1952 Venice Film Festival.
Lino Brocka's 'Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag' trailer:
'Genghis Khan' by Manuel Conde:
Sineng Pambansa will run on September 11-17 in SM Cinemas nationwide. Tickets are available in SM Cinemas for P100.