The Indies

Four out of the five independent films were great; however, they were 10 minutes too long, which kept them from moving up to excellent.

That, in one sentence, is my personal review of the films we chose to watch on the last day of Cinemalaya 9 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines this year. The 5th one, which I will not name, should not have been filmed.

One day in a year, my sons, close friends, and I make time for indie films during the week-long Cinemalaya Festival. It's a time for re-connecting with old friends, supporting the film industry, and seeing life the way it is.  Indies show us the harsh realities of life which we gloss over the rest of the year.

Through five to eight films (including shorts), we zoom into the world we live in—in the raw, uncloaked by showbiz glitz.

This year we waited for the last day, after all the reviews had come in, instead of the first, which had been our tradition.

What we missed were speeches of the directors and producers and photo ops with various cast on opening night.

What we gained were the picks of the lot—noteworthy films that won most of the recognition on Awards Night.

“Great” indeed would be the adjective I'd stick to for four of the films: Transit, Babagwa, Ekstra, and Quick Change. Casting, acting, cinematography, directing, and over-all impact, two thumbs up.

Again, my only beef is the extra “10 minutes” that made each film drag in parts. Had the editor cut a few seconds here and there in some scenes, the flow and tempo would have been crisper. 

For instance, there was that scene where the camera followed the actress all over the room and into the bathroom . . . that scene where the players walked from one end of the river to the other . . . those scenes repeated a few times to make a point, but still had the same length each time . . . those prolonged explicit sex gymnastics.

Our collective thoughts: these drawn-out scenes had nothing spectacular to say further, except to hold the plot at a standstill, so why dwell on them?

Long scenes are not new in cinema, but the exceptional films that employed this technique had something important to dramatize, adding texture to the over-all concept (Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa are famous for those).

My “10-minute” discontent notwithstanding, I remain a viewer of Cinemalaya—it adds dimension to the arid and cruel landscapes of life that remain so because grace is ignored or unrecognized.

I hope to learn more in year 10 next year. 

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