Sunshine Cruz enjoys first Cinemalaya movie, CEB’s Grade B rating of ‘Malamaya’

“Malamaya,” the sexy romantic film starring Sunshine Cruz as a strong-willed visual artist and Enzo Pineda as an aspiring photographer, received a grade of “B” from the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB). “Malamaya” is currently showing in theaters nationwide.

The film depicts the challenges of an artist as told through the complicated relationship of Sunshine and Enzo’s characters. Produced by Spears Films and ALV Films with Cine Likha Productions, it was one of the entries at the recently concluded 15th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.

In CEB summation, the CEB reviewers complimented the film for being aesthetically pleasing just like the many art works that are featured in scenes. The CEB said, “(It) is a visual artist’s film in more ways than one; its strongest points are the production design and cinematography…”

Lead actress Sunshine Cruz was very pleased when she heard about this news.

In between taping for her regular TV shows and movie promotional guestings, Sunshine found time to pose for a souvenir photo at the lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ main theater, holding Cinemalaya’s iconic “balloons with eyes.”

Sunshine’s beautiful smile and lovely aura in that picture captured what she felt about her Cinemalaya film debut. “Salamat sa napakagandang experience #cinemalaya2019,” she posted on her Facebook account. “Thank you Malamaya team, my directors, Direk Leilani (Chavez) and Direk Danica (Sta. Lucia), to our producers Sir Albert (Almendralejo) and my manager Arnold (Vegafria). Hanggang sa muli.”

The star happily ended her post with an announcement about CEB grade of Malamaya and an invite to her friends and followers to watch her film.

For more information about “Malamaya,” visit ALV Talent Circuit Inc., Spears Activation & PR and Malamaya Film on Facebook.

MOVIE REVIEWS: Cinemalaya Film Festival 2019 (Part 1)

Here’s the first part of our festival report on Cinemalaya 2019, in which we cover Belle Douleur, Edward, John Denver TrendingMalamaya, Tabon and Shorts A. The 15th edition of Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival runs from August 7 to 15, 2019 in select Ayala Malls Cinemas and Vista Cinemas nationwide.


BELLE DOULEUR (BEAUTIFUL PAIN)

Kit Thompson (Josh) and Mylene Dizon (Liz) in Belle Douleur.

The first of the two entries dealing on the burgeoning subject matter of May-December love affairs features a palpable and electric chemistry between Mylene Dizon and Kit Thompson. Like the recent Glorious, it’s filled to the brim with wish fulfillment – gratuitous and torrid love scenes that’s otherwise substantiated with better screenplay and direction. By the way its characters are constructed, it perfectly makes sense for both to latch onto each other. Liz (Mylene Dizon) is a child psychologist in her 40’s who struggles dealing with the passing of her mother, as seen through her heavy attachment to her mom’s antique items. Enter an attractive Josh in his late 20’s who shows an odd fascination for the same stuff. Upon the suggestion of her friends, Liz does something “reckless and irresponsible.” You can tell where the story goes from here. 

Make no mistake, this is not a case of Oedipal complex for Josh. He genuinely wants to have a committed relationship with Liz, the latter even insisting to be the nurturer. Naturally, Liz wants to do her mutual end in the relationship as well, but she’s taken aback each time he accuses her of being too much of a mother figure. Liz might have escaped the stigma of being a single, middle-aged woman but she finds herself trapped into a new one.

The narrative unfolds and more relationship cracks are revealed – there are some things that Liz simply can’t provide. Generational conflict arises and compromises must be made. At which point, Belle Douleur slugs at its pacing with its prolonged honeymoon and frustration phases, none of which are really new and ground-breaking per se. The film could have sacrificed some of its sequences – particularly a subplot involving a friend’s infidelity issue – to reserve time for its rushed ending that should hold up the titular theme “beautiful pain.” 

The conclusion is up for a different discussion – somehow the female empowerment message feels an odd fit to Liz’s actions towards the end. Belle Douleur is a sentimental and heartfelt love affair that can either get too saccharine or exasperating for some viewer’s tastes. Regardless, the film hooks your attention, much owing to Dizon’s impeccable and subdued performance.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Joji V. Alonso and written by Therese Cayaba, ‘Belle Douleur’ stars Mylene Dizon, Kit Thompson, Marlon Rivera, Jenny Jamora and Hannah Ledesma. 98 minutes. R-13.

EDWARD

Ella Cruz and Louise Abuel in Edward.

Edward opens with an impressive one-shot sequence that lays out the chaotic workings of a public hospital – the understaffed crew, the lack of sufficient equipment and facilities, the depressing resuscitation performed in hallway, etc. Such hyper-realism foreshadows the harsh awakening that this sullen place holds store for the titular young lad, charmingly played by Louise Abuel. Left by his half-brother, he is tasked with taking care of his ill father – actor Dido De La Paz whose labored breathing and violent coughs alone warrant a supporting actor nomination. Edward quickly accustoms himself to the environment – when not tending to his father or serving as an errand boy, he would goof around with his best friend Renz (Elijah Canlas) as they use wheelchairs for thrill rides and bet on critically-ill patients. 

I actually came here expecting more of the father and son dynamic to be fleshed out – as what director Thop Nazareno deftly did in Kiko Boksingero. Halfway through, however, the film’s romcom aspects become more prominent as Edward befriends and falls for a girl patient named Agnes (Ella Cruz). Personally, the film could have enriched its coming of age arc more had the focus is on the paternal relationship. But in here, Edward often neglects his duties to his estranged father. Perhaps it speaks to the general immaturity of youth, of how sometimes teens prioritize romantic endeavors over family emergencies. Hence, the film lacks a better resolution for Edward and his father – or maybe that’s just how life is, sometimes you don’t get it. 

The film mostly plays on a comical tone largely helped by the bleak humor generated by its supporting cast and cheery musical scoring. But never underestimate the darker tones beneath, because once they kick in, the effect is poignant and heartbreaking. As the blow by blow tragic events happen, poor Edward finds himself worn out from the roller-coaster of emotions he experienced within his short stay in the hospital. Edward is a liberation from the cusp of innocence.

With its documentary-like sensibilities, the film also serves as a somber commentary where patients die because of the inept healthcare system. It can be a helpless and maddening experience to know that we’re living in that type of reality. After all, there’s an ‘Edward’ in all of us.

4 out of 5 stars

Directed by Thop Nazareno and written by John Paul Bedia and Thop Nazareno, ‘Edward’ stars Louise Abuel, Dido dela Paz, Elijah Canlas, Manuel Chua and Ella Cruz. 90 minutes. R-13.

JOHN DENVER TRENDING

Meryll Soriano and Jansen Magpusao in John Denver Trending.

If there’s an entry here that speaks to the heart of a social media driven generation today, it’s definitely John Denver Trending. From cyber-bullying, proliferation of fake news, bandwagon mentality, uprise of keyboard warriors and a self-righteous society mostly motivated by emotions and not reasons – the film bares it all. Juxtaposed with meaningful symbolism of superstitions and rituals, director/writer Arden Rod Condez makes an effort not to deliver heavy handed commentaries.

In it, John Denver Cabungcal (a promising debut by Jansen Magpusao) gets caught on video beating up a classmate. The latter’s friend uploads the said clip on Facebook with claims that John stole his iPad and acted hostile upon confrontation. What the netizens don’t see is that he’s innocent and he actually just fought back to get his bag. The film also mines much empathy in Meryll Soriano’s effective portrayal of John’s strong-willed mother who does her best to acquit his son from the accusations.

There might be some reservations towards the film’s nihilistic conclusion but I personally think that the screenplay’s build up satisfies the film’s bold choices. Overall, John Denver Trending is a very powerful and humbling film that I can wholeheartedly champion for everyone to see.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Directed and written by Arden Rod Condez, ‘John Denver Trending’ stars Jansen Magpusao, Meryll Soriano, Glenn Mas, Sammy Rubido, Vince Philip Alegre, Jofranz Ambubuyog and Christian Alarcon. 96 minutes. PG.

MALAMAYA (THE COLOR OF ASH)

Enzo Pineda and Sunshine Cruz in Malamaya.

Effectively works as a double feature with Belle Douleur, Malamaya leaves you pondering with its themes on solitary, generational gap beliefs, artistic schools of thought and many other things. Directors Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez leaves plenty of room for dissection. In a way, it’s like looking at an art exhibit. You can look at the film in multiple angles, some might find it a pretentious feminist film while some may say it’s worthy of viewing. I fall into a latter category, with few reservations.

Much of my fascination falls on a temperemental and unaplogetic painter Nora who refuses to take crap from anyone. This girl can detect BS from a mile away. She may not be always right but she makes sure that she stands firm with her opinion. She takes an arrogant young photography hobbyist named Migs (Enzo Pineda) under her wing and having the same passion for art, steamy love scenes are bound to fly. It feels rote and familar by now but given that we are in for a modest level of crazy character introspection, Malamaya takes an orthodox and more artful approach than Belle Douleur. Just to be clear, Nora does not need men saving her. She can use them for her benefit but she never bows down to their whims.

It feels refreshing to see Sunshine Cruz act again as this film reminds us of her capabilities as an actress. Malamaya can be burdened by characterization flaws to fully deliver a concrete message but perhaps this is just a reflection of the captivating and erratic emotional and mental state of artists. Elsewhere, the film’s aesthetic visuals and production values are pleasing to the eye. It never hurts for a second viewing.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez, written by Leilani Chavez and Liberty Trinidad, ‘Malamaya’ stars Enzo Pineda, Sunshine Cruz, Raymond Bagatsing and Bernadette Allyson. 80 minutes. R-13.

TABON

Christopher Roxas in Tabon.

While Tabon‘s story clearly has the potential for a mystery/crime thriller, the film is completely let down by its misguided direction, dry screenplay and bland production design. Christopher Roxas (I even forgot his character’s name) plays a thinly-written protagonist that runs around the narrative asking the same questions over and over again, wearing the exact same face of confusion that the viewers bear.

The problem is that Xian Lim, in his directorial debut, seals his lips from the film’s mystery for so long. Not enough breadcrumbs are offered to lead the way or let alone create a proper misdirection. The result is a horror mystery that feels uneventful, dragging and bewildering. Not to mention, a drastic tonal shift involving the use of animation occurs halfway – by then, it’s hard to take what happens next seriously. Plot points are just lost in translation, just like how I can’t fathom the relevance of the film’s title.

1.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Xian Lim and written by Xian Lim and Eseng Cruz, ‘Tabon’ stars Christopher Roxas, Ynna Asistio, Dexter Doria, Bapbap Reyes, Menggie Cobarrubias, Leon Miguel, Benjie Felipe, Lao Rodriguez and Richard Manabat. 90 minutes. PG.

SHORTS A

GATILYO (Trigger) has sincere intentions to shed light on PTSD and the lasting effects of war but unfortunately, it plays more as a PSA with nothing really original to latch onto your heartstrings. 2.5/5

Directed by and co-written by Harold Lance Pialda, ‘Gatilyo’ stars Rocky Salumbides, Liya Sarmiento, Bon Andrew Lentejas and Ruby “Ube Lola” Daleon. 19 minutes. PG.

HEIST SCHOOL is an easy crowd-pleaser that garners the biggest laughs in the bunch. The clever screenplay and comedic beats are well-executed. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this. 4/5

Directed and co-written by Julius Renomeron Jr., ‘Heist School’ stars Jemuel Cedrick Satumba, Bryan Bacalso, Ella Mae Libre, Son De Vera, Teri Lacayanga, Brylle Parzuelo and Kevin Ramos. 17 minutes. PG.

SA GABING TANGING LIWANAG AY PANINIWALA (Belief as the Light in Darkness) is another mystery horror that leaves you confused with its incoherent sequencing rather than investing at a solid character development that should bring out the profound horror underneath. 2/5

Directed and written by Francis Guillermo, ‘Sa Gabing Tanging Liwanag ay Paniniwala’ stars Soliman Cruz, Dylan Ray Talon, Sheryll Ceasico and Stefanoni Nunag. 15 minutes. PG.

DISCONNECTION NOTICE is a heartwarming mundane tale of brothers living under the same roof. It’s sensational cinematography really does help in fleshing out the disposition of its characters. 4.5/5

Directed and written by Glenn Lowell Averia, ‘Disconnection Notice’ stars Jude Matthew Servilla and John Vincent Servilla. 19 minutes. PG.

‘WAG MO ‘KONG KAUSAPIN (Please Stop Talking) feels deeply personal and haunting to begin with. It’s a unique and harrowing manifestation of depression and suppressed ghosts from past. 5/5

Directed and written by Josef Gacutan, ‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin’ stars Rener Concepcion, Junjun Quintana, Karen Romualdez and Vincent Pajara. 14 minutes. GA.

Stay tuned for the second part of our coverage!

WINNERS: Cinemalaya Film Festival 2019

The 15th edition of Cinemalaya: Philippine Independent Film Festival closed on Sunday, August 11, with the annual awards night held at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

The movie “John Denver Trending” won Best Picture for the full-length category this year. Its 14-year-old titular actor, Jansen Magpusao, won the Best Actor award for his first acting stint. Ruby Ruiz, on the other hand, won the Best Actress award for “Iska”—her first lead role.

Here is the full list of #Cinemalaya2019 winners:

Best Film (Full-Length): “John Denver Trending” by Arden Rod Condez
Best Film (Shorts): “Wag Mo Akong Kausapin” by Josef Dielle Gacutan
Best Director (Full-Length): Eduardo Roy Jr. for “F!*@bois”
Best Director (Shorts): Don Senoc for “Sa Among Agwat”

NETPAC Award (Full-Length): “John Denver Trending” by Arden Rod Condez
NETPAC Award (Shorts): “Disconnection Notice” by Glenn Lowell Averia
Special Mention Citation (Shorts): “Sa Among Agwat” by Don Senoc
Special Jury Award (Full-Length): “Edward” by Thop Nazareno
Special Jury Award (Shorts): “Tembong” by Shaira Advincula

Best Actress: Ruby Ruiz for “Iska”
Best Actor: Jansen Magpusao for “John Denver Trending”
Best Supporting Actress: Ella Cruz for “Edward”
Best Supporting Actor: Ricky Davao for “F!*@bois”

Best Screenplay (Full-Length): Mary Rose Colindres for “Iska”
Best Screenplay (Shorts): Gilb Baldoza for “Kontrolado ni Girly and Buhay Niya” 

‪Special Mention for Subject Matter:‬ “Hele ng Maharlika”‬ (Shorts)
Best Cinematography: “John Denver Trending” – Rommel Sales
Best Editing: “John Denver Trending” – Benjo Ferrer III
Best Original Musical Score: “John Denver Trending” – Len Calvo
Best Production Design: “Edward” – Alvin Francisco 
Best Sound Design: “Iska” – Immanuel Varona

Audience Choice (Full-Length): “Belle Douleur”
Audience Choice (Shorts): “Heist School”

This year’s Cinemalaya film festival is extended until August 15, Friday, at participating Ayala Malls Cinemas and Vista Cinemas nationwide.

WATCH: Cinemalaya 2019 teaser trailers

Cinemalaya 2019 has revealed the first teaser trailers for its competition films for this year’s Philippine Independent Film Festival.

The 15th edition of Cinemalaya will run on August 2 to 11 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and in select cinemas nationwide.

Watch the first six #Cinemalaya2019 teaser trailers here.


ANI: The Harvest

“Mithi, a newly orphaned boy moves to a farm to live with his estranged grandfather. When the old man falls ill, Mithi embarks on a quest with his malfunctioning robot search for magical grains that he believes will save his grandfather’s life.”

Directed by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro Del Rosario, “ANI: The Harvest” won the Best Film Pitch during the DGPI – FDCP Film Pitch in 2018 and is one of the top projects in the 2018 Southeast Asian Film Financing (SAFF) Forum in Singapore.


Belle Douleur

“Belle Douleur” tells the story of a woman’s journey of finding happiness in complete surrender and sacrifice.

Led by Mylene Dizon and Kit Thompson, this film is the first full-length feature of Joji Alonso, who tried her hand at directing after producing various films in the past.


Iska

“Iska, a loving but impoverished grandmother of an autistic child tragicomically loses everything and turns into someone society reckons her to be.”

ISKA is the first independent film of Theodore Boborol, and stars Ruby Ruiz, playing the titular role.


John Denver Trending

“This is the story of your neighbor. You shared that video of him brutally attacking a classmate. He went viral. Suddenly, his life changed. Based on true events, John Denver Trending is a reportage, a cautionary tale that bookmarks a period in our lives when we allow social media to reshape our mindset.”

Directed by Arden Rod Condez, John Denver Trending is the winner for Dulang Pampelikula category of the Filipino division at the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards. Catch this film on August 2 to 11 at CCP and select cinemas.


Malamaya

“A story of a pessimistic, uninspired middle-aged artist who finds spark with a millennial photographer who leads her on a path of creative and sexual reawakening.”

“Malamaya” is directed by Danica Sta. Lucia and Leilani Chavez. Chavez co-wrote the story with Liberty Trinidad, both are alumni of the Cinemalaya Institute 2016 Screenwriting class.


Pandanggo sa Hukay

“Amidst poverty and violence surrounding her, Elena, a young midwife and a single mother keeps a positive outlook in life. The film follows her story as she seeks to work abroad to better her family and prepares for her upcoming job interview.”

Starring Iza Calzado, “Pandanggo sa Hukay” is the first full-length feature of Shé Andes as a director.