MOVIE REVIEWS: Cinema One Originals Festival 2018 (Part 2)

Here’s the second part of our festival report on Cinema One Originals 2018, in which we cover A Short History of a Few Bad Things, Asuang, Bagyong Bheverlynn, and HospicioThe 14th edition of Cinema One Originals Film Festival runs from October 12 to 21, 2018 in select cinemas in Metro Manila.

READ MORE: Part 1 of our festival report

READ MORE: Guide to Cinema One Originals Festival 2018


A SHORT HISTORY OF A FEW BAD THINGS

Victor Neri in ‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: In the southern Philippine city of Cebu, a troubled detective struggles to solve a series of grisly killings, while a deep conspiracy works to keep the truth just out of his reach.

Review: Keith Deligero’s A Short History of a Few Bad Things is a full-length feature inspired by his wildly ambiguous short film Babylon which was released in Cinemalaya earlier this year. It’s quite comforting to know that the director has opted for a more straightforward approach this time yet that does not guarantee that this plot-driven mystery can sometimes feel a bit alienating. Frankly, I am not particularly invested in the case presented (a string of extrajudicial killings) because the opening act sets it up so perfunctorily with not much fright involved. Also, as a police procedural, this film lacks the sensitivity to let the audience remember the names of all the persons involved – that might have been partly due to casting unknown Bisayan actors.

Anyway, my fascination for Detective Tarongoy (Victor Neri) is what hooked me for most of the ride. He keeps looking at a video of young boy in his phone (presumably his son) and for some reason, his room is bathed in neon lights and he uses the same massage chair that his boss has in his office. Despite getting merely hints for a backstory, Neri shines in playing these types of strong-willed police cop characters.

There’s a seemingly naive sidekick played by Jay Gonzaga but the film does not really capitalize on its buddy comedy aspect. Most of the comic relief here is supplied by Publio Briones as an upfront, no-nonsense head cop who has a penchant for shifting languages (from English to Tagalog to Bisaya). The resulting Bisayan dry humor helps in bringing appeal to the film’s socio-commentary on erring police forces.

Deligero’s insubordinate artistic choices come out every now and then – the oddly-placed metal and hip hop songs, the rough editing and the occasionally annoying sound design that drowns out the conversations in play. Because of these, the film generally comes out as incoherent. To its credit, its flat out ending is quite unpredictable, leaving more emptiness than its intended shock. It doesn’t entirely hold up but I would like to see Deligero take a more refined jab at this subgenre again.

Directed by Keith Deligero, ‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things‘ stars Victor Neri, Jay Gonzaga, Publio Briones and Maricel Sombrio. Run time: 90 minutes.


ASUANG

Ash Ang (Alwyn Uytingco) and his camera crew in ‘Asuang.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: ASUANG, the God of Sins, was once a ruthless and fickle God of Bicol, but now he is a loner and a loser who has no place in the world that is overrun by sinful human beings. He resorted to social media to regain his former glory and fame but to no avail. On his track to retirement, he was approached by the Seers to help them stop Armageddon. Along with a group of sinful misfits, Asuang will go on a quest, against his nature, to help mankind… Or so he thinks he will.

Review: Presented as a found footage mockumentary, Asuang is a refreshing comedy that serves not only as a satirical take on Bicolano mythology but also on the social media generation. There are lots of humor to be mined from a misunderstood Bicolano god Asuang (or Ash Ang as he calls himself) mimicking the behavior of a typical millennial attention hog. Also present here are the more popular gods who can be regarded as the ‘influencers’ of this milieu. Ash, on the other hand, is stuck in perfecting his hidden talent of invisibility to achieve celebrity status once again – this is rather a subtle nod to his struggle of breaking through social invisibility.

It muddles midway but this film eventually completes a satisfying arc to Ash’s journey. In his quest for image rehabilitation, Ash must learn how to surrender his ego – there’s more to being a god/hero than shooting cooking videos and unboxing toddler toys, it’s now time to address human life-threatening concerns. But if you can save the world with a filming crew to document your journey and thereby be an instant viral sensation, then why not right?

You know the film balances its humor and emotional weight when you feel attached to Ash by the end of it. It helps that the film utilizes its format by supplying plenty of his silly confessionals. Like most of us, he’s just trying to survive the inanities of everyday life. It’s not comedy gold, but this film greatly benefits from Uytingco’s incredibly charismatic performance. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this breath of fresh air.

Directed by Raynier Brizuela, ‘Asuang‘ stars Alwyn Uytingco, Chai Fonacier, Nats Sitoy, Jon Lucas and Paolo O’Hara. Run time: 90 minutes.


BAGYONG BHEVERLYNN

Edgar Allan Guzman and Rufa Mae Quinto in ‘Bagyong Bheverlynn.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: Three months matapos ang break-up ni Bheverlynn sa jowa niya of 4 years, magko-conjure ang hugot at kalungkutan niya ng isang superduper-uber-grab-angkas typhoon na matatalo lang niya through achieving genuine happiness. Ngayon, ang safety ng buong Pilipinas at santinakpan ay nakasalalay sa pagmo-move on ni Bheverlynn.

Review: Most of the jokes in Bagyong Bheverlynn are either painfully lame or occasionally offensive. Some are not even worthy to be aired in a local gag show. Maybe it has a subtext beneath its absurdity? Nope. There’s an explicit and noble intention to promote self-love but it’s something hard to digest considering this film begs not to be taken seriously.

Rufa Mae Quinto’s overacting schtick only works for the first ten minutes and after that, it overstays its welcome. That’s partly because the screenplay meanders so much on uneventful slapstick, instead of hashing a logical history with her ex-boyfriend (Edgar Allan Guzman) to give her more depth. The rest of the cast are painted as caricatures so the film runs the risk of making them look annoying. More often than not, they are. However, I actually find myself laughing more at Bheverlynn’s mother (Angelina Kanapi), above anyone else.

It’s hard to tell if the production team came up short at some parts or the spoofs are just as intended – there’s a green puppet playing the role of weathercaster Kuya Kim Atienza (a character points out that they can’t afford the actor’s talent fee) and Bheverlynn’s ‘storm alter ego’ (also played by Quinto) who’s supposed to be contained inside a mirror, can be seen moving outside the frame. The entire cast though seems like they’re having a blast doing this. Good for them.

Director Charliebebs Gohetia adds a dash of inventiveness in its semi-hilarious opening act, but for the rest of the film, it plays the self-awareness card too much, hoping that the audience will be charmed by its execution. But self-awareness is not a free pass to sloppiness. This film aims to be ‘so bad, it’s good’ but all it manages is to be ‘so bad, it’s so annoying.’ The only way it can entertain is by insulting one’s intelligence.

Directed by Charliebebs Gohetia, ‘Bagyong Bheverlynn‘ stars Rufa Mae Quinto, Edgar Allan Guzman, Barbie Capacio, Jude Servilla and Angelina Kanapi. Run time: 100 minutes.


HOSPICIO

Loisa Andallo in ‘Hospicio.’ Photo via Cinema One.

Synopsis: After Leslie gets entangled in a drug-related shootout that leaves her little sister in a coma, she is entered into a rehabilitation center. Inside, she realizes that the rehab facility is more than what it seems to be.

Review: Bobby Bonifacio Jr.’s Hospicio works as a stand-alone, backdoor sequel to the 2006 local horror film Numbalikdiwa. Luckily for me, I haven’t seen the latter so I didn’t see Hospicio’s twist coming from a mile away. That, however, is not what spoiled my viewing experience. As it turns out, this is another confused horror film that equates jump scares to real terror.

Whatever sinister vibe Hospicio laboriously sets up in its first half – much of it is owed to Anna Abad Santos’ portrayal of the headmistress, the film goes for an easy route instead. The sanctity of a slow-burn horror is ruined by the film’s dependence on its deafening sound design that induces more headaches than palpitations. It does not really linger on its creepy premise, squandering all the potential it has to be an instant cult classic.

I guess this film earns plus points for subtly injecting socio-commentaries on self righteousness, one-sided generational beliefs and some shades that it manages to throw against the current administration. However as the third act completely takes an unintentional comedic turn, this does not ultimately work as a disturbing horror flick, but rather a campy satire instead.

Directed by Bobby Bonifacio Jr., ‘Hospicio‘ stars Loisa Andalio, Mary Joy Apostol, Ana Abad Santos, MM Gigante, Aurora Yumul and Manny Castaneda. Run time: 94 minutes.

READ MORE: List of winners at the awards night of Cinema One Originals 2018

GUIDE: Cinema One Originals Festival 2018

The 14th annual Cinema One Originals Festival runs October 12-21 with the tagline “I Am Original.”

Venues

  • Trinoma in Quezon City
  • Glorietta in Makati
  • Gateway Cineplex in Araneta, Cubao
  • Powerplant Cinema in Rockwell, Makati
  • Powerplant Cinema in Santolan Town Plaza
  • SM Megamall in Mandaluyong
  • SM North EDSA in Quezon City
  • SM Sta. Mesa in Manila
  • SM Manila
  • UP Cine Adarna in U.P. Diliman, Quezon City
  • FDCP Cinematheque Manila
  • Cinema ’76 (San Juan and Anonas branches)
  • Black Maria Cinema in Mandaluyong
  • Cinema Centenario in Maginhawa St., Quezon City

Screening Schedules

Ticket Information

Ticket price is at P200 per screening in major and alternative cinemas.

Students get to avail of the discounted price of P150 when they personally present a valid ID when purchasing tickets.

Ticket price is at P150 per screening at SM Cine Lokal theaters. FDCP price is at P100 per screening.

Festival passes are exclusively available via ktx.abs-cbn.com.

Opening Film

  • ‘A Star is Born’ by Bradley Cooper

Cinema One Originals will open three days before the start of the festival proper with Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, ‘A Star is Born,’ starring Lady Gaga and himself.

The invitational advance screening of ‘A Star is Born’ is on October 9 at Gateway Cinema 5.

Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut A Star Is Born is a remake of a remake of a remake, and a remake of a film that’s beloved in each iteration. At some point, Cooper’s friend Eddie Vedder tried to discourage him from touching a classic. The second remake, in 1954, starring Judy Garland, turned the original film about a movie star on the rise and the man who discovers and falls in love with her into one of the most enduring musicals in Hollywood, transposing its Svengali narrative to the music business of the time, while the subsequent 1976 remake, with Barbra Streisand, re-purposed it against a rock and roll backdrop has become iconic. Cooper eventually ignored Vedder’s warnings and his remake, which stars himself as a down and out country singer who discovers and mentors and is eventually smitten by an unknown singer-songwriter, played by Lady Gaga, in what has been hailed as a breakout performance, premiered  at the Venice International Film festival, and has become one of the most unani

Films in Competition

Full-length feature films:
  • ‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things’ by Keith Deligero
  • ‘Asuang’ by Raynier Brizuela
  • ‘Bagyong Bheverlynn’ by Bebs Gohetia
  • ‘Double Twisting Double Back’ by Joseph Abello
  • ‘Hospicio’ by Bobby Bonifacio
  • ‘Mamu; and A Mother Too’ by Rod Singh
  • ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by Whammy Alcazaren
  • ‘Pang-MMK’ by John “Sweet” Lapus
  • ‘Paglisan’ by Carl Joseph Papa

(Trailers and other information are on a separate section below.)

Short films:

SET A:
WALL by Jazz Sol
KETCHUP by Denise Dar Juan
LAST ORDER by Joji Villanueva Alonso
PARA KAY JAMES by Steven Paul Evangelio
3021 by Edmund Mabanag Telmo
WALAY HUMAYAD SA TANGLAD by Neil Angelo Briones

SET B:
NANGUNGUPAHAN by Glenn Barit
PULANGUI by Bagane Fiola
WAG MO AKONG KAUSAPIN by Josef Gacutan
SA PAG-AGOS NG PANAHON by Annika Yañez
TO REMAIN IS TO HAVE BEEN LEFT by Pam Miras
ANG MGA TURO NG GABI by Christian Rae Villanueva
MANILA IS FULL OF MEN NAMED BOY by Andrew Stephen Lee

World Cinema

  • ‘Ash is Purest White’ by Jia Zhang-Ke (China)
  • ‘Girl’ by Lukas Dhont (Belgium)
  • ‘The Heiresses’ (Paraguay)
  • ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ by Desiree Akhavan (US/UK)
  • ‘The Poet and The Boy’ (South Korea)
  • ‘Whitney’ by Kevin Macdonald (US/UK)

Restored Classics

Cinema One Originals will premiere two restored classics through ABS-CBN Film Restoration:

  • ‘Minsa’y Isang Gamugamo’
  • ‘Omeng Satanasia’

Three more titles which are digitally restored and remastered will also be featured.

Partnership with Karton.ph

In the spirit of celebrating and upholding Filipino originality, Cinema One Originals will be supporting another kind of local outside of cinema through its partnership with the local e-commerce website, www.karton.ph. The wide and diverse range of authentic and handcrafted Filipino products in this website range from gourmet and artisanal food and beverages; to natural and organic wellness and beauty products; to books, home décor, paintings, accessories, bags and more. Some of these proudly Pinoy-made products will be on sale during the festival.

Feature Films in Competition

For its fourteenth year, Cinema One Originals gave out grants of P3,000,000 each to nine original narrative features, three to filmmakers who are making their first feature films.

‘A Short History of a Few Bad Things’ by Keith Deligero

In the southern Philippine city of Cebu, a troubled detective struggles to solve a series of grisly killings, while a deep conspiracy works to keep the truth just out of his reach.

Keith Deligero is making his third Cinema One Originals film this year, reinforcing his almost chameleon-like refusal to make the same film twice. Iskalawags was a bildungsroman set in a remote island community and Lily, which starred Shaina Magdayao, was a  full-on pulp-horror epic based on a Cebuano urban legend.  Much as it’s inspired, albeit tangentially, by his own short film Babylon, and is haunted by the Mobo massacre of 2010, A Short History of a Few Bad Things is a more straightforward genre exercise, what Deligero calls a “tropical noir”

A grizzled police detective, played by Victor Neri, becomes obsessed with solving a series of murders that nobody seems to want to get to the bottom of, and may be connected to him more than he thinks. Set again, much like his last two films, in and around his native Cebu, and inundated with the city’s temperaments and textures, A Short History Of a Few Bad Things  may well be Deligero’s  most genre-centric and certainly his most political work, a full-on hardboiled crime piece that he ultimately sums up as  “a kind of love letter to our city.”


‘Asuang’ by Raynier Brizuela

Rayn Brizuela is one of those three first-timers, and Asuang pretty much  defies easy pigeon-holing. Despite what the title may imply, this is not a horror film, but rather a found footage mockumentary about mythical deities trying to survive in a post-internet world on one hand, and on the other, a superhero inversion about the clash between myth and technology. “The real you, not the virtual you, is what’s important” Brizuela says, articulating the film’s thematic underpinnings, the way it questions notions of identity in a world where you can create and curate fake selves.

Alwyn Uytingo plays the eponymous character, the God of Sin from Bikolano mythology, who sets out on a quest to try and save the world and in the process save his brand, too, with a group of misfits played by Paolo O Hara and Chai Fonacier, among others.


‘Bagyong Bheverlynn’ by Bebs Gohetia

Taken one way, you can look at Bagyong Bheverlyn as no less than the comeback of Booba  herself,  Ruffa Mae Quinto as Bheverlyn, a recently heartbroken woman, who realizes the reason why the approaching supertyphoon has the same name as hers is that her misery is causing it and the only way to save the country from being wiped out when it makes landfall is for her to find. . . true happiness. Considering its outrageous premise, director Charliebebs Gohetia says that “while a big chunk of Bheverlynn is satirical but it’s also a journey of discovering her self-worth.”

Gohetia’s films, from The Thank You Girls to I Love You Thank You,  have always been laced with a sense of humor but Bagyong Bheverlyn, his first for Cinema One Originals, may well be his first outright comedy, albeit with qualifiers.  “Bheverlynn was an opportunity to reconstruct the typical form of the genre. It’s outrageous but it deals with very real struggles.”


‘Double Twisting Double Back’ by Joseph Abello

The film tells the story of a male Gymnast diagnosed with mental disorder.

“ I knew that I wanted the character to be a gymnast.” Joseph Abello is talking about the genesis of his second film, and his first for Cinema One Originals, Double Twisting Double Back.

“Gymnastics here in the Philippines is very underrated It’s a world that hasn’t been presented yet in local cinema.” Hot on the heels of his debut  What Home Feels Like, Double Twisting Double Back centers on two wildly divergent men, Badger and Wasi, played by Tony Labrusca and Joem Bascon, and the war they wage against each other. Badger just wants to be the best gymnast in the country. Wasi just wants to have as much sex as he can. Somewhere down the line, their wants get in each other’s way. Double Twisting Double Back is equal parts psychothriller, sex comedy and sports noir and every bit as strange and as funny and as sexy as that mash-up implies. It is also a film about addiction. “Each of us has some kind of addiction. No one is exempted.  We all have to face our demons.”


‘Hospicio’ by Bobby Bonifacio

After Leslie gets entangled in a drug-related shootout that leaves her little sister in a coma, she is entered into a rehabilitation center. Inside, she realizes that the rehab facility is more than what it seems to be.

Starring Loisa Andalio, Ana Abad Santos, MM Gigante, Elle Ramirez, Mary Joy Apostol, Kurt Kendrick, Manny Castañeda, Aurora Yumul, Francis Mata.

“Everyone has a little bit of crazy in them. But should we get well soon?” Bobby Bonifacio is talking about his second feature Hospicio, an indirect sequel to his 2006 debut Numbalikdiwa which, in the twelve years since, has gone down  as one of the most unsettling,  and in turn most exciting, horror films of that year.

By “everyone”, he means the residents of the eponymous facility, Hospicio Nueva Vida, which include an also-ran Diva, a loud and proud whore, a kleptomaniac, a wannabe teenage suicide, all seen through the eyes of its most recent resident, a drug addict and EJK survivor, who is forced to take residency in the mysterious and inevitably dangerous place after her younger sister takes a bullet meant for her. “As much as it’s a tale of horror, it is also a sarcastic and humorous parody about institutionalization, hypocrisy and self-righteousness.” Hospicio stars Loisa Andalio, Mary Joy Apostol and Ana Abad Santos.


‘Mamu; and A Mother Too’ by Rod Singh

“Womanhood has nothing to do with one’s voice, with one’s physical form. Motherhood is not defined by one’s assigned sex at birth, by one’s profession, by one’s capacity to give birth” In  many ways, this is what Rod Singh’s debut feature Mamu And A Mother Too  is ultimately saying.  He may well mean for you to take the funny/punny and rather clever riff on the title almost literally, given how his film is ostensibly about Mamu, a middle-aged transgender sex worker and how she is thrust into  life-changing circumstances when her transgender niece, Bona, is orphaned and she  finds herself becoming a surrogate mother to a young woman who is herself on the cusp of discovering her own sexuality. “Transitioning goes beyond the physical. Transitioning is a journey through the different aspects of life . Transitioning is a privilege.” Iyya Mina, Arron Villaflor and EJ Jallorina star.


‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by Whammy Alcazaren

Q is an over the hill spy who embarks on one last mission, to find the mysterious Shadow that may or may have taken his son and has infected his wife. Break Never Tear Us Apart down to a synopsis and no matter how straightforward you get, you still get a sense that it isn’t going to be predictable, the sense that it could very well be uncategorizable.  But unpredictable and uncategorizable both seem par for the course with Whammy Alcazaren whose debut feature Islands, also made for Cinema One Originals, somehow made sense of combining such disparate elements as two potential lovers fumbling at connection, Claymation dinosaurs, a stranded astronaut and Moonstar 88. Never Tear Us Apart itself, which Alcazaren describes  as his “portrait of a modern family.” has a woman who bathes herself in radio waves,  youth gangs and strange creatures haunting museums.

“Turn on the television set. Listen to the radio. Scroll through your feed on your phone. Like a post. Tag a friend. Tweet your opinion. Spread your legs wide and let the world bathe over you at the click of a button. We are who we present ourselves to be to the world as a crafted image.” Alcazaren elaborates on the thematic and philosophical underpinnings of his film.  It’s  both personal and reactionary as it joins the struggle of form in this current state of a social and media-related identity.”  Never Tear Us Apart stars Jasmine Curtis-Smith, Meryll Soriano and Ricky Davao star.


‘Paglisan’ by Carl Joseph Papa

Carl Joseph Papa, whose poignant monochromatic animation Manang Biring won Best Picture at the 11th Cinema One Originals, has obsessions he constantly returns to, the passage of time and the tolls it takes on our bodies, the rituals of disease and healing, his own family’s experience with the rot of mortality, and of course, the potentials of animation as a feature-length narrative platform for more adult material. Working with a broader palette this time, Papa returns to all his previous obsessions in Paglisan, inspired partly by his own grandmother’s experience with dementia, and with the added layer of also being a musical of sorts.

Papa comes to the material from two vantage points. “I wanted to understand the experience my grandparents had, shed light on dementia, on depression. At the same time, I also wanted to capture the power of music in film”  In Paglisan, Crisanto is a middle-aged movie star who is suddenly afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s and finds himself living in seclusion with  a wife, Dolores, whose own unhappiness has becoming a sort of affliction, too. Ian Veneracion and Eula Valdez play Crisanto and Dolores. “Animation should not be just a genre for kids, or fantasy. It can do everything a live action film can, and should.” Paglisan also stars Khalil Ramos and Junjun Quintana. 


‘Pang-MMK’ by John “Sweet” Lapus

The title might be enough of a clue but John Lapuz reiterates how his debut feature Pang MMK is “a dark comedy, a parody of the ABS CBN anthology” which follows a young man who, after finding out his estranged and philandering father, whom he hasn’t seen in twenty years, has suddenly died, must go to his funeral and get it over with. Of course, things aren’t going to be that simple. “This is an answered prayer. I was at my lowest when I wrote the script. Now I even get to direct it.”

The story is based on an actual story featured in the show twenty years ago, picking up where the episode left off and following the character through his next journey. “It’s a little dramatic, but big on funny too, because that’s the kind person I am.” says Lapuz. Neil Coleta, Nikki Valdez and Zeppi Boromeo star.