MMFF New Wave 2015 lineup: The 5 finalists
It was during the 36th edition of the annual Metro Manila Film Festival that it introduced a sidebar that focused mainly on independently financed films.
This, perhaps in reaction to the acclaim that was being garnered by all the films that are being produced by film festivals like Cinemalaya and Cinema One.
Interestingly, the sidebar, even in its initial outing, has already resulted in intriguing gems such as Jerrold Tarog’s Senior Year, a delightful but realistic look at high school students struggling to grow up amidst academic pressures. The independent film showcase was officially named New Wave the following year during the 37th edition of the film festival.
Now on its fifth year, the independent film showcase of the MMFF has delivered excellent works from up and coming filmmakers that display diversity in genre and form. Tyrone Acierto’s Grave Bandits is a hilarious take at low-budgeted horror. Armando Lao’s Dukit brilliantly weaves stories that have been inspired by a real life master carver. Jason Paul Laxamana’s Magkakabaung is a poignant tale of a father’s love for his daughter.
What differentiates MMFF’s efforts in showcasing independent features is that it encourages the production of films outside the very stringent timelines provided by film festivals that fund their own content.
In a way, it still sort of works because it fosters a form of awareness, even if the festival overtly treats the films differently from the main lineup by giving them limited venues and playdates that prevent the films from truly making the most of their potential.
The 5 Finalists of the MMFF New Wave Section are (synopsis courtesy of MMFF):
Ari: My Life with a King
Director: Carlo Encisco Catu
Synopsis: “25 years after a volcanic eruption devastated their province and nearly wiped out their cultural heritage, young Kapampangans find themselves unable and unwilling to speak their own language. One boy, Jaypee ventures into the ash-covered countryside where he encounters the guardian of their vanishing language, Conrado Guinto, the crowned king of Kapampangan poets.”
Why we're excited to see it: Pampanga has already produced several acclaimed independent films. Carlo Encisco Catu’s film centers on a poet whose works are integral to the pride of the province’s artists. Ari: My Life with a King has already been screened in various international film festivals and has been well-received by foreign audiences. This simply means that although its topic seems to be specific to the province which it showcases, its themes are universal.
Director: Arlyn dela Cruz
Why we're excited to see it: “It was an ordinary day in the frontlines of conflict areas in Muslim Mindanao. Lt. Arlan Salcedo, Platoon commander of one of the battalions in the Phil. Marines was looking forward to spending a few days of rest and recreation with his family in time for the birthday of his only daughter. But one seemingly innocent mission in the field would change all the plans not just abruptly but permanently.
"In broad daylight, an armed group led by Hamda Marawan ambushed Salcedo’s platoon and wiped out almost everyone. And the officers and the men who were left behind find themselves in the frontlines once again, faced with another battle. Mandirigma is a story of love, family and quest for peace in the midst of an internal war that has claimed the lives of many.”
Why you should get excited: Arlyn dela Cruz, a broadcast journalist, is the lone female director in the group. Intriguingly, her film seems to be the most action-packed since it focuses on the war in Mindanao. It would be interesting to see how she would be able to portray the military, given that it has often been depicted as male-dominated. Moreover, the topic of her film is timely considering that the country has just experienced the pains and aches of its hardworking peacekeepers during the Mamasapano incident.
Director: King Palisoc
Synopsis: “In Metro Manila, 2 brothers use the chaos of the city roads as a smokescreen for their shady occupation – tandem robbers on motorbike. But when a robbery goes sour, the brothers are forced to graduate from low-level thieves to high profile hitmen in an act that tests both their resolve and their relationship.”
Why we're excited to see it: King Palisoc’s entry in Bang Bang Alley (2014), a triptych of tales about the culture of violence in the Philippines, is quite amazing. It showcases a filmmaker who has waited for years to hone his craft before plunging into a project that deserves more than just blunt eagerness.
Tandem seems to be the type of film that would benefit from such maturity. Its curious blending of social realism, action, and drama requires the scrutiny and attention to details that Palisoc has already previously displayed.
Moreover, JM de Guzman, who was able to charm audiences as the comely prince charming in Antoinette Jadaone’s That Thing Called Tadhana (2014), is playing a low-life criminal here. It would be interesting to see if he can pull off the feat of completely transforming himself without losing any of the charisma.
Director: John Paul Su
Synopsis: “Antonio 'Toto' Estares comes from Tacloban, Philippines, a place ravaged by Typhoon Yolanda. His mother has cancer. He works at a hotel in Manila and tries every which way to get to the US so he can support his family – which he’s been doing since his father died and left them penniless. His father had made it to Las Vegas to become a stage act and promised to petition his family, but he ended up as a restaurant staffer who drank and gambled away everything. The only thing Toto inherited from his father is the obsession of the dream, which he has forged into his own, and is intent on fulfilling it, because it was also once his mother’s hope.”
Why we're excited to see it: There have already been a number of films that tackle the Filipino’s obsession with America. However, John Paul Su’s take on the American dream seems to be one that should strike closest to the typical Filipino’s heart because it centers on the very first step of realizing that dream, which is the acquisition of the simple United States visa.
Hopefully, Su would be able to make something out of the intriguing premise. There is more to the Filipino obsession about the American Dream than just the typical drama that has already been explored so many times before
Director: Ray An Dulay
Synopsis: “Maryo tries to support his family through whatever means he can think of. His son Nilo tries to help him in his own little way. Knowing the limitations of his father, Nilo tried to teach his father how to read, write and count in order for his father not be ridiculed by people, knowing that only proper education can save them from poverty.”
Why we're excited to see it: Based on its synopsis, Ray An Dulay’s Turo Turo feels like a film that bluntly advocates the virtue of education. Most advocacy films lack the sophistication of being anything other than a work whose sole purpose is to relay a relevant message. But hopefully, Turo Turo has something else to offer than lessons that are already obvious in the first place.
What will you be seeing this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below.
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios