The Baseball Player, Blue Room are top winners at the 18th Cinemalaya

A FILM about young musicians who are arrested for drug possession and one about a young boy who trains tirelessly to become a baseball player in a time of war were the top winners at the 18th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, the awarding ceremony of which was held on Aug. 14 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Carlo Obispo’s The Baseball Player took home the Best Film award, along with three others: Best Screenplay, Best Actor for Tommy Alejandrino, and Best Editing.

The film follows a Moro child soldier who dreams of having a different life from that of his father who died fighting in a war. However, when the boy grows up, another all-out war against Moro rebels gets in the way of him finally pursuing his dream to become a baseball player.

“[The Baseball Player won Best Film] for its sheer poignance and great power, for its subtle but trenchant storytelling, and for its penetrating take on the Mindanao conflict,” the award citation read.

“I’d like to tell you (my fellow filmmakers) how admirable our work is, not because we are in a pandemic, but because we are brave to tell truthful stories and not only tell stories of individuals or families to protect their selfish and personal interests,” Mr. Obispo said in his speech. “Kailangan nating magkuwento ng mga totoo, makabuluhan, at makakapagbago ng ating pagtingin sa ating lipunan (We need to tell stories that are true, meaningful, and those that can improve our view of our society).”

“The fact that we know that kids are suffering amidst war, if you don’t have a venue and be unable to tell it, you’re [going to] go crazy. It’s important to have avenues like this to be able to tell stories that should be told,” Mr. Obispo told reporters backstage after the ceremony.   

“We want this to be shown to more festivals abroad,” Mr. Obispo said of his goal to have the film reach a wider audience.   

MOST AWARDSMeanwhile, Ma-an L. Asuncion-Dagñalan’s Blue Room received the most awards of the night — six — including Best Direction, Best Production Design, and Best Original Music Score.

The film follows sheltered teens who are members of an indie rock band. After a gig, they are arrested for drug possession and are hauled to a VIP detention area called the “blue room” where they can bribe their way out of prison. They find themselves caught up between using their privilege to release themselves or owning up to their mistakes.

“[Blue Room was awarded Best Direction] for effectively orchestrating the resources of cinema to evoke the hopes and dreams of Generation-Z,” the award citation read.

Blue Room also bagged awards for Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actor for Soliman Cruz, and Special Jury Prize.

SHORT FILMSFor the short feature film category, Zig Dulay’s Black Rainbow bagged the top prize — Best Short Film — along with Best Screenplay and the NETPAC Jury Prize.

The film follows a young Aeta boy who wants to become a lawyer in order to help his community save their ancestral land, but finds himself stymied by his family’s needs.

“[Black Rainbow won Best Short Film] for being a bright jewel of a short film, for being a cross-cultural masterpiece that touches the heart and reveals the universality of family, and community and the determination of children to pursue their bright young dreams,” the citation read.

Mr. Dulay, in his speech, thanked the Aeta community in Porac, Pampanga for sharing their stories and stressed that the impact of a film’s message matters over its length.

“I just want to tell stories,” Mr. Dulay said in English and Filipino. “In storytelling, it is not about how long or short, or how many films you have created, but how wide your audience is, how deep the mark of the film gives to the audience, including its relevance, meaning, and purpose, and the goal to give a voice to those seldom heard and give a platform to the marginalized especially to the indigenous community….”

This year’s jury members for the Network for the Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema (NETPAC) were cinema scholar Patrick F. Campos, director Ida Anita del Mundo, and film critic and historian Max Tessier.

The Cinemalaya main jury members were television and film director and production designer Jeffrey Jetturian; actor, singer, producer Piolo Pascual; President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the production house UXS Inc. (Unitel/StraightShooters) Maria Madonna Tarrayo; documentarist and producer Makiko Wakai; and director, writer, and producer Frederic Auburtin.

The film festival returned to the big screen this year after two years of being held online because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The festival showcased 23 films in competition this year, with 11 full-length features and 12 short feature films.

A FESTIVAL HOMECOMINGThis year’s film festival drew an audience of 25,000 to the CCP and its partner commercial cinemas during its 10-day run, earning a gross revenue of P4.5 million combined from ticket sales, sponsorships, and merchandise sales, Cinemalaya festival director Chris B. Millado said of the partial earnings.

“This is 50% less than the 2019 edition, but one has to remember that we also cut down our screenings in half due to the ongoing renovation of the CCP venues,” Mr. Millado said in his speech. “The average number of hours you spent in viewing Cinemalaya films reached a record breaking 20 hours which practically translates into at least seven days that you were with the Cinemalaya festival.

“We must gather strength from each other so we can continue to tell stories with a result that our stories must be better, must be more engaging, must be more elucidating than the lies and disinformation peddled by tyrants in their agents,” Mr. Millado said.

With the goal of bringing the film festival to other areas of the country, Mr. Millado also announced that Dapitan City in Zamboanga Del Norte will be hosting the Cinemalaya 2022 Winners Festival from Sept. 9 to 15. 

“We will also be hosting Film Appreciation Workshops, to be held in various campuses all over Zamboanga Del Norte,” Svetlana Jalosjos De Leon, President of the Dapitan Heritage and Arts Council, said in a speech. “Dapitan City is so excited to be the first to host Cinemalaya in northern Mindanao and we thank you for this opportunity.”

SUBSIDIES FOR NEXT YEARMeanwhile, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) will fund the production of new films for next year’s festival. FDCP Chairperson Tirso Cruz III announced that each film in the full-length and short feature category for next year’s Cinemalaya will be offered a subsidy. It was an idea agreed upon with his colleagues in the FDCP.

“I am very glad to announce that the FDCP is going to give P1 million each to the Class of 2023 to help in the production of their [full-length] films,” Mr. Cruz announced. “The FDCP will also be giving P100,000 each to the 10 short film finalists that will be chosen,” he continued.

“We were all in one accord to give this support to the 2023 finalists and hopefully we will be doing this every year already. And who knows? We might be able to make it bigger if we could get more funding to help our local Philippine producers, especially the new blood of directors and moviemakers,” Mr. Cruz told reporters backstage during the ceremony. 

He said that during his recent visit to the 2022 Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, that the international film scene is “looking toward the Philippines because of the past victories and recognitions that most of our movies and our directors have achieved for our industry.”

“Right now, the main thrust of the FDCP is to help our local producers… for global recognition,” Mr. Cruz added.

The competition films of the 18th Cinemalaya festival will continue to be shown until Aug. 16 at selected SM Cinemas (Megamall, Baguio, Clark, Dasmariñas, Legazpi) and Ayala Malls Cinemas (Glorietta, Trinoma, Manila Bay, Capitol Central Bacolod, and CDO Centrio). Ticket prices are P250, while ticket prices are P230 in Ayala Malls Cinemas outside the National Capital Region. The festival films will also be screened online via the CCP’s Vimeo account from Oct. 17 to 31. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

Full-length feature films 

• Best Film: The Baseball Player by Carlo Obispo

• Best Direction: Ma-an L. Asuncion-Dagñalan for Blue Room

• Best Actress: Max Eigenmann for 12 Weeks

• Best Actor: Tommy Alejandrino for The Baseball Player

• Best Supporting Actress: Ruby Ruiz for Ginhawa

• Best Supporting Actor: Soliman Cruz for Blue Room

• Best Screenplay: Carlo Obispo for The Baseball Player

• Best Cinematography: Niel Daza for Blue Room

• Best Production Design: Marxie Maolen Fadul for Blue Room

• Best Editing: Zig Dulay for The Baseball Player

• Best Original Music Score: Isha Abubakar for Retirada

• Best Sound: Pepe Manikan for Bula sa Langit

• NETPAC Jury Prize: 12 Weeks by Anna Isabelle Matutina

• Special Jury Prize: Blue Room by Ma-an L. Asuncion-Dagñalan

• Audience Choice Award: Kargo by TM Malones

Short Films 

• Best Short Film: Black Rainbow by Zig Dulay

• Best Direction: Gabriela Serrano for Dikit (Attached)

• Best Screenplay: Zig Dulay for Black Rainbow

• NETPAC Jury Prize: Black Rainbow by Zig Dulay

• Special Jury Prize: Dikit (Attached) by Gabriela Serrano• Audience Choice Award: Mga Handum Nga Nasulat sa Baras (The Dreams that are Written in the Sand) by Arlie Sweet Sumagaysay and Richard Jeroui Salvadico