Jul 23, 2019

Heads up: For the first time ever, the annual indie film festival Cinemalaya will be showing across the country. At a recent press conference, festival director Chris Millado specified that outside of the usual locations, the movies will be screened at Cavite, Pampanga, Naga, Legazpi, Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao. It’ll also be shown at the different microcinemas across the Metro, as part of its theme “Kinse sa Sandaan: Cinemalaya Wave at the Microcinemas.”

It’s pretty big news considering that the festival being restricted to Metro Manila has always been prohibitive; movie fans from the provinces just didn’t have the same access to it as Manila locals. I’ve always been a huge cinema nerd, but since I grew up in Mindanao, I ended up identifying more with foreign films and old reruns of Filipino films on Cinema One. The Philippine indie movie scene was alien to me: Ang Nawawala never became a part of my formative experience.

As usual, ten full-length and ten short films by local filmmakers will be competing at the festival. Here’s a list of the entries:



Directed by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro del Rosario, Ani is the first-ever full-length sci fi entry in the history of the festival. Starring Zyren dela Cruz, Ricky Davao and Miguel Valdes, the movie follows a young boy from Bicol in the year 2050 who enlists the help of a “faulty warbot” to find “magic grains” that will cure his grandfather’s illness. Check out this interview with the production team behind Ani over at Scout.

Belle Douleur

Belle Douleur, directed by Joji Alonso, revolves around a May-December romance. Mylene Dizon plays a 40-year-old clinical psychologists who decides to shake things up after her parents pass away by renovating her house, and in the process meeting an antique collector played by Kit Thompson.

Annak Ti Karayan 

Annak Ti Karayan  (Children of the River) directed by Maricel Cabrera-Cariaga is a coming-of-age flick about four friends who regularly meet by a river, the common thread between them all being that they are estranged from their fathers. It stars Noel Comia Jr., Rich Asuncion, and Jay Manalo.


A boy turns a hospital into his playground and comes of age in this entry directed by Thop Nazareno. Starring Louise Abuel, Dido dela Paz and Ella Cruz, Edward follows the life of its titular character who finds himself stuck in the hospital to take care of his sick father.


Eduardo Roy Jr.’s Fuccbois is a gripping queer drama about two young men desperate to become famous movie stars. It stars Ricky Davao and first-time actors Royce Cabrera and Kokoy de Santos.


Aiming this question to all the privileged university kids out there: Have you ever wondered about the life that your school’s photocopier lady leads? That’s the direction that Iska by Theodore Boborol takes. Set entirely in the UP Diliman campus, the movie follows the life of a woman struggling to take care of her grandson with autism. It stars Ruby Ruiz, Pryle Gura, and Soliman Cruz.

John Denver Trending

Based on real-life narratives, John Denver Trending is about a young student whose life is upended when a video of him attacking his classmate (the video doesn’t show that the classmate accused him of stealing his iPad beforehand) suddenly becomes viral. Directed by Arden Rod Condez, it stars Meryll Soriano and child actor Jansen Magpusao.


Another movie about a May-December romance! Directed by Leilani Chavez and Danica Sta. Lucia, Malamaya shows Sunshine Cruz as an artist who has an artistic and sexual reawakening when she meets a young photographer played by Enzo Pineda.

Pandanggo sa Hukay

Pandanggo sa Hukay is a crime drama directed by Sheryl Rose Andes which follows a young midwife and single mother played by Iza Calzado who plans on becoming an OFW. Unfortunately, this is derailed (understatement of the year) when she gets kidnapped at work.


Xian Lim’s directorial debut is a psychological thriller because this man isn’t playing around. Starring Christopher Roxas, Ynna Asistio, and Benjie Felipe, Tabon shows multiple innocent people being accused of a murder and the psychological toll that has on them. Again, not playing around.

Short films

Disconnection Notice

Directed by Glenn Lowell Averia, Disconnection Notice is a comedic family drama about a man struggling with the responsibility of being an eldest sibling and taking care of his brother.

Kontrolado ni Girly ang Buhay N’ya

Kontrolado ni Girly ang Buhay N’ya is the short film with the dazzlingly good title by Gilb Baldoza that follows a queer teenager navigating their way through life. Yay for LGBTQA+ representation!

‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin

Directed by Josef DielleGacutan, ‘Wag Mo ‘Kong Kausapin is the only animated entry this year. It shows an elderly man struggling to reconnect with his estranged son.

The Shoemaker

Set in the shoe capital of the country, The Shoemaker by  Sheron Dayoc is about “an aging lady shoemaker [who] gets a visit from her first love who abandoned her for three decades.”


Gatilyo is a wartime short film by Harold Lance. The synopsis goes: “Pialda Rodel was the lone survivor of a failed operation by a group of soldiers led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Maguindanao. The soldiers were ambushed by the rebels, leaving only Rodel who hid behind the big trees surrounding the area of the ambush to survive. Although a survivor, Rodel faces the scar and trauma that the incident had left him.”

Hele ng Maharlika

Directed by Norvin de los Santos, Hele ng Maharlika is a psychological drama is about two young boys caught in the crossfire of an ongoing siege: a child soldier looking for a place to pray, and an “infidel” looking for sanctuary.

Heist School

Directed by Julius Renomeron Jr., Heist School is a comedy, well, heist flick about a “ragtag group of students” on a mission to steal from their school’s faculty rooms.

Sa Among Agwat

Sa Among Agwat by Don Senoc is a drama about a young pineapple farmer whose young brother is about to be adopted by their better-off aunt. In the interim time before he’s taken away, the two siblings try to make the most of their time left together.


Tembong, which translates to “connecting,” is a historical drama by Shaira Advincula. “In a culture where designs are dreamt about and to be woven only by women, a T’boli man is challenged to face a cultural norm as the abaca goddess shows him a pattern to weave in his dreams.”

Sa Gabing Tanging Liwanag ay Paniniwala

Sa Gabing Tanging Liwanag ay Paniniwala is a horror-fantasy film directed by Francis Amir Guillermo that revolves around the mysterious disappearances of a town’s citizen, leaving it to the town captain and his son to investigate.

Aside from these films, the festival will be honoring the cinema legends that passed away this year by screening selected films of actor Eddie Garcia, actress Armida Siguion-Reyna, and production designer Cesar Hernando. Other sections of the festival include the “Best of the Festivals,” which will show the recent best movies from other local film fests, as well as “Visions of Asia,” which will show award-winning movies produced by our Asian neighbors.


Featured photo courtesy of Wanderstruck Films

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