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Festival Report: Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2019

Festival Report: Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2019


Welcome to the Unreel Cinemalaya 2019 Festival Report! It’s the one-page report where you’ll see Cinemalaya 2019 reviews and reactions of the Unreel Team to all the competition and exhibition films we see in this year’s Festival.

For film enthusiasts in the Philippines, the rainy season is also the mark of one thing – it’s finally festival season! Cinemalaya 2019 is greeted by strong rains and wind, but nothing will stop the Festival fans *cough Unreel cough* from braving the downpour to go all the way to CCP. Truth be told, it’s not like we have much choice because for this year, the screenings for the first five days of the Festival will be held solely at CCP theaters.

We have put up a Festival Guide where you can see the Cinemalaya 2019 schedule, ticket info, movie trailers, and more. As per our yearly tradition, we will also be having a Festival Report, where you can read our bite-sized reviews and reactions to the films we see in the Festival.

Enjoy watching!

OVERVIEW (Click to jump to the review):



Cinemalaya 2019 Reviews

Full Length Features


ANI (THE HARVEST) Review by Armand

Kim Zuniga and Sandro Del Rosario

There was no other response to “ANi: The Harvest” but yes.

The pitch, as I recall it, was a sci-fi adventure in the vein of what feels like a cross between “Midnight Special” and “Chappie” with some rural gentrification in the mix. The film, too, has been campaigned as the first of its kind, a full-fledged Filipino sci-fi picture that pursues great technical feats with such a meager budget. However, watching as it unravels now, it’s clear that the film has oversold some of its supposedly fine qualities.

The visual effects, if you can believe it, is the least of its problems. The CG modeling is laudable on its own but is an absolute eyesore when composited into the shot. If you force yourself not to blink, you won’t miss the motion capture suits that for some reason are visible in the movie’s final print. It’s all very frustrating. The filmmakers point out that “ANi: The Harvest” exists with only a skeletal VFX team behind it. The implication is that while the final output doesn’t look that great, it’s clear that we can digitally build new worlds in our movies if studios were willing to put more resources in.

As I’ve said, VFX isn’t its biggest issue. It’s the filmmaking itself, particularly the writing. The titular droid—a steampunk-ish “Medabots”-like mecha named Ani—oddly feels inconsequential to just about everything significant that happens. Talks of overturning the government, which is weirdly out of the picture here and swapped with a doting tech giant called Paros, bubble up, but ultimately nothing worthy of serious discussion ever seems to come through.

This movie needed more time—a whole lot of it—in the cutting room. So much of it can be mapped back to the pressures of being “the first” Filipino movie with such scale to its ambition. To me, the movie’s unique position makes it doubly important to deliver a far better movie than what is presented now.

cinemalaya 2019 Belle Douleur

BELLE DOULEUR (A Beautiful Pain) Review

Joji V. Alonso

*Pending Review”

cinemalaya 2019 Children-of-the-River-Poster

ANNAK TI KARAYAN (Children Of The River) Review

Maricel Cariaga

*Pending Review”

cinemalaya 2019 Edward


Thop Nazareno

*Pending Review”

F#*@BOIS (FUCCBOIS) Review by Geoff

Eduardo Roy, Jr.

If you’ve seen Eduardo Roy Jr.’s earlier Cinemalaya films, “Quick Change” (2013) and “Pamilya Ordinaryo” (2016), you’d know that his 2019 Cinemalaya entry “F#*@BOIS” (previously “Fuccbois”) is right up his alley. I’ve seen all three films, and their notable quality is that they all share the stories of the poor and marginalized, and the consequences of society’s judgement that they deserve less. Through his films, Eduardo Roy Jr. reminds us that the socially excluded members of our society are not just statistics, nor incidental facts that you encounter in your daily commute. They are people living real, human struggles.

If I’m not mistaken, “F#*@BOIS” is loosely based on real events. I remember hearing in the news a few years ago about a 44-year old barangay chairman killed by two internet-famous teenagers, allegedly because they were blackmailed with a sex video. In this film, we follow Ace and Mikoy, two bikini pageant contestants aspiring for a better life. They already have plans for their future, but their dreams are threatened by a video sent by Ace’ previous lover.

The film gradually but effectively changes its tone from erotic and amusing, to downright horrifying and tragic. It’s as if Roy slowly pulls us into Ace and Mikoy’s world – starting with society’s objectified perception of them (effectively shown through a Facebook Live sequence), until we are fully drawn into their lives, seeing the world through their perspective.

Admittedly among the three films I mentioned, “F#*@BOIS” is the one that affected me the least, probably because it’s easy to see where the story is headed. The message though, is no less valid.

cinemalaya 2019 ISKA

ISKA Review by Armand

Theodore Boborol

It’s clear to me how ardently I disagree with what Theodore Boborol’s “Iska” ultimately tries to say. I’m no betting man but the scene towards the end will doubtless leave an indelible mark, for better or for worse. No scene in this year’s lineup—except, perhaps, the end of “John Denver Trending”—has craned its neck out of the screen to provoke out of this writer so much fury.

The difference, however, is that I don’t stand with the movie or any of its characters’ plights. I roll out of the cinema with an insufferable mound of frustration weighing down my brain that my eyes voluntarily roll up to the hollow insides of my skull.

That scene is the culminating moment for the titular photocopy assistant (played by Ruby Ruiz, in a career-best performance). She begs to keep her job—the money, she explains, is to help care for her neurodivergent grandson—surrounded by people whose moniker and self-righteousness she shares, but not, according to the movie, the actual will to fight the battles they parade for.

When literally faced with injustice, the best that activism offers is a concert of chants with nothing but empty fervor. This presumption doesn’t sit well with me. It feels as icky as that absolutely unnecessary rape scene that unraveled early on in the movie.