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Cinemalaya thrives despite controversies rocking the local film industry

The 2017 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival opened as it did the year before – with a press conference at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Sharon Cuneta ‘Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha’

There was something different in the air that day, however, and this was recognized by Laurice Guillen, multi-awarded actress-filmmaker and president of the Cinemalaya Foundation, as “excitement” relating to the indie film industry’s continued boom.

“The environment for independent filmmaking has never been more open than it is now,” she said in a speech at the press conference. “New films are being made every day. New actors, cinematographers, editors, filmmakers, sound designers, and writers are bringing new blood into the industry. More audiences are being exposed to alternative films in more media platforms.”

13 years since its inception, Cinemalaya continues to be at the forefront of the indie film scene as exemplified by this year’s crop of full-length and short films, all of which follow the theme “See The Big Picture.”

There are nine finalists in the full-length film category this year: “Ang Guro Kong Hindi Marunong Magbasa” by Perry Escaño; “Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha” by Mes de Guzman and “Baconaua” by Joseph Laban made the cut, as did “Bagahe” by Zig Dulay; “Kiko Boksingero” by Thop Nazareno; “Nabubulok” by Sonny Calvento; “Requited” by Nerissa Picadizo; “Respeto” by Treb Monteras; and “Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig” by Iar Lionel Arondaing.

“Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha” has earned a lot of pre-festival buzz because it marks the indie film debut of Sharon Cuneta.

According to the Megastar, she had a wonderful experience working with Direk Mes and is looking to delve deeper into the indie film scene in the coming months.

“I would love to do many more indie movies in the future,” Sharon told reporters at the presscon. “If someone gives me a story that I feel is worth doing, that’s different, that I can’t do sa mainstream, yes, I will gladly do it. Sabi ko nga, basta maganda ang istorya, hindi problema ang talent fee. For this movie, wala akong talent fee. I co-produced it pa nga, eh. Ganu’n kasi ako. Basta naniniwala ako sa istorya, I will support it.”

Sharon says she really didn’t mind dipping into her own pockets for “Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha” because she got excited upon reading the script. Now that it’s finally finished, she’s excited for the public to see it in theaters.

“Gladly given ’yun. I’m not expecting anything in return. All I want is praise for my director’s work and for our work. I would like to receive an award for this movie, but I’m not expecting it. I have several awards already, so I’ve been assured that I’m good. I’m okay,” she joked.

(From left): ‘Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig’ director Iar Lionel Arondaing and ‘Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha’ director Mes de Guzman (

(From left): ‘Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig’ director Iar Lionel Arondaing and ‘Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha’ director Mes de Guzman

Another full-length film that had everyone talking at the conference was “Sa Gabing Nanahimik Ang Mga Kuliglig,” which its director describes as a social drama based on a true story.

“It’s about an altar boy who accidentally overhears a woman tell a priest in confession that she murdered someone,” he shared. “I was that altar boy. In my film, as in real life, the altar boy and the priest are torn between breaking the Seal of Confession – which forbids the clergy from disclosing what someone talks about in confession – and finding a way to deliver justice.”

The fact that Iar chose to use his story in his film shows how bold and innovative year’s full-length filmmakers are. Those who made the 12 short films in this year’s festival are cut from the same cloth.

Competing in the short film category are: “Aliens Ata” by Karl Barit; “Bawod” by TM Malones, “Fatima Marie Torres And The Invasion Of Space Shuttle Pinas 25” by Carlo Manatad; “Hilom” by P.R. Patindol; “Islabodan” by Juan Carlo Tarobal; “Juana And The Sacred Shores” by Antonne Santiago; “Lola Loleng” by Jean Cheryl Tagyamon; “Manong Ng Pa-Aling” by E. del Mundo; “Maria” by Jaime Habac Jr.; “Nakauwi Na” by Marvin Cabangunay and Jaynus Olaivar; “Nakaw” by Arvin Belarmino and Noel Escondo; and “Sorry For The Inconvenience” by Carl Chavez.

Laurice is proud of this year’s line up of films, as well as everything Cinemalaya has achieved and will achieve in the years to come.

“In this time of proliferation of independent films, of thought-provoking changes and controversies, Cinemalaya stays the course,” she said at the end of her speech. “We will keep discovering and nurturing the new breed of filmmakers through the festival’s competition n process.”

The Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival runs from Aug. 4 to 13.

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