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USD $1 ₱ 58.79 0.0000 June 21, 2024
June 20, 2024
3D Lotto 5PM
₱ 4,500.00
2D Lotto 5PM
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MOVIE REVIEW: A vibrant city is uncovered by the films in Set A of The Manila Film Festival

Don't miss Set A! Experience Manila's vibrant spirit through these captivating films. Screenings at Robinsons Manila and Robinson Magnolia until June 11.

Screening at Robinsons Manila and Robinson Magnolia until June 11, The Manila Film Festival offers two sets of short films, which explores the theme “Manila in Me,” and each set is opened and closed by a young but established filmmaker and in-between are four short films by student filmmakers. The six films in each of the two sets create an interesting tapestry that speaks about the variety and range of stories that are found at the heart of Manila, the seat of our country’s history.

For Set A, the films are prefaced by Dwein Baltazar’s ‘Nananahan,’ a gorgeous meditation on longing and waiting. Shot in black and white, the film is practically a silent film with the most minimal dialogue, if there’s even any. What keeps it from being silent is the exquisite music by Emerzon Tecson and the incredible sound design by Narra studios. The film is shot entirely in a furniture store at the heart of downtown Manila. It’s old and it feels abandoned and the people that hang around here are just waiting while the sounds of the city erupt all around. 

It’s still and nothing happens yet a pervasive mood hangs upon the air and it tells the story of a city that is just waiting to be discovered all over again like the furniture in the store and the people that watch over it. Baltazar’s exquisite touch knows exactly how long to hold a scene and when to break it and when the finale comes and the realisation of what it is you’re really seeing hits you, it’s a magical moment that only film can truly capture.

Writer and director Vhan Marco Molacruz follows up after Dwein Baltazar with the road movie ‘Una’t Huling Sakay.’ While the story can be a little contrived, the pacing a little abrupt, what Molacruz does excellently is tell a vivid story about a life on hold. His main character (played by an arresting Gold Aceron) is a habal rider who had to stop his schooling to earn money for his pregnant girlfriend. Molacruz takes beautiful travel shots of Aceron on his bike while using the scenic backdrop of Manila as a means to symbolize the struggles and hopes and disappointment of his protagonist. 

Following that is ‘An Kuan’ by writer and director Joyce Ramos. ‘An Kuan’ is tonally exquisite. It’s an absolutely charming film that manages to hit the right comedic tones as it details the struggles of a non-Tagalog speaking mom who is looking for a job in Manila. The film makes use of its rough edges to add a layer of grit that grounds the relationship of the mother (Louielyn Jabien) and her lesbian daughter (Zar Donato) that makes it both endearing and funny. It never takes itself too seriously and by doing so manages to tackles some really interesting themes while taking some very lovely shots of Manila’s coastal areas.


Phi Palmos and Precious Paula Nicole shine with a very nuanced, very powerful performance in Ronnie Ramos’ ‘Happy (M)other’s Day!’. It’s a simple film about a young girl who is navigating the difficulty of finding which parent can come to her school’s Mother’s Day event when she has no mom but two dads. It’s a small, intimate film with a lot of heart and propelled by excellent performances that includes Palmos, Nicole, and Amber Jeshley Gomez, who delivers an excellently matured performance. Unfortunately, Ramos needs to tighten his editing, allowing moments to linger when it should be snappy and manages to downplay the urgency of the story. This would be a stronger film if it had a tighter edit and some more dynamic cinematography that really helps bring you closer into the story.

Finishing off the student films in set A is ‘Pinalakang Tabingi’ by John Pistol Carmen. A lovely little love letter to cinema, Carmen’s short is about two kids who get caught up in a pirated DVD raid in their hometown in the province. The film manages to highlight the issues about accessibility to films while showing the effect a film can have on its young audience. It’s best when it’s playing at the fantasy, with Carmen also doing a really cute interplay between a fictional fantasy movie and the way the kids reenact the scene from this movie. By the latter half, the film dips into a public service announcement tone that can kill the energy built by the film’s first act but it’s charming all throughout.

Rounding up the first set is JP Habac’s ‘Shortest Day Longest Night.’ The film feels very now, very trendy. It has a pulse that belongs to the hip kids and their love for deep conversations and art and pop culture. The film is about safe spaces and how even the safe spaces that are inhabited by the queer community can be violated by members of its own community. Adrian Lindayag and Vaughn Piczon are excellent at embodying two lost souls finding safety in each other’s brokenness. It’s pretty to look at but I’m not a fan of the very didactic and verbose way that Habac approaches this story. So many of the film’s story points are articulated rather than dramatized and I really, really feel that this film is better as a full-length. There’s a world here that should be mined and sifted through and Piczon and Lindayag are excellent vessels for a story like this to unfold. As a short, I felt the story was hemmed in too much by its time constraints and I feel like it would just bloom if it had a full-length feature running time.

Disclaimer: Please note that movie showtimes are subject to change without prior notice. We recommend checking the latest schedules before planning your visit.

My Rating:

The Manila Film Fest 2024 is happening now at Robinson’s Movieworld – Manila and Robinson’s Movieworld – Magnolia (Limited Screening) until June 11! Check showtimes and buy tickets here.

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