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USD $1 ₱ 58.79 -0.1240 June 21, 2024
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MOVIE REVIEW: A vibrant city is uncovered by the films in Set B of The Manila Film Festival

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

Ongoing at Robinsons Manila and Robinson Magnolia, The Manila Film Festival is a showcase of student short films side-by-side by the short films of young, established filmmakers all working around the theme “Manila in Me.” These 12 short films create a tapestry that highlights the dynamic energy of the city of Manila and is a promise of the kind of movies that we will be seeing in the future as these are the filmmakers of the future.

The films of Set B 

Set B opens with the short film ‘May at Nila’ by Sigrid Bernardo. This two-hander is heavily reliant on dialogue, and luckily for Bernardo, Elora Jaducana Espano and Veronica Reyes are up to par in being arresting throughout the film’s short run time. But it has a tendency to dawdle and extend. Bernardo’s ‘May at Nila’ explores the hiddenness of same sex relationships in the oppressive era of World War II. The two women discuss their past and present and try to reconcile their revolutionary activities with their own forbidden love. A lot of the film’s narrative potential is delivered in dialogue and this concept feels more suited to a full-length. It deserves breadth and for Bernardo to make use of her cinematic eye to truly situate the oppression of these women in the larger world rather than the tiny space of film’s singular location where the meat of the story happens. 

What follows is ‘threefor100,’ which is an irreverent film of different kinds of unusual love stories all set in an ukay-ukay. Written and directed by Cedrick Labadia, the film is gutsy and bold and has a wonderful concept, but it doesn’t quite gather all of its dispirited elements together to tell a whole cohesive story. There’s Nida (Thea Marabut), who works at the ukay-ukay but seems distracted. Dino (Jayson Alcazar) is in love with her as is the fish that can only speak through a radio but she’s in love with a mannequin. Her boss, Aling Chichay (Carla Zarcal) is always at her case, but she’s stuck in love with the ghost of her husband. It’s a crazy bag of stories that should paint a world of irreverent love but fails to justify these love stories or even highlight what is so wonderful about them. The concept is there but as individual pieces, they all have to comment on each other which Labadia isn’t able to accomplish just yet. It’s almost there but not there yet.

Neither does the ‘The Ballad of a Blind Man’ by Charlie Vitug quite land its story about a young woman who is oppressed and held back by her almost blind father. There’s a scripted feel to the way the narrative unfolds, including some rather sentimental cinematic choices that keeps ‘The Ballad of a Blind Man’ from elevating itself from its tired genre. The film is more keen on trying to establish its tone that it forgets to establish the emotional weight of the story: the oppression and the protagonists conflict with her relationship with her father. 

Adrian Renz Espino, the writer and director of ‘Ditas Pinamalas,’ on the other hand, goes way too far into whimsy that it never feels grounded enough to land its joke. Ditas (Gillian Vicencio) is an unlucky woman who finds her luck turning when she starts to wear the underwear of her late grandmother. Espino seems more focused towards his off-beat humor rather than making any real strong exploration about fortune and destiny. It could have been forgivable if it landed its jokes but there’s a self-consciousness in the delivery of the scenes that gives away the humor. It tries to hard that it doesn’t quite stick.


My favourite among all the student films, though, is ‘Bahay, Baboy, Bagyo’ by Miko Biong. A wonderful film that juxtaposes the innocence of youth versus the looming destruction of capitalism. It tells the story of Kulas and Gabo (played excellently by Don Rishmond Cerbito and Arkin Torres), who live on the outskirts of the city and their land is about to be taken and developed for gentrification. It’s taken from their perspective and how a simple children’s game can be a metaphor about the ways by which the systems of the world has taken from ordinary people. Biong, with Director of Photography Kinno Toogue do an amazing job at establishing this community. With editors Renjiro Bayani and Janelle Basalo, the camera not only shows us the world that needs to be preserved but the innocence that makes this world so ideal. It’s a simple film but with larger ramification just outside the screen, just outside what these kids are able to comprehend. It’s wonderfully directed and shows incredible restraint.

The Manila Film Festival 2024 Set B

Capping off Set B is Pepe Diokno’s ‘Lumang Tugtugin’ with screenplay by Guelan Varela-Luarca. This incredibly directed piece is about Angela (Therese Malvar), who returns home to take care of her grandmother (Lui Manansala) while dealing with her family’s past horrors that finds itself ingrained within the walls of the house. It’s a genre piece that bends style and form. It’s a psychological thriller but it is also a domestic drama. But Diokno, along with director of photography Tristan Salas and editor Ike Veneracion, create a dazzling tapestry using techniques of horror to help build the film’s growing tension until its reaches its climax that involves a terrific play of the mise-en-scene that made the whole audience (and myself) applaud with admiration. The film alludes to the past horrors of the house and manages to execute its revelation in such an amazing cinematic way that leaves you breathless. It’s a show stopping ending that reminds you that Pepe Diokno is one of the most exciting young directors working today.

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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