Ria Limjap: Notes from Tanghalang Manuel Conde

SPOT.ph blogger Ria Limjap takes on alternative films at CCP's Independent Film and Video Competition while waiting for the 33rd Metro Manila Film Festival.

We are 15 days away from Christmas and therefore 15 days away from the   33rd Metro Manila Film Festival. The biggest names in Philippine mainstream movies are coming out with something: Sharon, Kris, Ruffa, Vic, Dolphy, (and Manny thrown in for good measure) are all in big budget productions all competing at the festival this year.

Truth be told, I'm really looking forward to Joel Lamangan's Mano Po 6–yet another Pinoy-style melodrama swathed in chinoiserie, Regal Films meets Amy Tan–because it's got Ate Shawee as a dragon lady type who extracts revenge upon those who have wronged her. Whee.

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But before I binge on all that mainstream fare, I turn my attention to the rawest of Philippine cinema out there: mainly student theses and other personal work from virtually unknown filmmakers at the CCP's Festival for Independent and Alternative Cinema. It's their 21st year, and they are still the longest running competition for alternative film and video in the country. Agustin "Hammy" Sotto, film historian, critic, and filmmaker, was CCP Film head and patterned the competition after an earlier permutation of the competition: the Independent Film and Video Competition of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines created by Ferdinand Marcos in 1982. Some of the early ECP Independent Film and Video awardees are Raymond Red, Nick Deocampo, and Roxlee.

The Gawad CCP Para Sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video has four categories: short feature, documentary, animation, and experimental. This week I saw some shorts and some animation.

A standout from the shorts: Trinka Lat's April Fools, a little gem of a movie about two friends (played by "real people": film editor and colorist Lia Martinez and writer Mihk Vergara) who visit the grave of their friend Caloy on his birthday. This beautifully shot and stylish film has a poignant undertone that most Filipino films miss–it's rare to find something that's sardonic and heartbreaking and young all the same time.

Another interesting short is Noriel Jarito's Ba't Man, essentially the weekend in a life of an OFW. The husband is an engineer working in a soulless factory job in China, while the wife is a domestic helper in Hong Kong. They have three children being raised by the grandmother in small-town Leyte. It's a story that millions of Filipinos share and Jarito's contemplation on the OFW struggle is a notable one.

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From the animation program, UP Film Institute's Café Sanctuario by Sue Aspiras and Greg Sabado stands out. High concept in story (two strangers meet in a restaurant on a train and have an existential discussion) as well as in aesthetic (a twist on Indonesian shadow puppetry), Café Sanctuario shows promise and sophistication from these young filmmakers.

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The CCP Independent Film and Video Competition is ongoing until December 11 at the Tanghalang Manuel Conde. Admission is free. For information call 832-1125.

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