by Stephen J. Pedroza
Questioning the foundations of life and the meaning of its end. Promoting peace in Mindanao. Exposing a well-entrenched corruption. Struggling with reality and fantasy. Defying conventions and cultural prejudices.
These elements have converged, drawing together the captivating carte du jour of digital short films, in the eighth year of Cinemagis – Northern Mindanao’s Digital Short Film Festival under the banner of Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) of Xavier University.
XCCA director Hobart Savior is pleased with the steadfast development of filmmaking in Northern Mindanao through Cinemagis, which serves as a platform for emerging filmmakers to showcase their talents, skills and local stories.
“This is an exciting film festival because we have added a new category this year, the Pi-length Short Films (3 minutes and 14 seconds), and Cinemagis continues to grow in the number of participating filmmakers and its audience reach.”
Taking place on January 20-23 at the XU Little Theater and SM Cagayan de Oro Cinema 3, this festival presents three professional entries, ten student films, five Pi-length entries and a film feature “Ang Nerseri” (The Nursery) by Vic Acedillo of Camiguin.
Personal conflicts and national issues
In the professional category, the entries deal with our vulnerabilities to worldly temptations and our struggles to reconcile with our differences.
Set at the brink of an accounting firm’s financial and organizational collapse, “The Barrel” by Orpheus Nery chronicles a member of the elite class who takes advantage of the follies of economic inequalities until a national scandal exposes their fraudulent practices.
“Ang Mga Bulaclac ng Abuquerque” (The Flowers of Abuquerque) by Iligan City-based professor German Gervacio takes the audience to a family drama traversing through life’s nuances. This is Gervacio’s first foray into short films, being better known for his Palanca Awards, and poems and stories published in various journals.
Completing the list of films in the professional category is Cloyd Winstanley’s “Lucid,” about the story of Phillip who grapples between the realms of reality and fantasy.
“Phillip is struggling to determine whether he is in the real world or in a lucid dream while reconciling his differences with Jamailah, a half-Maranao with whom he has had an affair,” the movie synopsis reads.
Looking for life’s purpose to defy stereotypes
Student films this year offer appealing storylines from first-time and recurring filmmakers.
“Sabali” by Christian Alan Toring of Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) takes us along the journey of an ordinary man who makes coin banks out of bamboo poles. One day, he meets an accident that changes the course of his life. What that accident is is what audiences have to watch out for.
“Relentlessly traumatized,” the film “Silid” by Karyl Jill Gonzales, an accountancy student at XU, follows the story of a young woman who is terrified of an unidentified man lurking near her house.
Meanwhile, how Karlo will overcome his self-blame for the death of his younger brother ten years ago is the journey in “Hali” by Harold Jess Siason, a Mass Communication student at Liceo de Cagayan University.
Another Licean, Lucky Dela Rosa’s “Alarm Clock” portrays how the Internet’s advantages and drawbacks shape the present generation. “Because the phenomenon [of the Internet] is very alarming for our society today, we should be careful about using it,” he cautions.
“Tabanog” (Kite) by Kirby James Jagape sets about exploring “another level of stream of consciousness.” This is a film “made unique by turning language into an evocative and emotional experience of fatherly love,” explains Jagape, an XU Civil Engineering student.
“Almost” by XU Business Administration student Jan Michael Sy shows us how keeping our emotions to ourselves can turn into a “wasted opportunity.” “Aga likes Karen and vice versa, but because they keep this from each other, they struggle with their emotions and end up making decisions that are contrary to what they really feel,” Sy describes in the synopsis.
“Katapusan” (Ending) by Heintze Crile Malack from XU depicts a single-mom trying to provide her children with a “normal life” despite poverty and life in the midst of crossfire in a war-torn area in Mindanao.
“Here is Johnny, a ‘used-to-be’ good and nice kid of a once loving family. But one tragic event drags him to another path,” reads the excerpt of “The Mist of Mind” by Harold Villegas, a Development Communication student at XU.
“Senyas” by Kenneth M Sabijon tells the story of Kagay-anons ravaged by the wrath of TS Sendong in 2011. Aside from being an amateur film director, Business Administration student Sabijon is also a resident actor of The Xavier Stage.
Completing the roster of student films for the 8th installment of Cinemagis is “Casting Couch,” directed by The Xavier Film Society’s Gari Jamero and Rajesh Pandey. The story trails the experience of Max, an aspiring actor, as he is interviewed by a film crew for a “lucrative yet possibly controversial film project.”
With its provocative undertones, “Casting Couch” will only be shown at the XU Little Theater as part of the Cinemulat Films, including “Senyas.”
The Cinemagis festival introduces a new category this year, the Pi Short Films, for entries that are a maximum of 3 minutes and 14 seconds long.
The main challenge for the filmmakers was to create a Pi short film that exemplified an Ignatian value (ie magis, cura personalis or care for others, humility, conscience, pursuit of truth, among others) or related to Pope Francis’ encyclical, the “Laudato Si.”
From stories on misinterpretations and inspired by true events, this year’s five Pi films are “Sunset” by Jasmine Limas, “Flashback Door” by Mary Ann Warguez, “Sayaw” by Joma Corrales, “Hapi” by Kenneth Sabijon and “Kino” by Mac Kianro Naki Calo.
This year’s Cinemagis features “Ang Nerseri” by Vic Acedillo Jr, awarded Best Screenplay and one of the finalists for Best Film in the 2009 Cinemalaya Film Festival, an annual competition of independent films and cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers and aspirants.
According to its synopsis, the film “tells the story of Cocoy, a 12-year-old boy who is given the monumental task of taking care of his older siblings while his mother is away in a remote province seeking money to pay for the expensive hospital bills of her three mentally sick children. Cocoy’s struggle in managing his personal, school and home life is a nerve-racking challenge. In the end, he faces truth and life head-on as he fights for his own sanity.”
Aside from “Ang Nerseri,” Cinemagis 8 will feature the multi-awarded short films of Joe Bacus (“End of War,” “Happy Fiesta” and “Ika-III Putahi”) and Clark Cabantan’s “Soulmates” at XULT.
Festival for a cause
Admission to the screening venues only requires a combination of school supplies and canned goods or noodle packs, which will be donated to partner communities of XU NSTP and STREAMS Pathways to Higher Education.
In addition to the regular screening, the festival offers a free film analysis workshop for film enthusiasts on January 23 at the XULT and an interaction with the featured filmmaker.
The announcement of nominees will be held on January 20, and the winners from the student, pi and professional categories will be declared during the awards night on January 23 at SM City Event Center.
Cinemagis serves as a springboard for filmmakers from Region 10 to showcase their stories. Since its inception in 2009, a number of films have already gone on to national independent film festivals and even to the international stage.