By Stephen J Pedroza 

The eighth installment of Cinemagis Digital Short Film Festival successfully concluded Saturday, January 23 with an awarding ceremony held at the SM City Event Center. “Lucid” by Cloyd Winstanley, “Sabali” by Christian Alan Toring, and “Hapi” by Kenneth Sabijon emerged as top victors from the roster of official entries.

Cinemagis and Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) director Hobart Savior said that this season’s harvest “explored exciting themes and the festival has kept its promise of improving year after year.”

“I have one message this year,” Savior said. “We will not stop in making [Cinemagis] more collective in terms of developing artists here in Mindanao and we will continue to sustain Cinemagis by providing trainings, workshops, and cultural and arts education. We hope that the community will support us by appreciating what we do. That is already enough for all of us.”

Cinemagis is a platform for young filmmakers in Northern Mindanao to pour out their passion, stories and filmmaking skills, and for cultivating the experience and growth of local film audiences.

An actual dream

This year’s festival shortlisted three professional entries, ten student films and five Pi-length entries, which were screened at Xavier University Little Theater and SM Cagayan de Oro Cinema 3 from January 20 to 23.

“Lucid” was hailed as the Best Short Film in the professional category. It garnered five other awards, namely, Best Art Direction for Joey Baldoza and Ken Romarate, Best Story, Best Editing, Best Actor for Paul James Pagalan and Best Director for Cloyd Winstanley.

“It was fulfilling as this was my 4th Cinemagis entry and I became quite frustrated garnering only 3rd and 2nd places in the past years. But that didn’t stop me from making more films. I jokingly told my cast and crew that I did a ‘Pia Wurtzbach,’” Winstanley said in an online interview.

Leading the nominations earlier, “Lucid” follows the story of Phillip, who struggles to determine whether he is in the real world or in a dream while reconciling his differences with Jamailah, a half-Maranao with whom he has had an affair.

“’Lucid’ was actually my own dream. I was bothered by it that when I woke up at dawn at the sound of a gunshot (just like in the film), I decided to record the dream in my laptop. After six months, I decided to write it as a screenplay and developed the story by adding some fictitious elements,” Winstanley shared.

“Jamailah is based on a real person — a Maranao friend. Physically, she really is like that; she wears short shorts and is very sexy and she speaks her mind. So I looked for a ‘clone’ and I found Kor Garces and I’m really happy that she gave the character justice,” he added.

“The Barrel” by Orpheus Nery received the 2nd Best Short Film award, along with Best Cinematography for Dio Rama, Best Sound Scoring for John Uy and Best Actress for Jocell Sedigo. This was the second film Nery directed, following his Cinemagis entry last year, “En Pace.”

The 3rd Best Short Film went to “Ang Mga Bulaclac ng Abuquerque” (The Flowers of Abuquerque) by Iligan City-based professor and Palanca awardee German Gervacio. His film also won the Best Trailer award. Set during the Spanish colonial period, AMBA depicts the story of a family traversing through life’s nuances and the revolution towards independence.

Film language from young filmmakers

“Sabali” (Patience) by Christian Alan E Toring from Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) was awarded the Best Student Short Film and won Best Art Direction for Jacques Saladaga, Robert Omandan and Raven dela Cruz.

“Sabali” follows the journey of an ordinary highlander who makes coin banks out of bamboo poles.

“This story was based on and inspired by the true story of a man from Iligan City. I’ve known him since my elementary years because I was able to buy a lugi-an (coin bank) from him,” Toring recounted. “I met him again in college and, with my team, we had the chance to ask him about his personal life.”

He added, “We were really inspired by how he and his family view life.”

It was a back-to-back win for Toring in the student category, who also won last year for “Sangil” (Blame).

“Tabanog” (Kite) by XU Civil Engineering student Kirby James Jagape landed 2nd Best Student Short Film. For transcending an “emotional aftertaste” to the audience, Jagape’s film also won the Best Story for Aileen S Llesis. “Tabanog” turned the nuances of an unforgettable event into an evocative experience of fatherly love.

“Senyas,” which gathered the highest number of nominations, won the third spot in the student set, along with awards for Best Actor for Edmund Telmo and Best Actress for Jean Obsiana as “Senda,” who was paralyzed during her struggle to survive Typhoon Sendong. Sabijon, who is also a theater actor of The Xavier Stage, got the Cinemagis 2016 Best Director Award.

“The Mist of Mind” by Harold Villegas, a Development Communication student at XU, reaped the awards for Best Editing and Best Sound Scoring. Depicting illegal drug-induced hallucinations, Villegas made this film after he and his friends got into a drug driving accident.

A crowd-favorite for its catchy and touching lines on love and fate, “Almost” by XU Business Administration student Jan Michael Sy won the SM Choice Award and the Audience Choice Award. Sy’s film shows how keeping our emotions to ourselves results to bitter-sweet consequences.

Portraying how the Internet’s advantages and drawbacks shape the present generation, Liceo de Cagayan University student Lucky Dela Rosa’s “Alarm Clock” got the Best Poster Award.

The Male and Female Stars of the Night award went to PJ Pagalan, the protagonist of “Lucid” and Heintze Crile Malack, director of “Katapusan” (Ending), respectively.

The top winners will be featured at the national Cinema Rehiyon 8, the film harvest dubbed as “a detour from the Manila-centric movies,” to be held in Naga City later this year.

The Cinemagis festival also introduced a new category this year, the Pi Short Films, for entries that are a maximum of 3 minutes and 14 seconds long. Among the five entries, “Hapi,” a film also by Kenneth Sabijon won the Best Pi Video Award.

The main challenge for the filmmakers in this new category 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.”

Special citations were also given to the featured film “Ang Nerseri” by Vic Acedillo, the short films of Joe Bacus (“End of War, “Happy Fiesta” and “Ika-III Putahi”), and “Soulmates” by Clark Cabantan, who received the Breakthrough Filmmaker of the Year Award.

Learning must not stop

More than the giving of awards, the festival aims to promote local talents, voices and culture. To this end, the Cinemagis jurors shared some insights on ways to improve cinematic language and aesthetics.

The panel of judges composed of Cinemalaya 2009 Best Screenplay Awardee and “Ang Nerseri” director Victor Acedillo of Camiguin; theater actor and director from Pagadian City Felimon Blanco; and Davaoeño filmmaker, musician and production sound mixer Arbi Barbarona gave the filmmakers some words of wisdom to go by as they grow into their chosen careers.

“Pay attention to details. Everything in a scene must have its own purpose; it must be motivated,” Blanco said, adding that young filmmakers must be cautious with the use of language and subtexts to avoid “too many giveaways and stating the obvious.”

For Acedillo, what is important is for filmmakers to stay humble, “Don’t let these achievements get into your heads, continue to learn and explore. Humility is the key when you share your stories.”

Barbarona encouraged the filmmakers to “continue making films no matter what.” He added, “Tell the stories close to you, your neighbors, your community; don’t get too far.”

Despite the absence of formal film schools in Northern Mindanao, Cinemagis has served as an avenue to showcase the works of filmmakers from this part of the country.

With the purpose of being the springboard for budding artists to tackle a wide range of social issues in Mindanao using film as the medium, Cinemagis has curated motion pictures that have already been screened and awarded in national and international independent film festivals. Its growth since 2009 is its own motivation to keep the momentum escalating.

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