By Angelo Lorenzo

This year’s Cinemagis Northern Mindanao Digital Film Festival comprises a diverse set of directors and crew that are based not just in Cagayan de Oro City but come from the reaches of Ozamis City, Iligan City, and even as far as Agusan del Norte.

Although organized by the Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA) – with funding and support from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) –  its participation from schools has rippled from Xavier University to Liceo de Cagayan University, Cagayan de Oro College, Lapasan National High School, and Saint Michael College of Caraga.

STORYTELLERS – Cinemagis 2019 filmmakers pose with Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts Director Hobart Savior (center, in blue shirt) during the orientation about the film festival last Saturday (January 12) at the XCCA’s Conference Room. The film festival celebrates a batch consisting of the most diverse set of directors and crew this year, with filmmakers coming from Ozamis City, Iligan City, and Agusan del Norte, and student filmmakers from Liceo de Cagayan University, Cagayan de Oro College, Lapasan National High School, and Saint Michael College of Caraga (apart from Xavier University).

But unifying this diversity is the common goal that Cinemagis pursues for 11 years now – to showcase the narratives of the region in the perspective of aspiring or established filmmakers.

Some of this year’s filmmakers did just that. In exclusive interviews, they shared what inspired them to accomplish short films that tell their stories, define their generation, and anchor their dreams.

Regional films with national relevance

Like many artists that attempt to send messages through their craft, filmmakers try to make sense of the country’s political and social climate. For Kenneth Sabijon, whose film, “Kasubo sa Kahidlan (Sorrows of Deep Longing)” has been selected in the senior category, films can represent the country’s realities.

“My inspiration in making the film is my desire to send a strong message to our national leadership, both political and religious,” Sabijon expressed. With a narrative that weighs the conflict between education and revolution, his film concerns about the socio-economic issues that the characters have to go through.

Ordeals may strengthen society, but it’s also relevant to find the root cause of social ills. This is what Caraga-based filmmaker Junlou Tordos opined. “In every war, there is always a collateral damage,” he said, pertaining to the current administration’s infamous War on Drugs.

As the director of “Tabyog”, Tordos claimed that he was inspired by OPM classic, “Tatsulok”, a song which Buklod released in 1991 and which eventually hit the charts with Bamboo’s rendition in the early 2000s. While he wrote the screenplay, Tordos shared that he kept listening to the song, with the lyrics as his inspiration.

Denoting the message of constant change is Orpheus Nery’s “-1st Draft” which he made by compiling scenes of a film project which he and his crew never finished three years ago.

But while the initial attempt to finish that certain film project did not come to fruition, Nery decided to complete it in a different angle – thus, the short film was made and submitted for the senior category, and with a unique message that resonates national relevance.

“Looking over the footages and hearing the news of extra-judicial killings, I had the impulse to piece them (recorded scenes) together,” Nery said. “I hope the film would reflect that our nation has been a work-in-progress.”

While these filmmakers use their films to send messages with the hope of improving the nation, others pursue their craft as an expression of creativity.

Creation and adaptation

Literature major Alessandro Kennz Nioda has turned his words into moving images when he and his friend adapted a short story he wrote back in December 2017 as a film. Now entitled, “Come Close”, the film explores internal struggle deeply felt by the main character.

“The crew and I had a story to tell,” Nioda shared. “We thought Cinemagis was the best way to tell this story.”

Nioda’s film isn’t the only entry in the student category that was based on a short story. La Salle University in Ozamiz City’s Jun Vincent Abao claims to have been inspired by Paz Marquez Benitez’s classic, “Dead Stars.”

“I [also] related this film from my past experience,” Abao who has directed “Bituin” after participating in the previous Cinemagis festivals as a cinematographer for some former entries, stated.

Adaptation was also utilized in Earl Hendrix Reyes’ “Passion of Cries” which takes inspiration from the powerful and iconic “The Passion of the Christ” but treads on a more personal approach.

Pointing out the the film is a metaphor for compulsive thinkers, he stressed: “Passion of Cries is a reverse parallel world of “The Passion of the Christ” where the savior saves in a peculiar way.

While creativity inspires an artist to generate original works or adapt new ones based on influential narratives, some experiment to try what’s new. This is what last year’s grand winner did for his film this year.

Science fiction, sex, and the supernatural

Edmund Telmo, the first participating director to have won best film in both the student and senior categories with his previous entries in the film festival, returns this year with a futuristic tale – among the rare occasions wherein the filmmaker attempts a different genre in Cinemagis.

His “3021”, with a spot in the senior category, was first shot during Cinema Rehiyon’s 24-hour Guerilla Filmathon. Taking only one day to capture, edit, and complete, the film was polished later on after garnering awards and receiving support from the NCCA.

“The film is actually an homage to my favorite sci-fi films,” Telmo said. With principal photography set in Nabunturan, the film tells of a post-apocalyptic world where the character struggles to survive and find his place.

“I hope my film will be a catalyst to other filmmakers to explore different approach, bold storytelling, and unconventional filmmaking to achieve our vision,” he added.

This unconventionality awakens awareness in Rodiell Veloso’s “Sore” which deals with a controversial subject matter. With a bold move to portray the causes and effects of sexually transmitted diseases and broken relationships, the film qualifies as a cautionary tale. But according to Veloso, it is also a way of discovery.

“It is an exploration of my mind and conscience where I tried to find out more about who I am by putting myself through the lens of the three characters in my film,” he remarked.

His stance on self-discovery, although used in film, does not differ from Rachel Ann Dolor’s “Mata”, in her directorial debut.

As the only female filmmaker whose film has been selected in the senior category this year, Dolor shared that her inspiration was not made of sweet dreams and wishful thinking, but that of nightmares and sleep paralysis.

“The film is a summary of a series of events where the character experiences frequent dream states,” she said. For what can be expected, she only has this to say: “There is a twist in the end.”

But not all films leave a shocking revelation. Some of this year’s entries have been made to be relatable and reflective.

Family and Connection

John Roel Cabana renders a poignant narrative about a mother struggling to earn for her family in “Repleksyon.”

“Repleksyon was inspired from the different stories of people I’ve personally encountered and witnessed on the news,” he said.

But if a mother’s love is the foundation of the story, Joie-Marie Patrizia Tan and Catherine Veluz’s “Einna” puts emphasis on a mother’s acceptance. This is also in the student category along with Cabana’s film.

“What our film is trying to say to its viewers is that regardless of your life’s trials and tribulations, your family’s love will always remain,” Veluz, who co-directed the film, stated.

The concept of love also exists between couples and is deeply felt when their relationship and dreams are put to the test.

This is what Tat Soriano depicted in “Pagsalop”, the final installment of his trilogy (which began with “Panamilit” in 2014 and “Good night”, his entry last year).

“I have always been fascinated with the heart’s resilience,” he said about his film in the senior category. “No matter how beaten, bruised, and broken it has become, it still manages to love again.”

For the filmmakers, their hearts beat with their passion for stories, and Cinemagis becomes part of the journey in their pursuits.

Film Festival in Northern Mindanao

This year’s film festival will take place from January 23 to 26 wherein the total 21 film entries (13 in the student category and eight in the senior category) will be screened at the Xavier University Little Theater and SM CDO City Cinema 1, along with full-length features and lectures provided by the experts of the craft.

With Cinemagis in the picture, the emergence of new filmmakers has become more evident throughout the years, providing an inclusive platform that unveils stories in the region through the lenses of passionate and innovative storytellers.


List of Entries

Student Category (13 short films)

  • “Repleksyon” directed by John Roel Cabana
  • “Anggulo” directed by Norriell Joyce Dalman
  • “Plastic Mirror” directed by Daniel Clark Cabantan
  • “Sore” directed by Rodiell Veloso
  • “Come Close” directed by Alessandro Kenns Nioda
  • “Passion of Cries” directed by Drix Reyes
  • “Handuraw” directed by Angielle Schainder
  • “Behind the Scene” directed by Chuckie Labio and Julmarie Dela Torre
  • “Bituin” directed by Jun Vincent Abao
  • “Phantasm” directed by Allan Jay Jamin
  • “Biyaheng Kariton” directed by Mary Claire Amora
  • “Einna” directed by Joie-Marie Patrizia Tan
  • “Para sa Paboritong Anak ni Papa” directed by Christian Alan Toring

Senior Category (8 short films)

  • “-1st Draft” directed by Orpheus Nery
  • “Parlor” directed by Adrian Rey Manapil
  • “3021” directed by Edmund Telmo
  • “Kasubo sa Kahidlaw” directed by Kenneth Sabijon
  • “Tabyog” directed by Junlou Tordos
  • “Pagsalop” directed by Tat Soriano
  • “Mata” directed by Rachel Ann Dolor
  • “Perya” directed by Angelo Miguel Dabbay

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