The winners of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2006:
Best Feature Film: Tulad ng Dati
Best Director: Ron Bryant (Rotonda)
Best Actor: Alchris Galura (Batad: Sa Paang Palay)
Best Actress: Angel Aquino (Donsol)
Out of the eight films in competition for the feature film award, I was able to (unfortunately) catch only four. One of those other four that I failed to watch was Tulad ng Dati, the film about local band The Dawn that ultimately won the top prize. I thought that Donsol would easily get the award, for it was a very well made film of high technical quality, and the principal cast (particularly lead actor Sid Lucero) was highly capable. Then again, I wasn't able to see all the entries.
Donsol is the type of local film that one would be proud to show to an international audience. Not only does it show how breathtakingly beautiful the Philippines really is despite all the bad rep; it is a strong love story that, while not exactly original, plays on the metaphors of the whale shark elegantly and allows the movie to be as much about the location as it is about the characters. Lucero is a natural and is able to show here how good an actor he is, Angel Aquino holds her own and strongly provides the central drama to the plot, and supporting actors Cherie Gil and Jacklyn Jose are, as always, flawless in their performances. I thought this film would run away with the major awards.
Sid Lucero would have easily deserved a victory, but so does Alchris Galura, lead actor of Batad: Sa Paang Palay. I am always very happy to see actors in the Philippines being so natural in their performances, because such is very rare nowadays (most local actors tend to overact). Galura is a very charismatic young actor who effortlessly makes you sympathize with his consuming obsession over having rubber shoes (he's an Ifugao). Set amidst the beautiful rice terraces and with great original tribal music, this is another very good film that should be shown outside the country.
The other two films that I watched, Mudraks and Rotonda, are, in my humble opinion, well meant but mediocre films. Rotonda is the typical Filipino indie: dark, ensemble-driven, and ultimately with a violent ending. I am no expert in directing, so I wouldn't say that Ron Bryant did not deserve to win over Adolfo Alix (Donsol), although that is my opinion. Case in point: Epi Quizon's performance in Rotonda is one of the most forced, unregulated, grating ones I've seen in a long time (that scene where he was shouting was PAINFUL). I'm certain that I would have appreciated Mudraks more had there been none of the terrible technical difficulties that were present during the screening that I caught, but taking that into consideration, I still could not say that anything in the film was remotely special, from the acting, to the story, to the technical details. I had expected it to be a stirring drama, but it did not elicit any strong feelings from me.
The Cinemalaya is a good showcase for what we're capable of despite low budgets, as long as there's commitment and originality. More power to such festivals!