I HAVE been watching Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival since it started in 2004, or 18 years ago, which is held annually at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and various cinemas.

  The  films, often called “indie films,”  embody Cinemalaya’s vision: “The creation of new cinematic works by Filipino filmmakers’ works that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity.”

  It also aims to invigorate Philippine filmmaking by developing a new breed of Filipino filmmakers.

After a two-year wait as a result of the series of COVID-19  lockdowns, Cinemalaya will finally again be a face-to-face event  with a full-length feature category. It will run from August 5 to 14 at the CCP.

With the theme “Breaking Through the Noise,” this year’s eleven competing full length films include Kaluskos; 12 Weeks;  Angkas;  Bakit Di Mo Sabihin?; Batsoy;  Blue Room; Bula sa Langit; Ginhawa; Kargo; Retirada; and The Baseball Player. The short film section has twelve competing entries.

The past winning films in the New Breed category included Pepot Artista  (2005); Tulad ng Dati  (2006); Tribu (2007); Jay (2008); Last Supper No. 3 (2009); Halaw (2010); Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (2011); Diablo  (2012); Transit (2013); and Bwaya (2014).

The winners in the Directors’ showcase included Donor (2010); Bisperas (2011); Posas (2012); Sana Dati (2013); and Kasal (2014).

The winners in the Main competition included Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016); Respeto (2017); Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon (2018); and  John Denver Trending (2019).

Eddie Garcia won Best Actor thrice for ICU Bed#7 (2005 ), Bwakaw (2012),  and  ML (2018), while Baron Geisler twice for Jay (2008)  and Donor (2010). 

Two actresses won the Best Actress awards twice:  Merylle Soriano for Room Boy (2005)  and Donor (2010); and   Ina Feleo for Endo ( 2007) and  Sanglaan (2009). 

Two persons won the Best Director award twice: Aureus Solito for Pisay (2007) and Busong (2011); while the late Eduardo Roy Jr  for Pamilya Ordinaryo (2011) and Fuccbois (2019). Roy died last February 21 due to pulmonary embolism.

Roy also directed Quick Change where transgender Mimi Juareza won as Best Actor  in the 2013 New Breed section.

In the Directors’ showcase, Vilma Santos won Best Actress in Ekstra (2013) while Nora Aunor won the following year for Hustisya (2014) while  there was no winner for Best Actor in 2013.

In 2012, the best actress award was given in the Director’s showcase to  an  ensemble, Judy Ann Santos, Iza Calzado, Agot Isidro, and Janice de Belen  of Mga Mumunting Lihim. The same happened in the New Breed category in 2007 when the cast of Tribu  grabbed the trophy for best actor award also as an ensemble.

The youngest winner of  best actor award was Noel Comia Jr. for Kiko Boksingero (2017)  when he was then 13 years old followed by 15-year old Jansen Magpusao  for John Denver Trending (2019).  

Only short films competed in 2015, 2020 and 2021.

Although it did not win the Best film award in 2005, “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” by Auraeus Solito became one of the icons of indie films.

  My passion in watching Cinemalaya films perhaps is an offshoot of my exposure to experimental films during my college years in the late ‘80s and ‘90s at the UP Diliman where I saw several highly sensitive and political films.

The  UP Film Center served as a venue to screen films free from censorship as some of them were even banned from commercial viewing.

Some of the films I saw included Lino Brocka’s “Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag” (1975) and “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim” (1985); Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala” (1982); Mike de Leon’s “Sister Stella L.” (1984); and Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Karnal” (1984) and whose daring works portrayed revolt, labor unionism, social ostracism, and class division. Even “pene” films that had grown more pornographic and taboo were also screened.

Decades before the word “indie films” became a trend, I had the opportunity to meet and see the works of alternative filmmakers.

Indie films are sometimes distinguishable by their content and style and the way in which the filmmakers’ personal artistic vision is realized.

Usually, but not always, indie films are made with considerably lower budgets than major studio films.

During my several conversations with 2022 National Artists awardee Ricky  Lee during Cinemalaya, his thoughts on the future of young movie makers  is essentially captured by his speech at a commencement exercise: “Magkaroon ka ng boses. Ng opinyon. Mundo mo ito. Di ka parang hanging nagdaan lang. Mag-iwan ka ng marka. Huwag kang matakot magkamali. Kahit mabigo ka, huwag kang mag-alala. Sa paulit-ulit na pagkabigo ay mas matututo ka. Para kang sinusulat na nobela na kailangang paulit-ulit na i-revise. Hanggang sa kuminang.”

 ( Peyups is the moniker of the University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)