Afterword and Reviews: QCinema 2016

The third year of the Quezon City International Film Festival, or the adorably dubbed "QCinema," concluded last week with the screenings of a variety of local independent films and selections of world films – including features from the US and the regions. Initially, much is expected from the foreign film programming following the outstanding precursor last year. It appeared so that financial constraints and relative competitions among other festivals may have prevented QCinema from showing some feature titles that are either award-winners or buzz-worthies. Festival Director Ed Lejano, a film scholar and a filmmaker in his own right, amiable and most accessible as he is, had to settle with strong competition entries and much anticipated premieres. The audience this year is considerably bigger and more enthusiastic – even filmmakers made themselves available in every screening and every party for support and sheer appearances. 

Circle Competition of 7 feature entries and 2 Philippine premieres marked some improvement in terms of production quality. No film appeared under-completed. 

We ranked and reviewed the films we saw based on our overall impressions:

9. Best. Partee. Ever. (Howard Yambao)
Beyond the facade of millennial vibe and the irreverence of youthful confusion, Yambao’s film would have benefitted largely from a well-researched material and translations from Honee Alipio’s screenplay – however, there are inconsistencies along the way that bogged the film down right through the distribution of characters and their stories that are not even representative of what they seemingly are. It was a wild rollercoaster ride where the final scream does feel empty at the end of the ride.

8. Hinulid (Kristian Cordero)
Cordero’s fixation with the native color and cult-like religion has now come to its maximum candor.  This time, he infuses them with more experiments and overblown artistic inputs. Cordero twisted some forms here and there while stretching the pacing and natural flow of the narrative. He pulled off a few successful strings, but unfortunately faltered at his most critical executions.

7.   Area (Louie Ignacio)
We’ve always found Louie Ignacio’s foray to independent filmmaking sincere and remarkable. However, in Area – there seems to be an uncompensated run-in with the chosen form. The narrative and its execution may have been too out of place for the demand of the material. It felt dated, and at some point – tiresome and offensive. Area, on the other hand, has a breathable space for the screenplay to raise its strong arms – it could be lyrical most of the time, but mostly succeeded in reintroducing the magic of melodrama even in the territories of found story.

6. Patay Na Si Hesus (Victor Villanueva)
We were told that the brand of comedy that this little road film from Cebu possesses can be very region-specific. Somehow we made our argument to fly in corners that its attempts lack rhythm and timing – that’s just a bit of what we demand, if we are to take the blow for our sheer ignorance. On the other hand, the dramatic moments of the film are well-earned and affecting – although for a road film, it still lacks the coverage and technical requirements. Overall, it’s enjoyable in its irreverence and stab on entertainment.

5. Ang Manananggal sa  Unit 23 B (Prime Cruz)
This self-announced rom-gore fare was the opposite of all the elements that made last year's Sleepless a resounding success. It felt like it was a special kind of broth initially prepared for perfection, but it was rather spoiled by some cooks. Except for Ryza Cenon's wonderful turn as the title character and the splendid cinematography, the film's dramatics failed to deliver.

4. Purgatoryo (Derick Cabrido)
Cabrido’s technical dexterity is still very much on display with his third feature project. The opening scene alone makes us want to give the film an early applause – his camera is positioned in such a way the audience would feel the discomfort of being embalmed “alive.” The film starts to falter, however, with the fewer amounts of stakes being assigned to the characters, or the lesser phenomenology attached to the narrative place – which gives the shocking cracks of its end too little to care about.

Our choices for the BEST FILM will be afforded equally to three remarkable films:

1.Baboy Halas (Bagane Fiola)
 In Bagane Fiola's masterful film BABOY HALAS (NETPAC Jury Prize), when one of the wives of the Lumad hotf started to make complains about the lack of food provisions from the daily hunting trips - that signaled the subtle yet powerful narrative that would painstakingly unfold.
Why in the forest world would food be lacking? The forest lands (including the wild animals) apparently are raped and depleted. The indigenous folks are deprived of the supposed abundance their ancestral lands provide. They resort to mysticism, to senseless tribal wars, and even they are not spared of hallucinations and PTSD. And now, you wonder why they had to go down and join the rallies on the flatlands to fight for and reclaim what inherently are theirs? And the final resort of the government forces was not at least to protect them - but rather elect unspeakable violence and entice clueless online debates.

1.Women of the Weeping River (Sheron Dayoc, BEST FILM)
Women of the Weeping River (Sheron Dayoc, ) ends the film about a warring Mindanaoan forest clans in an excruciatingly emotional stalemate, punctuating it further by revealing the much bigger picture: the endless horror of militarization and denudation. Behind the bloody display and highly charged emotional portraitures, the film fluidly flows out poetic and artistic emblems that made it more beautiful and remarkable.

1.Singing in Graveyards (Bradley Liew)
There aren’t too many films that remarkably present old-age, mortality, despair, and sardonic hopefulness in a beautiful and evenly lyrical pace. Liew’s camera is admiring and respectful of its subject. His artistic design is even more lovingly detailed and masterfully executed. We can go and on, and only superlatives will come out of our pens.

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