Seven short films

Roundup
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:16:00 06/15/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Ongoing until June 17 at the Robinsons Galleria IndieSine are the screening of the following short films under the “Katorse Shorts” program:

“Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario” by Ogi Sugatan stars Yul Servo and Forsyth Cordero as gay lovers who experience the most joyful of mysteries.

“Ambulancia” by Richard Legaspi stars Alan Paule and Nor Domingo in a story about an ambulance driver’s belief that a dying patient can be saved by running over stray animals on the streets.

“Manyika” by John Wong stars Bor Ocampo and Sheenly Vee Gener in a tale of talking teddies, an impatient miss and a misunderstood lover.

“Puwang” by Anna Isabelle Matutina stars Elmo Redrico, Roence Santos, Bon Reyes and Lorena Landicho in a look into a family on the verge of falling apart in the face of impending death.

“Dead Letter” by Grace Orbon stars Gamaliel Nicolas and Edel del Llarte in a tale about a young man’s journey into the world of writing.

“Lababo” by Seymour Barros Sanchez stars Nerissa Icot, Virnie Tolentino and Stephen Patrick Moore in a story of two women who fall in love with the same soldier.

“Walong Linggo” by Anna Isabelle Matutina stars Jaymee Joaquin and Joey Santos in a story about a young man who sits alone in a cafe every Sunday morning and suddenly finds himself falling in love with a stranger.

Katorse Shorts special screening at the CCP Little Theater

1 July 2008 | 7:41 AM
Yehey.com

Due to insistent public demand, the Katorse Writers Group, a collective of young writer-filmmakers who were part of Ricky Lee’s 14th scriptwriting workshop, will be having another special screening of their short films at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Little Theater on July 17, 6:15 P.M. after a successful run last month at Robinsons Galleria.

Katorse Shorts, as they are more commonly known, showcase short films with themes ranging from the romantic to the absurd to the tragic – a program that is meant to bring to the consciousness of the Filipino audience the short film as a form that can hold its own.

Headlining the program, which is part of the fourth Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, is Richard Legaspi’s “Ambulancia” (Ambulance), grand prize winner of the Viva – Pinoy Box Office (PBO) Digitales 2 short film competition and the best short narrative at the first Quisumbing-Escandor Film Festival for Health. It was previously screened in competition at the fifth Naoussa International Film Festival in Greece this year and exhibited at the Asian Film Academy 2007 Fellows Night in South Korea and ninth Cinemanila International Film Festival last year. It will compete next at the 10th International Panorama of Film and Video in Patras City, Greece and at the 32nd Open Air Filmfest Weiterstadt in Germany and will be shown in the Informative Section of the Pyongyang International Film Festival in North Korea.

Showing again with Legaspi’s film are similar award-winning and internationally screened shorts such as Ogi Sugatan’s “Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario” (The Fate of Virgin Mario), Grace Orbon’s “Dead Letter,” Seymour Barros Sanchez’s “Lababo” (Kitchen Sink), John Wong’s “Manyika” (Doll), and Anna Isabelle Matutina’s “Walong Linggo” (Eight Sundays).

However, compared to its week-long Indie Sine screenings, the line-up will include two new selections from the group, Matutina’s “Ika-siyam na Palapag” (Ninth Floor) and Sanchez’s “Pagbugtaw” (Waking Up), which is part of “Guimaras: Short Films on the Oil Spill.”

“Ika-siyam na Palapag” tells the story of a young woman’s futile attempt to reach the father of his unborn child while she wrestles with the idea of abortion. It won third best short film at the 19th Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Bidyo and also competed at the Creteil International Women’s Film Festival in France and Malescorto International Short Film Festival in Italy. It was also exhibited at the Jakarta Slingshort Festival in Indonesia and 7th Cinemanila.

Matutina’s “Puwang” (Space Between), which was originally part of the Robinsons Galleria Indie Sine line-up, will be screened instead as part of the Cinemalaya 2006 Shorts B on July 18, 12:45 P.M. at the CCP Silangan Hall. In addition, other Katorse short films, namely “Blood Bank” by Pam Miras and “Panaginipan” (The Dreaming), also by Matutina, will be shown on July 16, 12:45 P.M. at the same venue as part of Cinemalaya 2005 Shorts.

Tickets to the screenings cost P50 to students and P100 otherwise. For more information about the short films and the filmmakers, please visit the group’s website at katorseshorts.wordpress.com.

Finally, A Dedicated Program of Shorts on the Big Screen

By: Rianne Hill Soriano | YEHEY! Contributors
1 July 2008 | 9:12 AM

A selection of 7 short films by the Katorse Writers Group (batch 14 workshoppers of Ricky Lee’s f scriptwriting workshops) graces Robinson’s Galleria’s Indie Sine with “Katorse Shorts,” a selection of 7 short films in a dedicated program normally given to full-length films only. With themes ranging from the romantic to the absurd to the tragic, the program is meant to bring to the consciousness of Filipino audiences that the short film medium is also a cinematic art form that can hold its own.

Overall, the films show strength in concept, story, and treatment amidst the many given limitations for such indie shorts having to cope up with financial and time constraints, lack of technical resources, among others.

The “Katorse Shorts” line-up include:

“Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario” (11 mins.)
By: Ogi Sugatan
Cast: Yul Servo, Forsyth Cordero
Gay lovers, Mario and Jose, experience the most joyful of mysteries.
6th SHORTMOVES International Film Festival, GERMANY
Jakarta Slingshortfest (2006)
International Short Film Festival Detmold “FilmLichter06”

The film is stylized with comic acts about a pregnant male. It puts allegories catering to the kind of audience who are into the more figurative offers. With a theatrical presentation in depths of black, its visual elements merely include the characters and the significant elements supporting the scenes’ requirements. Considering the many kinds of audiences, this short film absurdly renders fleeting emotions within its minimalist surroundings that some might find interesting, some might find wackily droll, and some might find weird.

“Ambulancia” (15 mins)
By: Richard Legaspi
Cast: Alan Paule, Nor Domingo
Ambulancia tells of a painful twist in an ambulance driver’s belief that a dying patient can be saved by running over stray animals on the streets.
In Competition, International Panorama of Film and Video, Patras City Greece 2008
In Competition, NOUSSA International Film Festival, Greece 2008
Winner, Quisumbing Escandor Film Festival, Best Short Narrative 2008
Winner, Grand Prize, Viva-PBO Digitales, Philippines 2008
Official Selection, Asian Film Academy Fellows Night Screening, S. Korea 2007
Official Selection, CineManila International Film Festival 2007

The film’s screenplay is its major strength. Overall, the performances give it justice. The dialogues coincide with the tight pacing. The cuts succeed in building tension to the scenes requiring such. Trying to drive with that careful balance of keeping the twist while letting the main character indulge with the right emotions, a little more depth to how the character delivers the goods for a more solid pain and empathy to his plight, and this film elevates itself further.

“Manyika” (15 mins.)
By: John Wong
Cast: Bor Ocampo, Sheenly Vee Gener
Manyika is a tale of talking teddies, an impatient miss, and a misunderstood lover.
Best Short Film, 2006 Cinemadali Short Film Competition

The film could have been as mushy and overbearing like its stuff toys; and yet, it turns out striking – mainly come climax time. Within its realistic treatment, there is a kind of mystery established in the characterization that makes the film work. The voiceovers could have been lessened a bit and things would just be fine. There are some dragging expositions that could probably be due to limitations in the production. Nevertheless, the film’s touching end creates such an emotional slice of life story.

“Puwang” (25 mins)
By: Anna Isabelle Matutina
Cast: Elmo Redrico, Roence Santos, Bon Reyes, Lorena Landicho
Puwang is a starkly real look into a family on the verge of falling apart in the face of impending death.
2007 Official Selection: Lyon Asian Film Festival, France
2006 Finalist: Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival
2006 Exhibition Film: Cinemanila International Film Festival

As a father-to-his children story and vice-versa, this melodrama about life and living life promotes simple shots while delivering lines with the right emotional baggage at work. Its minimalist production design and cinematography blend well with the story as it carefully stitches issues that has damaged family relationships.

“Dead Letter” (20 mins)
By: Grace Orbon
Cast: Gamaliel Nicolas, Edel del Llarte
A young man’s journey into the world of writing.
In Competition, 3rd Singapore Short Film Festival 2006

Poetic on its own, there is that consistent angst expressed through words uttered by the main character. However, the film still needs further direction in order to solidify its point and effectively bring the linear and abstract aspects of its storytelling requirements effectively into the medium.

“Lababo” (17 mins)
By: Seymour Barros Sanchez
Cast: Nerissa Icot, Virnie Tolentino, Stephen Patrick Moore
Lababo is the story of a young woman and a crazy woman who both fell in love with the same American soldier.
Grand Prize, Viva’s PBO Digitales Short Film Competition 2007
In competition, 48th Bilbao Film Festival in Spain 2006
In exhibition, Internal Affairs 1, Jakarta Slingshortfest 2006
In exhibition, 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival 2006
In competition, 8th International Panorama of Independent Film and Video in Greece

Consistent with its style, the film’s progressive tone is apparent the whole time. Its supposed lines are merely supported by the talking radio announcer serving what voiceovers would normally offer – while also working as good metaphors on how the Philippines tend to seek leftovers from America in various respects. The narrative could have benefited further by utilizing more of the thoughts and emotions of the woman character inside the house waiting for her man’s return. And such could have further enhanced the emotional plunge into the many issues the film presents.

“Walong Linggo” (18 mins)
By: Anna Isabelle Matutina
Cast: Jaymee Joaquin, Joey Santos
A young man who sits alone in a cafe every Sunday morning suddenly finds himself strangely falling in love with a girl he doesn’t know.

The film’s treatment seems to be paying homage to the silent era films where the visuals and music comprise the totality of the film’s technical and audio-visual aspects. It puts the unspoken information through texts like title cards in the opening or closing credits of films of today. And the musical score plays a significant role in establishing the mood for each theme and the emotional needs of its love story.

SAKSAKIN NIYO NA LANG AKO, PLEASE!

Review by Vingel Yago, June 19, 2008

KATORSE SHORTS is a project of The Katorse Writers’ Group, a group of young writer-filmmakers who were part of Ricky Lee’s 14th Scriptwriting Workshop (hence ‘Katorse’). I saw their ad on Philippine Star last Sunday and decided to go watch the series even if Robinson’s Galleria was so way out of my usual route. Thanks to BC for giving me a tip on how to get there from Manila (if you’re anywhere near the Metropolitan Theatre area, wait for a bus that goes to Taytay or Cainta).

I am a huge fan of short films. I always get DVDs of foreign shorts whenever I have the chance to come across some. Anyhoo, here’s the list of shorts featured. These came from their 4th-year anniversary DVD.

Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario by Ogi Sugatan
Ambulancia by Richard Legaspi
Manyika by John Wong
Puwang by Anna Isabelle Matutina
Dead Letter by Grace Orbon
Lababo by Seymour Barros-Sanchez
Walong Linggo by Anna Isabelle Matutina

Truth be told, the only film I didn’t enjoy was Lababo. Paciencia, pero I really have no patience for anything that has a leftist bent. Each to his own.

Ang Kapalaran started the series on a humorous mood. This is a take on the Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Concepcion (hence Virgin Mario). The story opened with two men on a bed; lovers, obviously, named Jose and Mario. One of them (Mario; Yul Servo) woke up one day to find himself pregnant. What followed next was too hilarious to even write about. The attempt to abort the child took the most part of the film: Jose (Ricky Orellana?) tried making sungkit the fetus using a wire hanger from all the possible body orifices but to no avail, until a man suddenly appeared in the room telling them to stop and announcing that the second coming was at hand. A joyful mystery indeed.

Ambulancia stars Alan Paule and Nor Domingo. Alan is an ambulance driver and Nor is a medic. The story takes a dig on the belief of ambulance drivers that animals get themselves run over by ambulances to save the dying patient being ferried to hospitals except that on this particular day, Alan didn’t run over a dog but his own daughter (who eventually died to “save” the life of a tetanus patient, a friend of Nor). Coincidences can indeed be chilling.

The story could use a little tightening. Parang hindi alam ng writer kung kelan niya tatapusin ang pelicula. Short films should have the ability to leave the audience jarred, shocked or somewhere in between (think Pam Miras’ Blood Bank or Raz de la Torre’s Labada or Jeanne Lim-Pepe Diokno’s No Passport Needed; may ooomph ang ending, gets?). Lingering shots can kill the emotional buildup and ends the film on a flat note. Nasasayang ang effort.

Set in Luneta, Manyika has a promising premise: two young meet and become a couple. Every day, the girl receives a stuffed toy from the boyfriend until her room is filled with them. She becomes inis because the boy can’t seem to say that he loves her. Instead, he gives her more stuffed toys. One day, he decided to give her the largest stuffed toy ever and she throws it on the street out of sheer desperation. Boy retrieves it and gets run over. After the internment, girl comes home crying and accidentaly squeezes a toy and it says, “I love you”. Turns out, all the toys will say the same thing when squeezed and the largest of them gives her the boy’s final message: that he did plan to finally say it on the day he gives her this toy. Sigh. Ano ba ito?! So heartbreaking naman. I wish it could have been shot with a better camera though; plus all that ambient noise! Haay.

Puwang is too long to discuss here (they translated the word ‘puwang’ to “space between”; “Space” was enough na sana because the title didn’t mean it to be a literal physical space. Emotional space ito, eh), but I loved the tension brought about by the confluence of events – a dying father, a son who wouldn’t visit, a daughter giving birth, and another daughter who’s torn between giving up and taking care of the father. Kudos to the actors and to the writer. Shots were good, never mind that the father’s poop was (quite literally) in-your-face. Because of this hindi ko na tuloy matandaan ang ending (I swear!).

May ganda naman ang Dead Letter. Medyo nakakainis na nakakalungkot. I think it is pure poetry in motion. It really captured the situation of many struggling writers (the young writer’s script as pambalot ng tinapa was cliche-ish but still the best way to depict things given the circumstances). A little tightening, okay na siya. Definitely not for all audiences dahil sa heavy drama. Anyway, kudos to writer and director Grace Orbon! (Was this part of the Cinemalaya Shorts A last year? Because that was what I didn’t get to watch.)

Lababo. An advise to the UM Film Society: keep writing, keep watching, keep observing, keep making films.

I liked Walong Linggo because it’s a fine, smooth ending to the series akin to a mug of hot coffee and chocolate cookies after a long day. I guess the official synopsis describes it best: A young man who sits alone in a café every Sunday morning suddenly finds himself strangely falling in love with a girl he doesn’t know. As he tries to get to know her, he is hindered by insecurity and fear of rejection, thus prolonging the much-awaited introduction. Cute concept by writer-director Anne Matutina. Actors Joey Santos and Jaymee Joaquin were very, very good. Mababaw ba ako to like this story? Maybe the simplest can actually be the most likeable.

http://adobonatinglahat.blogspot.com/2008/06/saksakin-niyo-na-lang-ako-please.html

‘Katorse Shorts’: The long and short of it

This may have come a tad bit too late since the last screening of Katorse Shorts finished a few hours ago. But thank god for Ramil Gulle! Not a lot of people pay attention to shorts (no, I am not going to start ranting about it again), and for someone to write a full review on all the shorts is more than we could ask for.

I met Ramil once since he’s the brother of an old colleague (Reggie Gulle, another filmmaker/editor), but I doubt he remembers me. So we are very grateful for this very generous and honest review. I do wish I could talk to him to answer his questions/complaints on Puwang, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. Films should be able to speak for themselves.

Again, thanks to all those who supported our short films!

‘Katorse Shorts’: The long and short of it
By RAMIL DIGAL GULLE
abs-cbnNEWS.com

Watching “Katorse Shorts”, an omnibus of short films produced by the Katorse Writers’ Group, “a group of young writer-filmmakers who were part of Ricky Lee’s 14th Scriptwriting Workshop”—as they describe themselves—one realizes how many films would have been better had they been shorter.

The most successful shorts in this omnibus prove that you don’t need to take so much time putting your story across–and specifically I’m thinking about Richard Legaspi’s “Ambulansya”, one of the seven short films in the omnibus.

Too bad I learned about “Katorse Shorts” only last Friday. I watched it on Saturday and by the time you read this review, you’ll only have Tuesday, June 17, to catch this compendium of independent short films before Robinson Galleria’s Indie Sine pulls it out.

Still, the effort you’ll put in catching this collection of short films on its last day, as well as the P101 that you’ll pay for a ticket, will be more than worth it.

There are seven short films by six of these “writer-filmmakers” in the collection and it’s a pity that the Indie Sine theater wasn’t as packed as, say, any of the recent Hollywood or local blockbusters.

The best thing about short films like these is that they are freed of many of the usual considerations that are necessary for more commercial fare. As a result, you get a film viewing experience that actually stimulates the more important parts of your brain.

“When Love Begins” vs “Manyika”

In the Joey Reyes opus “When Love Begins” has a scene where Anne Curtis flashes a butt-cheek from out her bikini-bottom as she runs off to the beach in Boracay. Try to guess which part of your brain was buzzing when you saw that scene, huh?

And look at the pairing between Aga Muhlach and Anne Curtis: two impossibly gorgeous people in a seaside paradise setting, with both location and plot conspiring to have them either wear a) anatomy-revealing beachwear or b) fashionable outfits for an evening dinner.

As a potent piece of fantasy and visual allure, “When Love Begins” is luscious and lusty, slick and saccharine to the max. Now what was the story about, again? Oh, yeah, two people struggling toward long-term commitment.

Well, the short film “Manyika (Doll)” in “Katorse Shorts” has characters with the same problem. However, it is set in Luneta Park. The most striking thing about the lovers in “Manyika” is how ordinary they look. These aren’t movie romantic leads, obviously.

The characters, in fact, dress, act and look every bit as ordinary as actual Luneta couples. The guy struggles with commitment and has a weird habit of giving the girl a stuffed toy at the end of every date.

She gets nearly one stuffed toy a day, several a week, and her room is filled with them. He struggles to explain to her why he does it, and fails.

She struggles to commit herself to the relationship, but can’t stand the reality that they never go anywhere except Luneta, and she keeps getting stuffed toys from him. Worse, he could never bring himself to tell her “I love you.”

One night, he gives her the biggest stuffed toy ever–she’s so fed up that she throws it away. What happens next? Watch and find out.

Directed by John Wong, “Manyika” won Best Short Film at the 2006 Cinemadali Short Film Competition and was part of the official selection for the Gawad CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Bidyo.

Sacrificial dogs

The short film “Ambulansya (Ambulance)” is 15 minutes and 22 seconds long–which is surprising to learn since the narrative is so strong and so seamless, it seems to be over in one breath and one is left stunned in the end by feelings of tragedy and wonder.

Alan Paule (as Nato the ambulance driver) seems perfect for the role. The premise upon which the entire story revolves is based on a superstitious belief among Filipino ambulance drivers–or at least, among the ambulance drivers in Nato’s circle.

One of these drivers mentions to Nato during a cigarette break this curious phenomenon: whenever he (Nato’s fellow driver) accidentally runs over a dog, cat or some other animal as he rushes to drive a dying patient to the hospital, the patient makes it alive to the emergency room.

This driver then makes the conclusion that the life of the unfortunate animal had been “sacrificed” and serves to literally give its life-force to the dying patient.

The short film nowhere indicates how prevalent this belief is among Filipino ambulance drivers, but Nato–who laughs at the notion initially–eventually gets to test the theory later on. And what a test it is–to tell you more would ruin your viewing of this gem so we’ll stop here.

Stressed-out sister

In Anna Isabelle Matutina’s “Puwang” (The Space Between), a family grapples with the impending death of their ailing father.

The eldest daughter, Arlene, is married with children but has to shoulder all the expenses and responsibilities of caring for ill parent.

The youngest sibling, Anne, is pregnant and was recently abandoned by the father of her child–who is a married man. While she and Arlene are watching over their father, Anne goes into labor. This naturally places more burdens upon Arlene.

To make things worse, the father keeps calling for his favorite son, Angelo. However, he and Angleo had a falling out and the latter has not shown up for the last five years.

Just when Arlene reaches the end of her rope from all the stress and passes out on the sofa on the hospital lobby, Angelo finally appears. He proceeds to his father’s room.

We’ll avoid giving spoilers about “Puwang” but will only say that it succeeds in painting a gripping, emotional portrait of a Filipino family in difficulty–many if not most Filipino families in the Philippines will surely be able to relate to the plight of Arlene et al. That the film nearly falls into melodrama at some point is forgivable.

The hues of the film are all in gray, the lighting is consistent all throughout–a technical achievement as well as a success in terms of mood and atmosphere.

The only complaint I will make is in the choice of showing certain scatological elements: Angelo wiping his father’s excrement off the floor of the hospital room; another scene where the camera focuses on Angelo cleaning up his father on the toilet.

My reaction as a member of the audience was perhaps natural–hey, this was shit up close on camera. Still, my question is: Was it was truly necessary for the camera to close-in on the excrement? It seemed overkill to me.

On the other hand, for a film that had been understated and restrained all throughout, maybe the scatological shots represented a kind of peak point in the film–when certain repressed, unspoken, and perhaps repellent elements, metaphorically and literally–needed to be loosed upon us.

After all, the father unleashes these elements in Angelo’s presence and he is left, literally, cleaning up after the shit (literal and metaphorical) between him and his dad.

There’s a brief but terrifying moment, right before Angelo approaches his father, when the son locks the door–shutting himself in with his father. One wonders, in a panic, whether Angelo has more sinister plans for his dad.

Is Angelo going to put his father out of his misery by suffocating him with a pillow? Is Angelo out for vengeance over the still unrevealed conflict with his father? Or is he after forgiveness and reconciliation?

The film’s ending is no surprise and is actually quite deflating–but then perhaps that just adds to making one’s sense of relief and loss more acute at the conclusion of “Puwang”.

“Dead Letter”

Things got boring for me in “Dead Letter”. I found “Dead Letter” to be much too talky and static in too many parts. I loved the opening shot, though, with images of pages from letters flipping, flappin and falling, the crisp, crackling sound of paper very audible, inspiring a nostalgic mood.

I just couldn’t relate to the main character, who is a writer struggling to finish a script in time for a competition’s deadline. The introspections the writer goes through–which we are made privy to thanks to voice-overs–seem unengaging to me now at my age.

Maybe when I was in college there was a point when such thoughts seemed profound or important, but now come off as rather juvenile.

There were good scenes though. Like when a character, Felipe, from the writer’s script comes to life and confront’s the latter. Felipe is angry and even threatens the writer, “Papatayin kita! (I will kill you!)”. As the film progresses, you hope the character makes good on his promise.

There are scenes and locations that would be nostalgic to anybody who spent his youth in Manila. The shots of the Central Post Office–which processes mail for the entire country–were very compeling. We see postal workers working with thousands upon thousands of snail mail–yes, snail mail still exists, folks, despite the Initernet. We wonder what those workers would do in case an anthrax-laced letter comes in.

Of course, we zoom into the Dead Letter Section, which is where the writer’s script ends up after he mails it. We don’t know how it ends up there since the writer paid the right postage–or was he just dreaming that he paid postage? Did he even write a forwarding address?

Towards the last third of the film we feel that our hold on the film’s reality has become tenuous and anything can happen: the writer after all has been seeing people who may not really be there, and time seems to have been moving in a loop, etc.

I thought that the whole idea of a Dead Letter Section was not exploited enough. I thought it that it would be central to the film because of the film’s title. I felt a missed opportunity there and thought of several ways in which the Dead Letter Section could have been better used in the story–but then I’m not the director; I was just there to watch the film.

One of the characters, the lady smoked fish vender who hands the writer two pesos in change to allow him to pay the right postage, tells the writer, encouragingly, something like, “Okay lang kahit hindi sila maniwala sa iyo (It’s okay even if they don’t believe you)” before he mails his entry to the competition.

I don’t know if that’s useful advice to a young artist, who needs tons of belief–from himself and from others–in order to practice his art amid all the uncertainties, doubts and discouragements inevitably faced by any young artist facing poverty, ignominy and possible insanity in a society that only values TV and movie stars.

I wondered how “It’s okay even if they don’t believe you” will keep the young artist from giving up and applying for a call center job, instead.

We can’t ask the smoked-fish vender anymore because she disappeared, as in–poof!–leaving only a smoked-fish smell in the air after giving those words to the writer.

I found Felipe to be the only solid character in the film, strangely enough–but then I could be biased since the actor who plays him is Filipino-Vietnamese Roel Hoang Manipon who happens to be a poet, playwright, ficitionist and journalist as well, and who happens to be a friend from way back in college.

The film’s lead character, the Young Writer, is practically a blank slate. We see him walking across Manila’s streets and underpasses, drumming his fingers on the underpass walls–something I found icky, being familiar with the kind of grime in Manila’s underpasses, surpassed only in ickiness by the grime all over the Pasay-Libertad areas–and we wonder, is he looking for inspiration? Or do young writers simply have too much time on their hands?

Our young writer, by the way, uses a manual typewriter to write–a device that was in use when most young people today were not born yet. And yet, the final script when we see it, doesn’t look like it was typed on a manual typewriter but printed from a computer printer.

The voice-over comes back at the end of the film as the writer tries to make his way home–we learn from the voice over that he’s walking home because he wants to save money for food.

The most poetic lines in the film are uttered by the disembodied narrator in the end (it’s supposed to be an internal monologue by the writer, a device that seems to have been used to make up for the impenetrable blankness one encounters in the lead character), lines that I don’t remember exactly–but I remember having liked very much.

The lines that were uttered, in Filipino, said something about November the 16th and hunger and… I don’t know anymore. It’s not that I didn’t like “Dead Letter”–I just don’t believe it. But then maybe that’s okay.

“Lababo” (Kitchen Sink)

The first few minutes spent watching “Lababo” gave me this one-word impression: propaganda. It seemed to rehash every bile-soaked sentiment and opinion against the United States that the filmmakers could possibly throw at us.

Now, like most Filipinos, I also hate America. I hate the United States as much as every Filipino out there, who has relatives in US, who uses the Internet (a US invention); who learned and later corrupted American English; who waits for remittances from OFWs (in US dollars), who watches US TV shows on cable (legally or illegally), who pays to watch Hollywood films, who knows Joyce Kilmer (that fraud) but not the great Cirilo Bautista; and who will probably go and migrate to the US the first chance he gets.

That said, I watched “Lababo” some more and found that it wasn’t simply propaganda: it was ranting and propaganda.

That said, I will say that the University of Makati Film Society did a good job, technically, in making this film. I didn’t like how they depended on voiced-over faux radio reports to move the “story” along–there wasn’t much of a story, just a pastiche of images–but I would be the first to tell them that my views about “Lababo” should not discourage them from making more films.

Those guys know how to handle the camera, know how to compose shots, to create pacing–I just disagreed with how they chose to present their anti-American message. With a better story on their hands and the moxie and creativity to go beyond set opinions (about the US or otherwise)–watch out! These guys have potential. The Umak FilmSoc should keep on making more films–and the University should suppport them in that.

“Lababo” has participated in various film festivals and has also won awards including the Grand Prize, Viva –PBO Digitales Short Film Competition 2007.

The film was also in competiton in festivals like the 19th Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video; the 48th Bilbao Film Festival in Spain 2006; and the 8th International Panorama of Independent Film and Video in Greece.

It was also exhibited in the Jakarta Slingshortfest 2006 and the 8th Cinemanila International Film Festival 2006.

So, as a viewer, I may have missed something that these festival organizers and jurors saw–which is okay, as my Inner Smoked Fish Vender tells me.

“Walong Linggo” (Eight Sundays)

The way it was lit and shot, “Eight Sundays” seemed like an extended coffee commercial. More coffee house than art house, this short film is perhaps one of the most charming and endearing renditions of the Filipino male phenomenon of “ka-torpehan”.

In gist, it’s about this guy who spots a pretty young woman at a coffee shop. They see each other for eight consecutive Sundays as the guy tries to muster the courage to introduce himself to the young lady, with whom he is quite smitten.

Will he succeed before the eight Sundays are up? With generous close-ups of Jaymee Joaquin’s pretty face, you enjoy the ride.

Lead actor Joey Santos does a great job as a not really bad-looking guy who has to write his opening lines on paper napkins to figure out what to say to the girl of his dreams.

Each Sunday encounter between the torpe guy and the pretty girl is preceded by short love poems that are flashed on-screen–like dialogue flashed during the silent movie era–yes, there are no speaking lines audible in this contemporary silent film.

The poets who contributed their poetry include the venerable Benilda Santos and National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera.

This short film’s a charmer and, whether you have good or traumatic memories about young love, “Walong Linggo” is sure to linger on in your memory like a pleasant morning at the coffee shop, when all your worries seem to drift away like the steam from the espresso machine.

“Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario” (The Fate of the Virgin Mario)

Mario wakes up in the apartment he shares with his lover Jose. Mario screams: Oh my God, I’m pregnant, how could this happen?!

Jose is jealous–is Mario sure the child is his? Jose convinces Mario to get an abortion.

This film by Ogi Sugatan really turns reality on its head with its minimalist, Pinoy absurdist approach.

What are we to make of this situation, where a gay man appears to have had a Not-So Immaculate Concepcion, in defiance of biology, physics and theology?

But then that’s what we all like about independent films, full-length or short: you walk out of the cinema with more than just the fading vapors of escapist fantasy; you may get insights about life, feel some genuine passion pierce your “deadma” disposition, or have an epiphany flash through your shopping-addled mind, or whatever it is that art is supposed to do to you.

Katorse Shorts Review

Review by Pat (http://everybodyleaves.multiply.com/reviews/item/6?mark_read=everybodyleaves:reviews:6&goto=0#reply0)

Category:    Movies
Genre:     Independent

I was really excited about watching Indie Sine, while most of other film buffs were rushing to Shangrila cinemas to catch the free viewing of the French film festival i on the other hand, couldn’t wait to feel inspired and to get new ideas from some of the best of our local independent film makers today.

I gotta say that out of the 7 shorts that was shown i only really absolutely liked Puwang and Walong Linggo, a film by Anna Isabelle Matutina (ate sunshine).

I’m not making this review about Puwang and Walong Linggo just because I personally know the director of the movie. But really because i loved it. for me, it was the best among the 7 short films shown in Indie Sine. I know it isn’t a competition and the purpose of Indie Sine is really to orient the viewers to different styles and genres of movies but considering all aspects in film making, for me these two films are at the top of the class, it stands out among the rest.

The screenplay is captivating. it engages the audience into the story, it’s different in itself without disregarding if the audience can relate to the story and understand the message. the cinematography stands out compared to the other shorts, it’s nearly flawless. The scoring was original in Walong Linggo, it sort of dictated or signaled the emotion the characters were feeling and what the audience should feel as well, because it is after all a silent movie. I was afraid at first that i wouldn’t like Walong Linggo coz I’m not exactly a silent film fan but the story was really cute and lite and was presented in just the right amount.

In the end, you have on the one hand that feeling that you want more out of the story because it has already captivated you, but on the other you are at peace because you know it’s complete.

I’m gonna pass on commenting about the other short films, because i don’t want my inexperienced self broadcasting to the cyber world what my inexperienced mind criticizingly thinks. as we all know, it is of course easier to say something good than to say something mean in stuffs you don’t know much about. But Please Please don’t take my word for it, my inexperienced self might be wrong about the other shorts. you can still catch Indie Sine: Katorse Shorts at Robinsons Galleria until Tuesday, June 17. Go to the Links below to watch the trailers. :)

Support Philippine Cinema!

INDIE SINE: Katorse Shorts Trailers
http://annaisabelle78.multiply.com/video/item/20

Walong Linggo Trailer:
http://annaisabelle78.multiply.com/video/item/17/SHOWING_ON_JUNE_11-17_at_INDIE_SINE