Dark, intriguing short films

* Spoiler alert! Probably one of the stupidest plugs I’ve ever seen. They practically wrote the entire story of both shorts.

Dark, intriguing short films
Malaya, Entertainment section
October 26, 2006

FEATURED in the TV program “Shorts” tonight at 10 on ABC are two short film both directed by young filmmaker Anna Isabelle “Sunshine” Matutina who has exhibited and won accolades both here and in film festivals abroad. She has edited extensively for “Ang Pamilyang Kumakain ng Lupa” (feature film directed by Khavn dela Cruz), “Blood Bank” (directed by Pam Miras), “ICU Bed #7” (directed by Jon Red, finalist in CinemaOne Originals), “Dilim” (directed by Topel Lee, finalist in CiinemaOne Originals), and many other short and feature-length films. She currently works as a freelance editor in television networks.

The first film, “Panaginipan” was a finalist in Cinemalaya 2005, while the second film, “Ika-Siyam na Palapag” was exhibited in the 7th Cinemanila International Film Festival and competed in the 28th International Women’s Film Festival of Creteil, France and in the Malescorto Film Festival in Italy 2006.

Get into the dark side of Sunshine’s mind and sensibilities as “Panaginipan” explores the story of two young women: Mona who is cold and unfeeling and Sarah who is bright and bubbly, but vulnerable in her relationships with men. The two friends, though with diametrically opposed personalitites, are united in their wish to escape life. Together they think up different ways of dying, until one day Sarah comes up with the perfect proposition, they just have to force themselves to stop breathing while they are asleep. Sarah wakes up one morning to discover that Mona seems to have been successful in dying by holding her breath. However, she also discovers a more horrifying truth about their situation and finds herself caught between reality and madness.

In “Ika-Siyam na Palapag,” a young woman climbs flight after flight of stairs, her stomach growing larger with each flight. By the time she reaches the ninth floor, she is fully pregnant. She is trying to call out to a young man, seemingly her lover, across another building, but as she ascends to the ninth floor she discovers the young man has another family. She struggles to climb higher and eventually gives birth on the rooftop of the building. Upon giving birth, she leans over to the side with her baby in her arms; seemingly about to throw her child away – when she suddenly wakes up on the bathroom floor, her hands bloodied. Did she or did she not kill her child? Two intriguing fims in one night which is a must-see treat for indie pelikula aficionados from ABC, Thursday at 10 pm.

Cinemalaya short films to be shown on Mindanao film fest

Sun Star Davao
November 26, 2005

A TOTAL of six short film entries to the recent Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival will be exhibited during the upcoming Mindanao Film Festival slated this coming December 4-11 at the Gaisano Mall cinemas.

The showing of the six shorts that were produced, written and directed by promising independent filmmakers from all over the country is one of the highlights of the first ever-movie festival held in Mindanao.

“The Cinemalaya films serve as an inspiration to promising filmmakers here in Mindanao, these well-crafted films produced at a low cost will show to us that we can make quality films by putting a premium on ingenuity and creativity rather than relying on large budgets,” Lou Raphael Cañedo, organizer of the Mindanao film fest said.

The short films are:

By Joel Ruiz

Winner of the Best Short film in the Cinemalaya Film festival; The film’s plot revolves around Dolores, a housemaid and her husband Ambo, a gardener who were hired to take care of a mansion while its owners are on a long vacation. Uneventful weeks go by until a small accident sparks a series of discoveries between the couple.

By Anna Isabelle J. Matutina

A story about two young deeply disturbed women struggling to find an end to the pointlessness of life, After unsuccessful suicide attempts, they discover a fool proof way to end it all- that is to consciously stop breathing.

Blood Bank
By Pamela Miras

Story of three people and the uncanny ties that bonds them; DES who suffers from aplastic anemia who receives weekly blood transfusion in a blood bank where EMMA works as a med tech. And CLETO a notorious robber who transforms into a weekly blood donor after he mugs Des, his way of making up for the crime he has done to her and to others before her. The ties that bind the three are soon strained with their respective wants going against their dependency on each other, until a discovery forces the advent of a catalyst that will break the connection.

By Milo Tolentino

Inside a dark room, a man commits a murder. An act of madness that left him emotionally crippled with guilt and paranoia. The man struggles to hide his crime and cleanse himself with water. But it seems the corpse has its own agenda, haunting him again and again. The films shows a struggle of a murderer hopelessly trying to atone himself of his sin of violence but to no avail.

By Sigrid Andrea Bernardo

Winner for Best Direction, BABAE is a coming of age story of two women who grew up together in a slum community along the railroad tracks. A mixture of drama, comedy, musical and fantasy that would surely touch the Pinoy heart in you.

By Lawrence Fajardo

Winner of the Philippine Star Special Jury Prize. The story of a young vegetable vendor who seeks vengeance against a meat butcher who is also a leader of a gang of butchers- cum- bribe collectors. Beaten several times by the gang leader as he continually picks fights with his unbeatable foe. Until one day the leader hurts his younger brother. The young vegetable vendor promises vengeance and practices hard for the fight. The task may be difficult but he is willing to kill and be killed in the fight of his life.

Celebrating woman in film: Kamalayang Kababaihan

6th International Women’s Film Festival. (2006)

Cine Adarna of the UP Film Institute hosted the only women’s film festival of its kind in the Philippines from March 1 to 8, coinciding with the celebration of National Women’s Month in March and International Women’s Day on March 8.

The week-long festival, with the theme Kamalayang Kababaihan, featured films by women on women. The festival recognizes and celebrates women filmmakers who have made significant inroads in presenting alternative visions for both men and women.

Screened over the week-long festival were Connie and Susan, Relasyon (Affair), Mga Pusang Gala (Stray Cats), The Piano, Sepet (Chinese Eyes), Sancharam (The Journey), Manola Coge el Autobús (Manola Gets the Bus), Para Que no Me Olvides (Remember Me), and the special advanced screening of the acclaimed movie North Country by Niki Caro, featuring Oscar winners Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand.

To mark its 16th year celebration, the festival added the short film and video competition to extend its objective of furthering women’s consciousness. For this first endeavor, the IWFF had distinguished female personalities Brenda Fajardo, Marra Pl. Lanot, Avic Ilagan and Ellen Ramos as panel of judges. The films in competition were Candice Marie García’s Ahon (Rise), Anna Isabelle Matutina’s Panaginipan (The Dreaming) and Ika-Siyam na Palapag (Ninth Floor), Lina Bayu Fibriani’s Menepis Gengsi Meraih Mimpi (Catching the Dream), Giselle Ordinario and Regina Rebasa’s Paglipat (Moving On), Rina Khoury’s \m/, Antoinette-Mae Herrera and Jemima de Vera’s Tulog Na (Tonight, I Slumber), El Naggar’s Met’ahara (Late), Anna Charis R. Raya’s Trip to Quinawan, Precious Ann Tayog’s Revolt of the Hymen, Julie Celebre’s Talyer (Car Mechanic), Judy Anne Buenaventura’s Ang Mahiwagang Tsinelas ni Chenelyn (Chenelyn’s Mysterious Slippers), Francesca Balaguer’s SHErachi & Manhattan Rolls, Lai del Rosario’s Happy Birthday Fiji!, Nadine Khan’s Wahed Fi El Million (One in a Million), Dianne Carla Sibal and Ma. Ranina Sanglap’s Piring (Blindfold), Muselli Loise Cruz and Joan Jelica López’s Sibuyas (Onions), and Rianne Hill I. Soriano’s Karsel (Prison).


The independent women of Cinemalaya

The Manila Bulletin
CCP press release
July 5, 2005

“The good thing about indepedent cinema is that it’s not a business. We don’t consider what we can get in return. Para siyang bisyo – napakamahal na bisyo. (It’s like a vice – a very expensive vice).”

This statement encapsulates the passion and commitment for filmmaking of six women who were hailed as finalists for the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival and Competition, slated July 12-17, at the CCP.

The six finalists — Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, Anna Isabelle “Sunshine” Matutina and Pamela Ann Miras (short film category), Rica Arevalo, Coreen “Monster” Jimenez and Michiko Yamamoto (full-length film category) — are an interesting combination of filmmakers comprised of both novices and experienced film connoisseurs.

Except for Pamela Ann Miras (Blood Bank) who took up film & audio visual communication in UP Diliman and Rica Arevalo (ICU Bed #7) who is a communication arts graduate from De La Salle University Manila, the other finalists don’t have any formal education on film-making.

Michiko Yamamoto (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros) is a mathematics major in computer science from the University of Santo Tomas, Sigrid Bernardo (Babae) holds a certificate in theater arts from UP Diliman and Anna Isabelle Matutina (Panaginipan), also from UP, has a degree in broadcast communication.

Each filmmaker tackled different issues that are sure to whet every filmbuff’s appetite – from family and marital problems, teen angst, to underground trade and homosexuality.

When asked how they came up with such concepts, most of them agreed that they want to create something that reflects Filipino culture.

For instance, Pamela considers the concept of selling blood for a living “very Pinoy.”

“It’s not something that is done in first-world countries. Blood is donated, it’s not something you sell,” Pamela notes.

Coreen Jimenez has the same “Pinoy” rationale behind the concept of “Bigtime,” a film collaboration with Mario Cornejo.

“It’s about hitting it big, and everyone, especially in the Philippines, wants to hit the big time. It’s very Pinoy, too!,” Coreen confirms. “Since its hard to climb that ladder (of success), you just want to make a quick buck,” she adds.

“I want to show the different faces of women, all about women and men who like to be women,” says Sigrid, the director of “Babae,” while Anna’s Panaginipan deals with teen problems, and Rica’s “ICU Bed #7” (her third script to win an award) are part and parcel of the Filipino psyche.

Such themes, which delve into the intricacies of modern-day Filipino culture, are rarely seen in mainstream movies nowadays.

Rica observes, “It [movie industry] has been dead for a long time, but there are always filmmakers na gagawa at gagawa ng pelikula.”

Even the film industry’s long dormancy period may have caused it some good. “Kailangan niya kasing mamatay para mabuhay ulit. Tingnan mo ngayon, ang dami nang lumalabas na bagong mas malalakas ang loob,” Anna explains.

“That’s why in Cinemalaya, we could write whatever we want to write without thinking who’s going to watch it,” Coreen adds.

This emergence of new filmmakers may also be attributed to new technology. With the availability of HD cams and digital video cameras, anyone can practically make his/her own film.

However, with easy access to new technology, there is a big possibility that independent film-making might graduate to a mere “trend.”

“Since a lot of people are doing that right now, sana hindi lang siya uso. Of course at the end of the day, it’s still your story, and that’s why independent cinema is what it is,” Pamela relates.

Having been given the chance to show their works to the public through the film festival, all of them hope that festivals such as this will continue to propagate indie filmmaking awareness and bring indie films closer to the grass roots.

Young, wild, and indie

By Gabby Libarios
Manila Standard Today,
July 14, 2005

There’s no one to blame for the condition of the movie industry than the proliferation of soap operas on television.

That’s what three young independent filmmakers—Sunshine Matutina, Pamela Miras, Lawrence Fajardo—said in reply to the issue of the state of the ailing Filipino movie industry.

These young filmmakers are three of the six finalists for the short film category of the 1st Cinemalaya Festival, which is ongoing at the CCP Little Theater until Sunday, July 17.

“Shows on TV are the same. They follow the same formula,” emphasized Sunshine, 26, who had done editing work for a major television network in the past. “The fact is we are not producing that much films.”

According to Epi Quizon, the lead actor of Peque Gallaga’s Pinoy/Blonde, the Philippines was producing over 200 films a year during the early ‘90s. Last year, we just produced around 50 films, half of which did not even make money.

Given the way they are produced following a conventional story that requires less thinking, soap operas don’t help the statistics go up, either.

“Yes. Same writers, same artists. So there’s no need to watch movies anymore because the film experience is already felt on TV. Oftentimes, the stories are recycled,” agreed Lawrence, 28. “Perhaps, they do this because they fear that a slight diversion from the tried-and-true would cause ticket receipts to collapse,” chimed in Pam, 26.

Such brazen attitude is fueled by their burning desire to express, to help the industry crawl out of its slump, and ultimately, show what Filipino films are really made of.

‘Divine guidance’

If Quentin Tarantino, the genius behind Kill Bill, listens to his old record collection for inspiration, these three newbies in feature filmmaking draw their “divine guidance” from personal experiences.

In making her Cinemalaya entry Panaginipan, for instance, Sunshine had to recall past memories, especially the painful ones, to establish the very foundation of her film.

Panaginipan, a movie about two deeply disturbed women finding a means to commit suicide, was based on the actual experiences of Sunshine, who at one point in her life wanted to end her life.

“It was the time when I was really depressed. I was so disillusioned then. My parents even discovered that I was not Catholic anymore,” she recalled. “I wanted to die, but I didn’t want to kill myself. I just wished I would stop breathing.”

Such plight is where her story revolves. “It’s a very angst-ridden film, very personal. That’s why I never thought that the judges would pick it,” she said.

Like Elizabeth Wurtzel’s memoir Prozac Nation, Panaginipan plunges the audience into a situation, wherein they would get entangled with the struggle and angst of the characters, without too much of an explanation. Wurtzel wanted her readers to feel what it was like to deal with manic-depressive patients.

“I wanted the audience to feel the pain without really knowing or understanding why they are in so much pain,” Sunshine related. “The fact that you don’t understand what’s happening, the more the story becomes painful.”

If Sunshine transformed her pain to a film, Pam, on the other hand, used her unusual fascination for blood to weave a beautiful story.

“I’ve always been fascinated by blood, especially the transfusion of blood. That’s why I’ve always been fascinated with vampires,” Pam said.

Originally written as a short story, Blood Bank follows the suffering of Des, a woman afflicted with leukemia. Because of this condition, Des receives blood transfusions every week at a blood bank. Fate takes a turn for the worse when Des gets mugged by Cleto. Strangely enough, Cleto gets drawn to Des’ life when he discovers her diary. Their lives soon cross path when Cleto visits the blood bank where Des gets her weekly transfusion.

“Actually, my film has undergone a lot of revisions and transformations that only a few traces of the short story can be found in the film,” she continued. “The only elements that were retained were the characters and the presence of the blood bank.”

Pam’s film credits include Reyna ng Kadilim, a short feature that won the first prize at the 23rd Gawad Urian and 13th Gawad CCP Awards.

While the two ladies readily revealed what makes them tick, Lawrence admitted that whatever concept prevalent in Kultado—a film set in a chaotic marketplace in the province—was purely unconscious.

“I’m sure there are personal touches in my work,” he said. “I’ve always believed that like acting, one cannot fully detach his experiences, memories, even ideologies from the character his playing. There will always be a personal touch that will continuously seep through the cracks, which eventually, affects his performance.”

The same goes in conceptualizing the plot of his story. “Everything is just spur of the moment. It all starts with a germ,” Lawrence said, using his fingers to emphasize his point. “This germ slowly develops into something bigger, something that you can develop into lines, into dialogues, into scenes.”

Among the many films that influenced him as a filmmaker, Gallaga’s Shake, Rattle, and Roll was the strongest. So unforgettable was it that, as a child, Lawrence would always draw a bahay kubo being persistently haunted by a manananggal during his pastime.

“That’s how I am. Before I retire to bed, I would imagine being in the middle of, say, a snow storm, or a campfire in the forest,” he enthused. “In my head, I would imagine scenes for possible sequences.”

Low on resources

Almost all independent filmmakers would regard resources as the preternatural Gordian knot. It is the first problem they have to wrestle with from the outset until the end. Yet despite budgetary constraints, these filmmakers were able to carry out their vision.

“Of course, at some point we all had to compromise. We’re still happy with the way it turned out,” explained Sunshine.

Similarly, Pam did not let the lack of budget hinder her in getting her message across.

“When you lack funds, you learn to find alternatives to tell your story. It forces you take out the less important elements, so what remains is the most essential,” Pam stressed.

But with the sudden interest on digital films expressed by big production outfits such as Viva, that landscape will soon change.

“Viva is already venturing into producing movies in digital format and giving its directors more creative freedom, because digital films save a lot of money,” said Sunshine. “And I think the lower cost, the more room for experimentation,” concluded Pam.

The 1st Cinemalaya Festival also premieres Alimuom (Rommel Tolentino), Babae (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo), Mansyon (Joel Ruiz). Competing in the full-length category are: Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (Michiko Yamamoto), Baryoke (Bryon Bryant), Big Time (Mario Cornejo and Coreen Jimenez), Isnats (Michael Dagñalan), ICU Bed #7 (Rica Arevalo), Lasponggols (Sigfreid Barros Sanchez), Pepot Artista (Clodualdo del Mundo Jr.), Room Boy (Alfred Aloysius Adlawan), Sarong Banggi (Emmanuel dela Cruz). The event culminates with the awarding ceremonies of the winners on the last day. For screening schedule, call 832-1125 local 1704/05.

TV Editor Makes Dream Come True

Sun Star Manila, July 13 2005

When Anna Isabelle “Sunshine” Matutina, a freelance editor for TV shows and digital films, completed the final cut of “Panaginipan” (The Dreaming) after graduating from the Mowelfund Film Institute last year, she heaved a sigh of relief that she finally has a short film that she can call her own. However, when her directorial debut made it as a finalist in the short film category of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2005, she was doubly ecstatic.

In “Panaginipan,” two young, deeply disturbed women meet and discover a different kind of bond despite their contrasting personalities. Mona, despite her seemingly calm and controlled façade, has already reached a point in her life wherein she can no longer hope that life will ever get better. Sara, on the other hand, wishes to escape the constant and pointless pain of her uncontrollable need to fall in love.

Both women have already attempted several times to kill themselves, seeing that death is their only escape from this repetitive suffering of the human soul. After exhausting all means of suicide, they discover a foolproof way to end it all – that is, to consciously decide to stop breathing. “Panaginipan” is Matutina’s first digital short, which she wrote, directed, and edited.

Matutina edited soap operas for ABS-CBN for two years before resigning to devote more time to the local independent filmmaking scene. Aside from “Panaginipan,” the TV/film editor has also completed “Ikasiyam na Palapag” (Ninth Floor), her second work which was screened at the 12th Pelikula at Lipunan in SM Megamall last February. A broadcast communication graduate from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, she seriously began thinking about directing her own films when she joined Ricky Lee’s 14th scriptwriting workshop three years ago.

At present, she also counts Ogi Sugatan’s “Ang Kapalaran ni Virgin Mario” (The Fate of Virgin Mario), Khavn De La Cruz’s “Lata at Tsinelas” (Can and Slippers) which competed at the Berlinale and “Ang Pamilyang Kumakain ng Lupa” (The Family That Eats Soil) shown at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Rica Arevalo’s “ICU Bed #7” which is a finalist of the Cinemalaya full-length feature category, Pam Miras’ “Blood Bank,” her co-finalist in the shorts category, and Jon Red’s “Anak ng Tinapa” and Topel Lee’s “Dilim,” both of which will be shown at the Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival 2005, among her editing portfolio.

“Panaginipan” is a Kill the Chicken Cinema presentation and a Core24 production starring Marie Ronquillo and Regina Estrada. Supporting Matutina in her first-time attempt at filmmaking is cinematographer Sugatan, musical scorer Pinky Aunaryo, and co-producer EJ Salcedo.

Panaginipan (The Dreaming)

Finalist: Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2005
Official Selection: Jakarta Slingshorts 2006
In Competition: 6th International Women’s Film Festival (Philippines)


Short Narrative 2004 / Colour / 15 min / Philippines


Panaginipan is the story of two young, deeply disturbed women, SARA and MONA, struggling to find an end to the pointlessness of life. After exhausting all means of suicide, they discover a foolproof way to end it all – that is, to consciously decide to stop breathing.

Cinematography: OGI SUGATAN


2005 Finalist, Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival
2006 Official Selection, Jakarta Slingshorts
2006 In Competition, 6th International Women’s Film Festival, Philippines

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