PICACHIEBRINGING the life back to the dying Philippine film industry plagued by mediocre and very commercial movies was the dream of the second CineVita Campus Film Festival, which ran March 5 to 7 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.

Sponsored by the Varsitarian, the three-day festival showcased 22 local and international films with themes relating to life and death, strengthening the family, and urban sociology.

The festival also provided a venue for discussions on the state and the future of Philippine cinema.

Opening the festival this year was the screening of the internationally acclaimed Foster Child, a full-length digital independent film, which won the Best Actress Award for Cherry Pie Picache in New Delhi, the Special Jury Prize in Kazakhstan, and the Best Feature Film in the Paris Environmental Film Festival.

Directed by UST College of Fine Arts and Design alumnus Brillante Mendoza, the film portrays the strong family ties of Filipinos and the unconditional love of a surrogate mother toward an orphan.

At the end of the film, Picache held an open forum where she discussed her experiences working with independent films.

“So far, this is the really the most unforgettable film that I’ve made,” said Picache.

A self-confessed fan of independent films, Picache also said that she accepted the lead role in the movie because “the satisfaction it gives for the soul.”

Also getting their fair share of the audience’s attention were other independent films such as Endo, Tribu, and Still Life.

Director Jade Castro’s Endo made a huge impact on the largely Thomasian audience for its sensitive rendering of the often overlooked lives of contractual workers in the retail industry.

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In the open forum, Castro discussed the role of independent movies in highlighting the lives of ordinary people and their extraordinary struggles.

Graded “A” by the Cinema Evaluation Board, Endo won the Grand Jury Prize, the Best Actress for Ina Feleo, and Best Editing in the 2007 Cinemalaya Film Festival. It was also an official selection for the Festival des 3 Continents 2007 in Nantes, France.

The people behind Endo. Producer Raymond Lee, actress Ina Feleo, director Jade Castro, and independent filmmaker Seymour Barros-Sanchez.
Another notable film was Tribu. Directed by Faculty of Arts and Letters (Artlets) alumnus Jim Libiran, Tribu presents the lives of street gang members in the Manila inner district of Tondo as seen through the eyes of a 10-year-old child.

Charlymagne Collado, the assistant director and also an Artlets alumnna, together with “Mcoy,” one of the actors, graced the open forum at the end of the screening.

Collado noted that making the movie was not an easy task especially since it required real-life acting. He explained the process involved in assembling the actors from rival gangs in Tondo who were often hostile to one another.

“At first they would bring their weapons and look at one another with suspicion during the meeting, but after a few acting workshops, the group eventually grew to like one another,” Collado said.

Collado added that Tribu is a testament to the power of movies to reveal sociology, particularly inner-city realities.

Tribu, won the Grand Prize for best film , Best Actor (its ensemble of Tondo gangsters), and the Best Sound Design in the 2007 Cinemalaya.

Katrina Flores’ Still Life is, like its title, picturesque and well-photographed. But more than the beautiful visuals, Still Life touches the soul with its moving story of a painter diagnosed with Gullain-Barre Syndrome, a paralyzing disease of the nervous system, and contemplating suicide.

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In the forum after the screening, Flores disclosed the gestation of the story.

“What would happen to a person if he lost the faculties needed in doing the work he loves?” asked Flores during the forum.

The audience said they loved the story for its creative narrative and its ingenious twist toward the end.

“I took a lot of liberty in making the film,” said Flores.

“Compromise but do not be compromised,” Flores advised, stressing that filmmakers should know the limitations of pleasing their audience.

Other full-length local independent films screened were Mendoza’s Tirador and Ned Trespeces’ Trabaho. Philippine short films such as Richard Legaspi’s Ambulancia, Rianne Hill Soriano’s Karsel, Louise Anne Yamsuan’s Tutos, and Seymour Barros Sanchez’ Lababo were also featured.

Documentaries tackled modern-day social dilemmas such as interracial adoption in Aurora Santiago’s A Child from China, the clamor against the US visiting forces in Mindanao in Anna Isabelle Matutina’s Unconventional Warfare, the Tondo lifestyle in Sheryl Rose Andes’ Estropa, and poverty in Joey Velasco’s Kambas ng Lipunan and in Jasper Zarzuela’s Tunay na Buhay.

International films were also screened such as the feminist-inspired film China Cry and the Hollywood movie Pay It Forward. Five People You Meet in Heaven, the film adaptation of the popular novel, and Shadowlands, about Narnia author C.S. Lewis, were also screened.

UST’s own campus filmmaking talents also shone in Cinevita 2008. Shown were Barako by Thomasian poet and UST Center for Creative Writing and Studies associate Manolito Sulit, Anino by Nursing junior John Isiah Reyes, and Sonda, a documentary about abortion crafted by a group of senior Nursing students. Rieze Rose T. Calbay, Juanito Alipio A. de la Rosa, and Samuel Raphael P. Medenilla

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