CELEBRATING life, truth, and faith by using media as a tool of expression and education, the Varsitarian is set to launch a three-day film festival titled CineVita on March 7 to 9 at the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex.

Together with event partners Titus Brandsma Center Media Program (TBCMP), Human Life International-Asia, Pro-Life Philippines, and several UST organizations, CineVita will screen meaningful films and hold church-oriented lectures on engagement with the cinema and other means of social communication.

CineVita will run local and international features, digital films, shorts, and documentaries with life-affirming stories highlighting human values, spirituality, cultural and moral formation, and family-friendly themes.

Internationally-acclaimed locals

Award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Jeturian’s Kubrador leads the list of the local independent features in the festival. Starring veteran actress Gina Pareño as the bet collector of the title, has made more than 20 appearances in international film fests, winning multiple acclamations from award-giving bodies. The film had its world premier at the 28th Moscow International Film Festival where it won the Jury Prize. Jeturian and Pareño are expected to appear in the CineVita screening on March 8.

A timely story of a young Ayta teacher who trains her fellow Aytas on the ways of literacy, Manoro is the opening film of CineVita on March 7. Directed by Brillante Mendoza, Manoro won Best Picture in the digital local film category in the 2006 Cinemanila Film Festival.

Another must-see indie is Rica Arevalo’s ICU Bed #7, which garnered the 2005 Cinemalaya awards for best direction and best actor for Eddie Garcia. The movie is a searing drama about the loud-mouthed, stubborn Lolo Joseph played by multi-awarded actor-director Garcia who puts his two daughters in a quandary whether or not to end his life. Based on Arevalo’s Palanca award-winning screenplay, the film also features seasoned stage and TV actors like Nonie Buencamino, Andy Bais, Irma Adlawan, and Angel Aquino.

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Last year’s best picture in the Cinemalaya short film category, Orasyon by Thomasian alumnus Milo Tolentino is also featured in CineVita. Tolentino’s 30-minute movie tackles a forlorn, old widow’s life inside an old, wooden dwelling and how a prying middle-aged housekeeper intrudes into her pathetic solitude. Also from Cinemalaya is Eric Dela Cruz’ short film about a security guard’s 24-hour duty titled Sekyu.

Visayan movies are also included in the festival. The Ballad of Mimiong’s Minion by Jobin Ballesteros tells of the realization of a guitarist on the bliss of rural life while Shit Happens by Nich Retz Perez is a comic, philosophical take on the meaning of life.

Pro-life themes

Promoting the culture of life, Cinevita presents a short film and three documentaries tackling abortion and sexual mores.

The short film Ika-Siyam na Palapag by Anna Isabelle Matutina tells of a woman’s futile attempt to look for the father of her child as she wrestles with the idea of abortion. The film was selected to compete at the 28th Creteil International Women’s Film Festival in France.

The other documentaries are Sigaw Ko, Pakinggan Mo, showing the struggles of an unborn baby as he is aborted, Artificial Vs. Natural, which discusses the adverse effects of contraceptives on women, and AIDS: What You Haven’t Been Told, which corrects misconceptions and erroneous beliefs about the syndrome.

Heartwarming flicks

Dubbed as the most profoundly human animated film in cartoon history by animation historian Ernest Rister, Grave of the Fireflies by Japanese director Isao Takahata is also considered one of the most powerful anti-war movies of all time by Pulitzer Prize winner Roger Ebert. Set in the 1945 wartime Japan, the story is based on the semi-autobiographic novel written by Akiyuki Nosaka whose sister suffered and died due to malnutrition during the war.

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What Dreams May Come directed by Vincent Ward is a 1998 dramatic film, starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Annabella Sciorra. Based on the 1978 novel of the same title by Richard Matheson, the movie tells about Chris Neilson (Williams) who dies to find himself in an extraordinary heaven right after the previous parting of his two children from a car accident. Scenes in the movie, as well as the plot outline in the novel, contain several allegorical references to Dante Aligheri’s 1308 epic The Divine Comedy.

A Singaporean film written and directed by Jack Neo, I Not Stupid was nominated for Best Asian Film at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards. The film depicts the struggles and adventures of three pupils in the most academically inferior class section. This comedy criticizes the Singaporean education system and social attitudes.

Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful tells the story of an Italian Jew, Guido Orefice played by Benigni as well, whose unfussy way of living gets upturned by his determination to survive his family’s internment in a Nazi concentration camp. The movie made its worldwide release at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998, winning the Grand Prize of the Jury. It then went on to win Academy Awards for best music, best original dramatic score, and best foreign language film. Benigni won best actor for his role.

The closing film, The Jeweler’s Shop was based on the play by theater actor Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II) about three couples who bought their marriage rings from the same jeweler.

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Real stories

An Oscar winner for best documentary in 2005, March of the Penguins tells of the thousands of emperor penguins leaving their ocean home each winter to make it across the most inhospitable terrain in Antarctica to perform their courtship rituals before they pair off into couples. Translated into Filipino with the title Penguin, Penguin, Paano Ka Ginawa?, this documentary about the heartwarming story of the penguins is narrated in Filipino by no less than actress Sharon Cuneta.

Meanwhile, CineVita also features Italian film master Fabrizio Costa’s Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Costa’s version highlights the struggles of the “living saint” as a simple nun who moved mountains with her trust and faith in God.

The story of American motivational speaker John Foppe, a man without arms, is featured in the documentary Armed with Hope. Foppe shares his personal struggles over his disability and how he converted this into optimism.

Aside from the film screenings, media and film professionals will be invited to give lectures on the art and craft of the cinema with stress on significant content and responsible filmmaking. Among the speakers are director-actress Laurice Guillen, TBCMP director Rev. Fr. Christian Buenafe, UST Advanced Aesthetics professor Josephine Pasricha, and indie-film director Rica Arevalo. The cast and crews of Manoro and Kubrador will grace the event.

CineVita is a non-profit, educational film festival. Admission is free.

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