THE MANILA Film Festival has again gathered filmmakers and artists in a celebration of Philippine Cinema. The six films this year are: Sabel (Regal Films), Kulimlim (Viva Films), Naglalayag (Angora Films), Volta (Star Cinema Productions), Mano Mano 3: Arnis…The Lost Art (Rocketts Productions), and Anak Ka ng Tatay Mo (Magsaysay Films).

Diversity ruled the filmfest this year, but it was not enough to salvage filmdom from bad acting, substandard productions, and annoying clichés.

Sabel: Juday as a grown actress

Sabel (Judy Ann Santos) is a nun who gets raped by Jojo (Wendell Ramos), an inmate in the prison she volunteers in. This pushes her to leave the vocation and search for herself. Soon, she finds herself in the arms of the very man who raped her, after he gets out of prison. After some time, she leaves a clueless Jojo, who is prompted to piece Sabel’s life together by talking to people from her past. This reveals the many masks she wore, the many lives she lived.

Director Joel Lamangan has a great storyline, but he fails to deliver. The story’s potential is stunted by its execution. There are hints of quality cinematography, (the rape, for one) but the rest of the film is badly made. The actors falter with their lines and are not believable, their expressionless faces dominate the scenes. This film could have met critical and box-office expectations, if only the filmmakers had paid greater attention to these details.

Volta: Super heroine falling

Volta narrates the story of Perla (Ai Ai delas Alas), a humble dressmaker who gets struck by lightning thrice and miraculously survives. Legend has it that if you get struck by lightning three times, you are the chosen one to save mankind from the forces of evil. She then develops the properties of lightning and becomes Volta, the super heroine who fights the evil Celphora (Jean Garcia).

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Even though the film’s effects deserve some praise, its over-all quality is not satisfying. If they really wanted the film to be a comedy, they should have focused more on their comedics.

Kulimlim: Binoe gets possessed

Robin Padilla stars in this Maryo J. delos Reyes suspense flick about a man who tries to protect his family from the three convicted rapists of his wife (Tanya Garcia) by killing them after they are freed from prison. A bad move, because the spirits of the three possess him, and lead him to exhibit their demonic traits.

Credit is due to Padilla for the tremendous intensity in his character. He defied typical expectations people have towards an action star. But an unemotional Garcia ruined the film’s potential. She has a vital role, but she fails to deliver. Her droning voice does not help her at all.

Mano Mano 3, Arnis…The Lost Art: Revenge of the Arnis expert

Produced, directed, and topbilled by Ronnie Ricketts, Mano Mano 3, is about Nato Aragon, an Arnis champion who seeks revenge for the death of his policeman-brother.

Action films are never really given much attention in filmfests (especially if you are pitted against hardcore dramas or flimsy comedies, which producers are especially keen on making), but this film justifies the attention it is now getting. Marketed through the laudable fight sequences, the actors show natural skill. But great acting would have been too much too ask for. Expecting first-rate acting performances in action films only leaves you frustrated.

Naglalayag: May-December love affair gone awry.

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Dorinda (Nora Aunor), is a widowed judge who enters into a relationship with Noah, (Yul Servo) a taxi driver half her age. Troubled by the relationship’s taint on her career and reputation, she still plunges headlong and pursues true love. However, Noah gets killed by thugs in an unfortunate encounter.

It is astounding to see the intricate charac-terizations in this film, not so much because of Nora Aunor’s intimate onscreen romance with Yul Servo as the underlying messages it tries to reveal. As to the manner it is portrayed, much is leave to be desired. Romance is not very visible between them, unless we can actually relate to the story. And Yul Servo cannot be seen with much emotion throughout the movie—he is always just smiling his eyes out.

Anak ka ng Tatay Mo: Packing punches

First-timer Ram Revilla (son of former Senator Ramon Revilla, Sr. and former “That’s Entertainment” talent Genelyn Magsaysay) plays a teenage rebel who pursues his passion for boxing against his father’s (Albert Martinez) plans for him, which is baseball.

The neophyte actor shows promise despite his inexperience. He still has a lot to learn, but his is not a bad start. Martinez and Snooky Serna deliver their roles well, and that alone is enough to make the movie agreeable.

Awards: The awful truth

Like most of the movies, the awards were not truly justified. Seeing Yul Servo run off with the best actor award was not exactly what many envisioned. Robin Padilla could have been a better choice given Servo’s mediocre performance. And then there was also Nora Aunor who won the best actress award. Not that her acting was bad, but Judy Ann Santos’ performance was definitely better. Also raising some eyebrows is Naglalayag’s best picture award. Sabel’s storyline delivery has more impact. Meanwhile, the other winners were deserving, especially Jacklyn Jose (Naglalayag) and Albert Martinez (Anak Ka ng Tatay Mo) as best supporting actress and actor.

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Despite the disappointing entries (not to mention the alarming flop of all of the entries at the box-office), the festivities brought enjoyment to the audience, and as it usually goes, that alone should be sufficient enough to say it was a success. Anne Nerissa C. Alina

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