Bite-Sized Reviews of Cinemalaya 2017 (Full Length Features)

Cinemalaya 2017

Let’s be honest: many of us just watch movies to satisfy our visual and emotional appetite. Sadly, this affects the quality of the films we enjoy and choose to watch. Very few are trained to look beyond a film’s narrative and appreciate the figurative and the technique. As a result, many are unable to have an “optimum viewing experience” in watching films. But if you open yourself up to the unconventional, you might just find yourself looking at films not as entertainment but as art.

Here’s something to get you started. The 13th Cinemalaya: The Philippine Independent Film Festival has a wide array of films for you to choose from. There are nine in particular, which are vying for this year’s Best Film (Main Competition).

Check out our bite-sized reviews, and you decide which among these you want to watch. They’ll be screening from August 4 to 13 at the CCP and Ayala Cinemas (Greenbelt, Glorietta, Trinoma, Fairview Terraces, Marquee Mall Pampanga).


When an amateur rapper and a seasoned poet are thrown together in a moment of violence, they learn to write verses with new found clarity.

Treb Monteras II

Abra, Loonie, Dido de la Paz

REVIEW: A less subtle but probably more effective critique against martial law, extrajudicial killings and social inequality. A seamless marriage of Balagtasan and hiphop, told from a powerful script and strong visuals that have also become poetry by their own merits. And when mixed altogether, they create a rhyme and beat that’s surprisingly pleasant not only to the ear but to your soul. 5/5

Awards: Best Film, NETPAC Jury Prize, Audience choice, Best Supporting Actor for Dido de la Paz, Best Cinematography for Ike Avellana, Best Editing for Lawrence Ang, Best Sound for Corinne de San Jose


After a turbulent squall in the night, villagers wake up to the astonishing sight of the sea that has turned red.

Joseph Israel Laban

Elora Españo, Therese Malvar, JM Salvado, Bembol Roco

REVIEW: There’s no need to look for a mythological sea serpent because one will already find several throughout the film — from our nation’s colonizers (listen to the Spanish and English versions of our national anthem), the womanizing fisherman, the younger sister, the military and smuggler, and even the actual sea snake. With so many of them around us, who wouldn’t be tempted to take all those poisonous apples? And so, like the moon-eating Bakunawa, we are left in the dark, wondering if we will ever see the light of day again. 5/5

Awards: Best Direction, Special Jury Prize, Best Cinematography for TM Malones

Ang Pamilyang Hindi Lumuluha

Only the famous family that doesn’t weep can help reunite a desperate woman with her own.

Mes de Guzman

Sharon Cuneta, Moi Marcampo

REVIEW: A dark comedy that may easily be mistaken as a lousy, incoherent dramedy, yet its black humor of family separation and alcohol addiction gives the social dysfunctions another angle of reaction to a common Filipino response: to laugh and smile our problems away. Sharon Cuneta and Moi Marcampo’s exceptional acting makes up for the inconsistencies (i.e. color-grading, audio quality). 3/5


An ailing biker takes to the rail for one last adventure that pits him against nature and the woman he desires.

Nerissa Picadizo

Jake Cuenca, Anna Luna

REVIEW: One can sense the deeply personal attachment of the director/writer to this romantic tribute to biking and the hurdles of breaking free from unrequited love. You could be bored or you might want more, but you are forced to immerse in the long, often chaotic, carefully suppressed journey of emotions. And the result brings you back to the beginning– silent, lacking, and disturbingly painful. 3/5

Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig

A priest is caught up in a situation, which will compel him to choose between the mandate of the church and his obligations as a citizen under the law of the people.

Iar Lionel Arondaing

Angel Aquino, Jake Macapagal, Jess Mendoza, Anthony Falcon, Ricky Davao, Sam Quintana, Mercedes Cabral, Mark Dionisio

REVIEW: What started as an apposition of the Stations of The Cross to an unfolding story of murder, sin and confession becomes an anticlimactic cliché of the self-righteous, the repenting sinners and the justice seeker set in the picturesque island of Palawan. The filmmaker seems to be taking some visual cues from the Polish film Ida (Oscars 2015 Best Foreign Language Film). 3/5

Ang Guro Kong ‘Di Marunong Magbasa

When their teacher disappears, school children cradle guns in their arms instead of books.

Perry Escaño

Alfred Vargas, Mon Confiado, James Blanco, Miggs Cuaderno, Micko Laurente, Marc Justin Alvarez

REVIEW: To say that the script was written like it’s for TV would be the lighter way of saying that it could have been better. I felt like the narrative was excessive, everything was spoonfed by dialogue, the color too vibrant for the supposed mood, the visuals not used to provoke thoughts. Audience laughing at the most absurd scenes proved how baffled they were too of what they just saw. A wasted opportunity to bring people closer to an issue from “far away”. 1/5

Kiko Boksingero

Kiko, an 11-year-old boy left aimlessly alone with his nanny after the recent death of his mother, rekindles a long lost relationship with his father in an attempt to find a new lease on life.

Thop Nazareno
Noel Comia Jr., Yayo Aguila, Yul Servo
REVIEW: Whereas other films are loved because of grandeur, powerful narratives and stellar cast, Kiko Boksingero charms because of its simplicity. A coming-of-age story that brings us back to a time when we were kids longing for love and affection, but are forced to face the realities of adulthood. 3/5
Awards: Best Actor for Noel Comia, Jr., Best Supporting Actress for Yayo Aguila, Best Original Musical Score for Pepe Manikan


Raped and pregnant, an OFW rids herself of unwanted baggage on the flight back home.

Zig Dulay

Angeli Bayani

REVIEW: Make no mistake– this is not a drama that can give you memorable lines between its characters, nor can it deliver a happy ending. Instead, it stays true to its social realist roots– delivering a story that blurs the lines between truths and half-truths, between crimes and injustices, and questions the morales and principles we hold. The power of Bagahe lies within Angeli Bayani’s performance– succeeding in showing to us how a person can be treated like a dog by almost everyone, including oneself. 3/5

Awards: Best Actress for Angeli Bayani, Best Screenplay for Zig Dulay


A husband takes flight when his wife goes missing.

Sonny Calvento

Gina Alajar, JC Santos, Billy Ray Galleon

REVIEW: As Rommel changes his sando to one with Duterte’s name on it, we are reminded of the film’s haunting reflection of our country’s reality today– that of death, betrayal, and loss of trust with the rule of law. But then again, we are asked: is it just them, or is everyone in decay? 3/5

Award: Best Production Design for Marxie Maolen Fadul

[Entry 237, The SubSelfie Blog]

About the Author:

Subselfie - JM

JM Nualla is the Managing Editor of He is presently a News Producer of New Day and The Source on CNN Philippines. He also serves as an Assistant Professor in iACADEMY, teaching scripwriting, film language, new media and mentoring thesis projects. Previously, he was a Segment Producer for the GMA News Special Assignments Team and Senior Producer/Online Content Manager for Claire Delfin Media. Broadcast Communication 2009, PUP Manila. MA Journalism 2014, Ateneo de Manila.

Read more of his articles here.

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