By Seymour B. Sanchez | Contributor
Films on social realities emerged triumphant in a dream project. This summarizes the first annual Dreamanila International Film Festival recently held at The Dream Theater by CBRC in Sampaloc, Manila. The event featured sociological, anthropological and ecological films that are mainly focused on gender equality, indigenous people and their cultures, and issues on environmental awareness.
Hosted by Carl Balita Productions or CBP, the film festival was divided into the student and professional divisions. The films were judged according to the following criteria: 50% for social impact and 50% for excellence in direction, screenplay, performance and technical aspects.
Award-winning filmmaker Joselito Altarejos, UP Film Institute resident programmer and film critic Nonoy Lauzon and independent film actor Tony Fabian comprised the Dreamanila jury.
“Pua Iyam” (Coming Out), which is about a guy who discovers his true identity, topped the student division by bagging Best Short Film and Best Performance for lead actor Rowi Du. The short film won “for its outstanding technical achievements and most exemplary direction, acting and artistic design. The film’s screenplay is affecting, poignant, and sincere in capturing both the beauty and struggle of a person’s often painful episodes of coming of age,” read the jury citation.
Director Juan Pablo Pineda III, an alumnus of Far Eastern University and the FEU Film Society, is grateful to the festival organizers and judges and his production team Indie-Go Pictures for another set of victories for their film. “Pua Iyam” was also recognized at FEU’s Sinepiyu 2017, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s CineSB7, UP’s Piling Obrang Vidyo XIV, CineMapúa 2018, 9th Largabista in Tacloban, Leyte, and the first Palawan International Film Festival.
“It’s almost two years and the production shoot is still fresh from my memory. I still remember how I first fell in love and how I easily stopped from loving and chasing the characters I’ve created in my story,” Pineda shared, as he dedicates the film to his brother who is in a coma.
On the other hand, Du is thankful to Pineda for trusting him to portray the main character of Ken, as well as their mentors and friends who never stopped believing in their film. “As an actor, I will always be proud of this project and this role. Cheers to dreams that turned into reality!”
Meanwhile, DLS-CSB film alumnus Christian Rae Villanueva won Best Director “for the most impressive display of proficiency in weaving a simple narrative into a complex and carefully observed character study” in “Ang Mga Turo ng Gabi” (Lessons of the Night).
In addition, “Santa Nena!” by fellow Benildean filmmaker Tim Rone B. Villanueva got a Special Jury Prize “for its courage in expressing a bold concept in challenging and exposing our sociocultural norms with searing passion and integrity.” The black comedy tied for the award with “How to Get to the Cinema” by Alexey Protsenko of Russia while Guilherme Franco of Portugal won Best Screenplay for “Laura.”
Another FEU short film, “Retrospektib” (Retrospective) by Daryll Jameson Apaga, received a special mention “for its brilliantly comedic expression and observation of the lessons and effects of oppression in the psyche of the society.” In the film, three activists escape the atrocities of the Narkos regime at the height of Martial Law. They are surprised by their discovery in the present.
Jek Joshua David, the new CBP Director of Productions, said that it has long been a dream of his boss, Dr. Carl Balita, to build his own theater since he has a passion for the arts. Aside from being the president of Carl Balita Review Center, educator and radio host, Balita is also a film producer himself through his production outfit CBP. After serving as an executive producer to “Nars” directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr. more than ten years ago, he again ventured into film production, this time as producer to “Maestra” by Lemuel Lorca.
“When ‘Maestra’ premiered in 2017 at Black Maria Cinema, Sir Carl was inspired by it that he wanted to establish a similar venue.” Black Maria is a microcinema owned by the same family behind SQ Film Laboratories, Inc.
“The third floor of our office is being used as lecture room for reviewees. He thought of converting it into a theater since it is not being used at night after the review classes,” David said, referring to the building at the corner of G. Tolentino Street and España Boulevard in Sampaloc.
In addition, Balita had a hard time showing “Maestra” in commercial cinemas so he opened his own theater last year and planned on building more screening venues nationwide. “Sir Carl knows the struggles of independent producers so with Dream Theater, we can assure indie filmmakers that we can help them if they need a venue for showing their films,” David vowed.
Turning Balita’s dream into reality also gave the venue a dual purpose – a lecture room in the morning and a theater at night. “And knowing we are surrounded by universities, students are our main audience aside from our reviewees. The theater is also his way of helping the independent industry,” David explained. “Aside from that, the theater also doubles as a venue for theater productions. We already started with Mano-Mano Theater Festival last October featuring groups from different university theater productions staging original plays they created. We plan to continue the same type of productions so we can tour it in different provinces in the Philippines.”
“Dreamanila is a start-up fest. Almost a hundred entries submitted last year and just like any film event, we want to give them a venue. We adhered to screening more titles from here and abroad,” head programmer and “Maestra” scriptwriter Archie Del Mundo explained.
“It’s a good test run holding it last December. There were many setbacks but we managed to handle them because we had a venue in the Dream Theater. We realized that we can do better next time when we hold it in a new venue this year, hopefully with the help of sponsors and institutions. We have invitations to hold it in UP. We need time to program them properly so we can screen them to the public,” Del Mundo revealed.
In the professional division, which showcased full-length films in competition, “Mahin’s Issue, Maliheh’s Problem” by Hossein Tabrizi of Iran won Best Film and Best Performance for Gilda Vishki while Filipino filmmaker Bagane Fiola’s “Baboy Halas” (Wailings in the Forest) got the Grand Jury prize.
Meanwhile, Lam Can-zhao (“The Dog”) of China and another Filipino filmmaker Arnel Barbarona (“Tu Pug Imatuy”) tied for Best Director. Fellow Filipinos Joseph Laban and Denise O’Hara took Best Screenplay for “Baconaua” and Charliebebs Gohetia brought home the Excellence in Cinematography, Sound, Editing and Orchestration award in all categories for “Chasing Waves.” Special mentions were given to director Sigfreid Barros Sanchez and actor Ejay Falcon of “Magtanggol” and director Xue Tao of China for “Broken City.”
Apart from Dreamanila and Mano-Mano, CBRC is planning to hold another film festival of its kind in Oriental Mindoro, with no specific date yet, and the Maestra International Student Film Festival featuring teachers. Originally scheduled this March, it will be moved in July instead.