Three film majors from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde recently hauled the majority of awards at the annual Realifilm competition of Silip@Lente, a student film organization based at Adamson University.
Award-winning filmmakers Vahn Leinard Pascual and Andre Joachim “Aki” Red led the 1-2 punch of Benilde as sophomore Caitlin Macaraig joined them in the Realifilm “Liwanag sa Dilim” winning circle. They are all taking up Bachelor of Arts in Digital Filmmaking at the DLS-CSB School of Design and Arts.
Pascual’s “Silang Mga Naligaw sa Limot” (They Who Were Lost in Oblivion) bagged the Realifilm Gold Award and Best Director prize, while “Safety Shots” of Anakpula Productions brought home the Realifilm Silver Award, Best Cinematography, and Best Actor for Red.
In addition, “Ihi sa Bote,” written and directed by Macaraig of Kiken Films, secured the Realifilm Award of Virtue, Best in Production Design, and Best Actress for her cousin Mary Grace Macaraig as Elise.
In “Silang mga Naligaw sa Limot,” a girl (Joy Romero Arsola) wakes up after a typhoon surge, recalls the disastrous event that had happened, and later sees a lifeless body lying by the seashore.
Pascual shared that they want to tell the narrative of people who were victimized by typhoons and abused by those in the government. “The concept just popped out in my mind when my family decided to go on a beach trip for three days. And with no screenplay and limited equipment – just a tripod, a small camera with kit lens, and my friend as an actress, we decided to make my vision happen.”
“I also talked to my friend Giulia Saavedra if I can also use her real footage of the typhoon that recently hit our provinces. And luckily, she accepted it since we have the same goal – to share the real stories of people,” Pascual narrated. “This film is a call for help,” he explained.
Pascual was awarded Film Ambassador by the Film Development Council of the Philippines and Ani ng Dangal by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. This after “Silang Mga Naligaw sa Limot” got the jury’s special mention from the 14th Tbilisi Sunrise International Youth Film Festival in Georgia.
In “Safety Shots,” Red focuses on a filmmaker’s attempts to create a film out of unused takes from his previous works, at the height of a creative block brought about by the repetitiveness of pandemic living.
Red, who also acted in the film, shared that he faced a “severe creative burnout”. “Everything around remained just as restrictive and repetitive. Days become harder to differentiate from each other. Frustration was a primary motivator in the creation of this film; frustration from having no control of the inevitable death of passion brought about by an inefficient pandemic response.”
“I wanted the film to intentionally feel unpolished and freewheeling; to be angrier and more confrontational without the angst when it comes to its unconventional structure for a pandemic film. I wanted to impart to the audience the struggles of the youth facing prolonged isolation,” Red revealed.
Meanwhile, “Ihi sa Bote” recalls Elise’s childhood trauma as she catches up with her parents and boyfriend one afternoon. As her father brings up her peculiar habit of peeing in bottles when she was younger, everyone laughs at her. However, she feels uncomfortable about it.
Macaraig created the film with the hope that such matters should be given more attention. “This is just a step in creating a world that is far from any form of trauma and it’s about time we initiate healthier conversations. Because to feel is to be human, and no child should feel any different from anyone else,” she stressed.
Pascual has made at least 20 short films, including “Sina Alexa, Xander at ang Universe,” which topped the recent CineMapúa Film Festival and Manila Student Film Festival, and “Alingasngas ng mga Kuliglig,” which won Best Picture and a co-production grant from the International Silent Film Festival Manila’s Mit Out Sound: Silent Film Competition.
On the other hand, Red won the top prize in the 19-21 age category of the third MSFF for “Lilipad na si Birdie,” the Bronze Award for the same film at Realifilm in 2019, and the Best Sound Design for “Signal Notice” at the 8th Nabunturan Film Exhibition or NABIFILMEX in Davao de Oro.
Compared to “filmfest veterans” Pascual and Red, it was Macaraig’s first time joining a film festival. “I’m still in shock that I already got accepted, nominated, and even awarded. None of this would have happened without my crew, actors, mentors, and everyone who supported the film. The entire experience was very fruitful, and I’m greatly humbled to be a part of this event,” she said.
“It’s unfair to expect children to be resilient. There are still parents who forget that the smallest things they say or do can leave a mark on their children, especially in our country. It’s wrong to assume that they can just move on,” she asserted.
Red, who felt that the pandemic made him a passive artist, crafted the message of his film to critique the dangerous culture of “desperately waiting for solutions to arrive without doing anything about it” that is present in different sectors of our society. “Waiting for a solution without concrete actions only prolongs the struggle,” he added.
Pascual’s message, in a way, concurred with both Macaraig and Red. “Resilience should not be glorified. Instead, we should demand accountability from those in power to create a better system to lessen the devastation the Philippines experiences during times of disaster,” he concluded.
Screenwriter Gilliann Ebreo and filmmakers Mike Sandejas and Joselito “Jay” Altarejos made up the jury of the Realifilm competition this year, with the theme “Go Overboard: Withstand Obstacles of Disarray.”