In recent years, Cinemalaya has really proven to be a pivotal showcase of local talent. Taking its cues from the independent or "indie" movement, allowing the filmmakers to work outside of the studio system, Cinemalaya has produced some compelling (and not so compelling) work that manages to expand the country's film landscape and creates an avenue for filmmakers to tackle stories that will have a hard time being produced by the studio system. This avenue also has its own market and while the films aren't released nationwide, there is a chance that these films will find a studio who would be willing to distribute it based on the reactions of the audience of the festival.

I caught as many as I could. I was disappointed with myself last year because I was only able to catch two of the films, and I vowed to see as much as I can this time. Though my reactions vary per film, I feel that based on what I've seen, the films we are producing are getting better. Some films still fall way below the standard -- they rely on good intentions but failed because they were too ambitious and the directors were not able to come up to the level required of the material. But there were very strong films that came out of this batch as well, proving that we have a crop of true filmmakers, who, if given the right producer and financing, can produce really good films in the future.

Here's a roundup of the films that I caught in this year's Cinemalaya and what I thought of each:

Directed by Mikhail Red

Mikhail Red's Rekorder is a film about a pirate, Maven (Ronnie Quizon), whose past has disconnected him from the world. A former cinematographer for films, he makes a living recording movies off of the cinema and then takes footage of the city on his way home. One fateful evening, he records something else entirely that changes his whole life.

Rekorder is a slow-paced film, but it's not boring. It's a story about Maven's disconnection from the world and the only way he can relate to it is through his camera. His past is haunting him that turned him this way and the movie carefully unravels his story while he navigates through the bowels of the city as one incident he captures on video begins to challenge his disconnected state.

Rekorder is well-told and is rooted in the excellent performance of Ronnie Quizon. The cinematography is excellent that while the film shows the dark, gritty reality of the city, it also manages to show its beauty. In the film, Mikhail Red manages to convey a beautiful Manila side-by-side with its gritty and grisly aspects without desecrating it. The script could use a little fine tuning here and there, especially an unnecessary line from an old man that sort of explains one of the themes of the film. It is a clunky device because the film is so clear and evident in its showing of the problem that it tackles that it did not need to resort to an articulated expression of the theme to drive home the point. The movie succeeds in doing this on its own.

But, with a few script caveats, the film is very well-told and Mikhail Red should be proud of this dark tale about how one can be so disconnected from the world, but that doesn't mean the world will not try to come in and change you anyway.


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