The Essential Guide to Cinema One Originals 2017

With nine new films, seven restored classics, and sixteen international winners, this year’s festival looks to be an embarrassment of cinematic riches.

by Emil Hofileña, art by Andrew Panopio


Under the tagline “Walang Takot,” the 13th edition of the Cinema One Originals film festival continues to function as a space for alternative cinema and original storytelling, while giving Filipino audiences the opportunity to catch an even wider selection of international festival winners and restored Filipino classics. Here are the two documentaries and seven narrative features in competition, as well as some other highlights from the rest of the festival program.


Bundok Banahaw, Sacred and Profane (Dempster Samarista)

The second documentary from Dempster Samarista, Bundok Banahaw, Sacred and Profane investigates the mysticism surrounding the titular mountain, and the Filipino’s relationship with spirituality and religion. Based on the footage that’s been made publicly available so far, Samarista seems to make good on his promise not to treat Banahaw like a tourist destination, rightfully placing heavier focus on the communities there and the rituals that have come to define them. The first batch of documentaries from Cinema One Originals showed a preference for challenging the form and telling these stories in new, interesting ways, so you can expect Bundok Banahaw to be far more concerned with philosophy than travel.


Changing Partners (Dan Villegas)

STARRING: Agot Isidro, Anna Luna, Jojit Lorenzo, Sandino Martin

Practically destined to be the festival’s most popular film this year, Changing Partners is an adaptation of Vincent A. de Jesus’s stage musical about an unraveling relationship. The kicker: four actors play the two roles, switching places throughout the story, depicting how partners of different ages and genders experience the same love and the same heartbreak. With the original cast reprising their roles, most of the pressure to get this right is placed on Dan Villegas, whose challenge is to use the medium of film to bring about something new to the musical—a genre that local cinema doesn’t have nearly as much experience with. Whatever happens, Changing Partners is bound to strike a chord in most audiences, given the original material’s proven strengths, and Villegas’s solid track record.


Si Chedeng at si Apple (Rae Red, Fatrick Tabada)

STARRING: Elizabeth Oropesa, Gloria Diaz

Si Chedeng at si Apple is the unlikely brainchild of Patay Na si Hesus scribe Fatrick Tabada and Birdshot writer Rae Red. The film sees two senior women searching for one’s long-lost ex-girlfriend, while the other tries to evade the law as she carries her husband’s severed head in a fake Louis Vuitton bag. The film seems to share more in common with Tabada’s previous film, also a dark comedy revolving around an elderly character, so the x-factor here is how the zany crime aspect plays into all of this. We couldn’t tell you for sure, but color us interested.


Haunted: A Last Visit to the Red House (Phy Grande)

By using a reportedly haunted house in Pampanga as her starting point, Phy Grande’s documentary revisits the horrors experienced by comfort women during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. Haunted: A Last Visit to the Red House has a lot on its mind: beyond telling stories from a terrible time, the film also aspires to explore our collective memory and seek justice for the surviving women. Here’s to hoping its eerie but reverent tone make for a film just as interesting.


Historiographika Errata (Richard Somes)

STARRING: Joem Bascon, Alex Medina, Maxine Eigenmann, Nathalie Hart

Supremo director Richard Somes revisits the Philippines’s past but with a decidedly more self-aware and playful approach. An attempt to make history fun again, Historiographika Errata is told in four parts, complete with a suicidal Jose Rizal, Macario Sakay’s protégé during the American occupation, a comfort woman during Japanese time, and four Katipuneros played by icons in the local rock scene—perhaps most notably, Yano’s Dong Abay. One can only hope that anthology films like this are consistent, but its utter strangeness alone—and Somes’s proven skill at recreating history—warrants a look.


Nay (Kip Oebanda)

STARRING: Enchong Dee, Sylvia Sanchez, Jameson Blake

Nay tells the story of a young man being turned into an aswang by his longtime yaya. Director Kip Oebanda restricted himself to only using technology that was available in the 1980s, in an attempt to capture something closer to the horror films of that decade, while making a statement on the wave of violence currently being experienced in the Philippines today. Nay is Oebanda’s first foray into horror, but he already seems to have a solid grasp on the genre’s function as social commentary. Hopefully there’s some fresh insight to be gained from the film’s blood and guts.


Nervous Translation (Shireen Seno)

STARRING: Jana Agoncillo, Sid Lucero

After her 2011 film Big Boy, Shireen Seno once again tackles family dynamics in an unconventional way with Nervous Translation, which finds the 8-year-old Yaell discovering a pen that can write out people’s thoughts when they feel nervous. Seno has said that the family’s relationships will be studied not so much through interactions between characters, but through Yael and different objects representing her family. But the most striking thing about the film based on trailers is its distinct sound design, which overlaps voices into harmony. Seno has a proven track record of inventiveness in filmmaking, and we’re hoping to see all that in here.


Paki (Giancarlo Abrahan)

STARRING: Dexter Doria, Shamaine Buencamino

Giancarlo Abrahan’s second film Paki casts character actress Dexter Doria in her first leading role as a woman who meets resistance from her children when she expresses interest in leaving her husband and striking out on her own. Abrahan’s name should be enough cause for excitement; his first filim Dagitab used drew powerful performances out of Eula Valdez and Nonie Buencamino, and it’ll be interesting to see the kind of work Abrahan can get out of Doria. Though seemingly much lighter in tone than Dagitab, Paki should be just as unusual and promising.


Throwback Today (Joseph Teoxon)

STARRING: Carlo Aquino, Annicka Dolonius, Empress Schuck, Allan Paule

The story of a dissatisfied man who discovers a way to speak to his college self through chat, Throwback Today makes use of multiple timelines and various characters in the protagonist’s life to touch on themes of regret and longing. This is the kind of film that seems like it can go either way. As Joseph Teoxon’s first film, it could be as messy as the premise suggests, or it could showcase the kind of fresh voice that the Cinema One Originals festival has given to us before.


Apart from the nine new entries and a new short film program, this year’s Cinema One Originals is screening seven restored Filipino classics, including Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Moral (1982), Jeffrey Sonora’s Asedillo (1971), Celso Ad Castillo’s Tag-Ulan sa Tag-Araw (1975), and Danny Zialcita’s Langis at Tubig (1980). The new documentary Ishma by Sari Dalena will also be screened to coincide with the release of ProBernal AntiBio, Ishamel Bernal’s semi-autobiography.


The festival’s international slate has grown into a massive 16-film selection. Cinema One Originals this year will open with Martin McDonagh’s small town black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and will end with the tennis biopic Battle of the Sexes, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. Other highlights include Golden Bear-winning On Body and Soul, directed by Ildikó Enyedi; Sebastián Lelio’s LGBT drama A Fantastic Woman; Palme d’Or nominee Good Time, directed by Ben and Josh Safdie; the universally acclaimed Call Me by Your Name from Luca Guadagnino; and a 4K restoration of Steven Spielberg’s 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind.


The 13th Cinema One Originals festival will run from November 13 to 21 at Trinoma, Glorietta, Gateway, UP Cine Adarna, Cinema ’76, and Cinematheque Centre Manila, with an extended run from November 22 to 28 at Power Plant Mall.



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