Wednesday, July 13, 2005

glitz, glam, and boys in thongs

I was at the glitzy opening ceremonies of the the Cinemalaya Film Fest at the lobby of CCP’s Main Theater last night.

Cinemalaya is a bid to resuscitate the dying film industry by encouraging the production of independent quality films. Six short films were premiered that night, amid pomp and pageantry. In the darkened lobby, only spotlights on the floor illumined the platform that was diffused with stage smoke. All the huge, swanky chandeliers were draped with white, gauzy cloth. Amid half naked male dancers with gleaming body paints and fancy headdresses, the filmmakers were hailed like returning Roman conquerors. I was, like, OK enough with the hype. We’ve already been convinced that it’s worth our while. No need for trumpety fanfare. Cut the garish bullshit and let us get on with the damn films!

After an overly dramatic performance of the theme song by Grace Nono, who staged a faggoty entrance via the grand, twisting, smoke-choked staircase, we were instructed by the voice-over girl to “follow the balangay (ancient pre-Hispanic boat) toward the Little Theater.”

And so, led by Grace Nono in an ethnic-inspired, Graeco-Roman robe and silver-painted boys wearing nothing but silver thongs (where the hell did the women in thongs go?), rowing their oars in theatrical slow-mo, we all trooped toward the Little Theater while a recording of Grace’s voice suffused the misty air. With all the TV cameras around, I felt like a Hollywood star on my way to the Oscars as I walked down the carpeted stairs leading to the Little Theater, forcing myself not to get distracted by the bare back of the woman in front of me, who just slung some cloth to cover her breasts. (Down boy, down.)

Inside the theater, the naked boys, again, struck a pose onstage, still rowing and doing some mild body movements in synch with the theme song’s MTV playing on the screen behind them. When we’re all settled, the filmmakers were called onstage for the nth time for yet another round of hail-the-returning-conquerors blah blah. Not again! This sort of stuff should come after the screening, when we would have already judged the merits of their films.

After all the rah-rah, the films were finally shown. I must say they were gems. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty of each of the six films. Suffice it to say that most of these filmmakers know how to tell a story effectively, however mundane their subject matters are. They used powerful images that would impact you emotionally but would not gross you out unnecessarily. Sure these films could use some polishing at the edges, some trimming of overwrought psychological exploration, and more fine-tuning to make their plots tighter. But as a whole, they do rise slightly above the standard fare. I noticed, though, that Hollywoodish filming style has crept into the crevices of our film industry so deep that even supposedly indie maverick filmmakers have taken to it with ease. Gone are the long, drawn-out, contemplative scenes that invite the viewer to participate by way of introspection and interpretation. In its place is a swiftly paced, cut-to-cut editing typical of MTV, which does not leave you much headroom for some thought processes. Having said this, I still immensely enjoyed watching those short films. Maybe there is still hope for our degenerate movie industry. The only problem is, how do we mainstream these films? How do we create a market for them?

But that’s the least of my concerns right now. Until such time that these films can already elbow out trashy commercial flicks, I would continue to patronize indie film fests, gaudy thonged boys notwithstanding.


At 11:34 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

cinemalaya - i asked the organizers if they were going to showcase it in other cities. they said theyll think about it .. grrr .. ^_^

At 11:38 AM, Blogger blue arden said...

ey, which one is your film, if i got your post correctly?

At 12:39 PM, Blogger slim whale said...


the prob with these festivals is that they center the activities in manila. they should bring it all over the country so everyone would have a chance to see them.

blue arden,

how i wish i had one! hehe. i was just a spectator who walked right behind the filmmakers during the grand 'ushering in.' feeling lang.

At 1:42 PM, Blogger weng said...

i should have opted for that last night then, rather than being tortured to stomach spielberg's war of the worlds - a total waste of my time. i ended up scouring the unorganized collection of sale books in national bookstore. found a treasure though, douglas coupland's eleanor rigby for a measly 200 bucks. =D

At 12:54 PM, Blogger transience said...

ooohhh, i may be able to catch this. maybe i should wear a thong?

At 2:15 PM, Blogger slim whale said...


my friends all tell me that 'war of the worlds' sucks. i have yet to see for myself.

haven't read any of coupland's works before. 'heard that eleonor rigby is melancholic and provides dark comments on religion and spirituality. tell me if this book's good.

film fest runs till 17 july. go catch it.


ooooh, yes, definitely! make it leather. and bring a whip and cuffs, too. the next time i go there, i'll wear nothing but leather shoes.


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