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Manila, Philippines

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Cinemalaya 2021 Main Shorts Competition: Variety of Narrative Filled with Creativity

The 13 short films selected for Cinemalaya 2021 Main Shorts Competition are divided into two sets: Set A and Set B. Although there are two sets, it doesn’t matter because there is no theme followed per set. It is just films divided into sets with different narratives that you can all learn a thing or two from.

Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead!

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Maski Papano (I Mask Go On)

A film by Che Tagyamon and Glenn Baritt

The stop-motion animation Maski Papano is a comedic approach to the reality that life goes on. The film takes us on a journey that highlights one’s agony when the pandemic struck but later on discovered that he is not alone and despite everyone’s differences, we are all still in the same battleground doing what we can to cope and move forward even with uncertainty. The message of the film is loud and assuring that no matter how powerless you may feel right now, others can relate to you, and most importantly, you are not alone.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya


A film by Marc Misa

Crossing is a film that is simple yet impactful. The simplicity of its execution flawlessly stitched all the other elements such as the narrative, sound, cinematography, editing, and mise-en-scene. It sends a message with great impact that will force you to question if heroes are heroes and at the same time it will challenge you to look deeper into the reason behind what made the criminal a criminal.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Kawatan sa Salog (A Toy in the River)

A film by Alphie Velasco

Kawatan sa Salog is interesting but sadly, the narrative is not well established. The idea of penance and attaining peace is present but the execution of the film did not quite give justice to the plot. It did have strong visuals and the characters of the actors' Kyle Kaizer and veteran actress Lui Manansala were well played. Still, the mystery behind the scenes remains a mystery that will make you feel that something is lacking and dissatisfied with its ending.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

An Sadit na Planeta

A film by Arjaman Rebeta

An Sadit na Planeta will pique your interest as it stands out among other films because of its visuals that were captured on a 360-degree video. One tip if you are to watch the film: don’t let the monotonous monologue of Planet I hinder you from allowing yourself to immerse yourself in the film because it does have a relevant message. Technically, the film being shot in a 360-degree video will not give you a headache, it served as quite an interesting visual. But what’s great about this film is the message delivered that urges you to move forward, to live, and to build a planet that you want to live in because it is you that keeps this planet going.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Looking for Rafflesias and other Fleeting Things

A film by James Fajardo

One word: “Huh?”. The film starts off interesting and you will get hooked on its cinematography by Rocky Morilla. The combination of superstitious belief and religion will as well spike your interest in how the narrative will unfold but the execution of the film is not smoothly stitched which makes it challenging to watch and it will leave you feeling blank and disconnected from the film. It could have been an interesting film had it not suffered from poor execution and weak symbolisms that it is difficult to give a sense of what the film is really about.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Out of Body

A film by Enrico Po

If there’s one thing this film spoke loud and clear it’s that: don’t turn a blind eye. Even if it is something that you want so bad, leave when respect is no longer being served. It doesn't matter where you are on the ladder but don't allow anyone to exploit you. Out of Body is a disturbing film that depicts the reality of how manipulative people can be to get what they want. The film is well-executed and it was able to hold the suspense until the last few minutes of the film but the ending did not give justice to how great the pacing of the narrative has been. Nonetheless, it is a good film with great cinematography, sound, editing, mise-en-scene, and actors.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi

A film by Shiri de Leon

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi emphasizes that we all have our reasons for doing what we do and that we should not be easily swayed by others’ opinions. The pacing of the narrative is easy to watch until you get to the part where Lola Mayumi who is played by Ruby Ruiz shares with Julian Roxas who is a sex worker, why she remained a virgin at her age. Although her revelation greatly contributed to the overall plot, the flashback scene withholds an important visual that will keep the audience connected to the central conflict of the film. But even with this hiccup, Director Shiri de Leon is still able to wrap it up beautifully.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Namnama en Lolang

A film by Jonnie Lynn Pasalla

Namnama en Lolang straightforwardly tackled the effect of the pandemic as it follows the journey of a grandmother who is longing for the parents of her grandchild who are both fallen frontliners. It is a simple yet relevant story that successfully makes the audience sympathize with the characters.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Kids on Fire

A film by Kyle Nieva

Kids on Fire is probably one of the films that are appealing to watch because of its great visuals. The treatment of the film is divided into 10 chapters which makes it more interesting. Its story follows a boy named JC (Alexis Negrite) who is amid sexual awakening while on a retreat with his classmates. The execution of the film is comical because of its commentary but it is also quite disturbing given some scenarios that are borderline illegal. The build-up of the film is great but it will spiral down to an unsure ending.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Beauty Queen

A film by Myra Aquino

There are many good points about this film and it is more impressive because it is based on the story of a prolific leader of the Hukbalahap during World War II, Remedios Gomez. The story depicts an important message on how we should not underestimate the ability of women to lead and through the execution of the film, the message is delivered clearly. Aside from being a woman leader, the film also depicts that one should always believe in their ability despite criticism. There’s so much more that can be elaborated in the film Beauty Queen that I wouldn’t mind seeing a feature-length version of it.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Ate O.G.

A film by Kevin Mayuga

Working for two lazy and spoiled teenagers in time of the pandemic has become burdensome to Ate O.G. especially with their orders that can be easily done on their own until she discovered a stash of Mary Jane in the closet of one of the teenagers. Only after discovering that Ate O.G. is smoking Mary Jane did the teenagers started to act more considerate for some unknown reason. I’m quite unsure of what the intention of the film is because it seems like it could have been a possibly relevant story had they given more thought to the depth of the issue.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

The Dust in Your Place

A film by David Olson

This is yet another film that tackles a platonic relationship between a guy and a girl. The dialogues exchanged are thought-provoking and the characters Rick (Boo Gabanuda) and Claire (Chaye Mogg) can pull off the lengthy dialogues making the film more appealing. But despite the film having lengthy dialogues, you will get hooked anticipating the words that are not being said. The minimalist setting also works for the narrative of the film because it draws you more to focus on the relationship of the characters. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is one of the best films this year, but it is not so bad either.

Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

Ang Mga Nawawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa

A film by Kevin Ayson

This film being last on the list of the short film entries nicely wraps up the two sets of short films. Ang Mga Nawawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa may seem a little commercialized but still, it can touch the emotions of the audience. It has great cinematography and narrative that highlights how small business owners in Ilocos are greatly affected by the pandemic and how this group called Sabaw Hunters can help them through the use of social media. Aside from this, the film highlights the culture of food in Ilocos that will make you appreciate it more. Ang Mga Nawawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa is inspiring. Hats off to Sabaw Hunters for being the source of hope for people during these trying times. It inspires us to do our part.


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