Festivals, Reviews

Cinemalaya 2019: Shorts B, Ranked

This year’s Shorts B program is insanely strong. Yes, this list is ranked, but any of the short films below could have easily taken the top spot. With topics ranging from something as intimate and personal as brotherly love to something as important and societal as the 2017 Marawi siege, these films prove the power of storytelling even in the shortest runtimes.

Here are the Cinemalaya Shorts B, ranked in rough order of preference:

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  1. Sa Among Agwat (dir. Don Senoc)

Perhaps the simplest in this year’s shorts section in terms of story, what Sa Among Agwat lacks in complexity it makes up for with masterful direction. Director Don Senoc and DOP Steven Paul Evangelio intelligently use the visual space to show brothers Jun (Cid Senoc) and Mako’s (Kelvin John Lim) closeness amid a vast world. The film, composed mostly of bonding moments between the brothers before the younger Mako is adopted by their childless aunt and sent to Manila, is heartwarming as it is saddening, highlighting the lack of opportunities in rural areas and how this dire situation tears families apart. Moreover, Senoc makes sure to comment on the wealth disparity between the rich and the poor and how for the latter, survival and sacrifice are two sides of the same coin.

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  1. The Shoemaker (dir. Sheron Dayoc)

Following the success of last year’s Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon (Cinemalaya 2018 Best Film) and Hintayan ng Langit (QCinema 2018 Competition Film), Sheron Dayoc’s recent short film also explores the reunion of an elderly couple years after their failed romance. Sherry Lara and Soliman Cruz give off a cute yet mature chemistry, never succumbing to the shallowness of the hugot trend. Dayoc inserts some humorous elements, mostly through the scene-stealing Moi Bien, but they only serve to reinforce the absurdity of the ex-lovers’ situation and how fate has funny ways of reconnecting people.


  1. Tembong (dir. Shaira Advincula)

In Shaira Advincula’s Special Jury Award-winning film, a T’boli man is tasked with performing an activity traditionally assigned to women: weaving the T’nalak, a cloth made of abaca designed with patterns shown to the dreamweavers in their dreams. The film explores gender as a social construct and how it manifests in the T’boli culture, extensively using visual imagery of water to reinforce the idea of the fluidity of gender. Its storytelling is accompanied by eccentric shot choices, ethereal musical score, and top-tier editing that flows in a dreamlike manner, giving Tembong its unique cinematic identity.

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  1. Hele ng Maharlika (dir. Norvin de los Santos)

A lot of other films have already tackled loss of innocence in the time of war, but what Hele ng Maharlika offers to the table is its much needed coverage of the Marawi siege in 2017. It has only been a little over two years after the destruction of Marawi City, yet news about its rehabilitation already seem to have escaped our collective consciousness. The film makes clever use of light and color to show the grim situation of children in Marawi, and how hope continues to exist, albeit only in their imaginative faculties. Hele ng Maharlika is a reminder of who we fight for and why we continue to struggle towards just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

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  1. Kontrolado ni Girly ang Buhay N’ya (dir. Gilb Baldoza)

Far from the glamourized celebration that floods social media during Pride Month, Kontrolado ni Girly ang Buhay N’ya presents the viewers with reality as experienced by a gay teenager from the working class. Here, gender and class issues are intricately linked with each other. Director Gilb Baldoza uses menstrual blood to symbolize the plight shared by cisgender women and the LGBTQIA+ community under a patriarchal system. But rather than merely exposing social realities, Baldoza gives the titular Girly the agency to fight back against her abusers and create a world where she and her fellow oppressed peoples are able to take control of their own lives. The film makes clever use of handheld cinematography style to give viewers a more intimate relationship with the characters, and it works; it overflows with so much pathos that by the film’s ending, one can’t help but be proud of Girly for her determination and be angered by the continued existence of such oppressive system.


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