Festivals, Reviews

Rise of the Short Films: Cinemalaya 2021 Main Competition Set A

Since the lockdown was mandated, it has been difficult for filmmakers to come up with new films. Producing full-length films became more expensive due to COVID-19 safety protocols. This has allowed us to reimagine the landscape of Philippine cinema; with short films previously seen as inferior to full-lengths, the short form has taken over. QCinema, Cinemalaya, Lockdown Cinema Club, and many more have featured hundreds of shorts. 

Even if the challenges did manifest themselves in the work of these filmmakers, what’s important is that short films have made themselves more visible in the Philippine film industry. This year, Cinemalaya 2021 showed 14 short films from different parts of the Philippines. I have seen 7 films from Main Competition Set A, and there are three films that stood out to me.

An Sadit na Planeta (The Little Planet) (dir. Arjanmar Rebeta)

An Sadit na Planeta uses a 360 camera to illustrate the protagonist living inside this little planet. This can be an allegory to our experience during the quarantine. We have been locked up inside our rooms; in the film’s case, the planet. And most of the time, we have been feeling static and lonely just like how the time inside the little planet repeats during the first part of the film. But in the middle, the character resists, and this resistance is just as charming as that little planet he is living on.

Maski Papano (dirs. Glenn Barit and Che Tagyamon)

This film invested on the relatability of the subject matter. It shows us a humanoid face mask thrown away after use. Despite its charming storytelling, this film touches on an important reality where humans are treated as replaceable objects, especially amidst this pandemic when millions of people have lost their jobs because of retrenchments. Despite the protagonist feeling bad at first, it discovers that it is not alone in this world, and enjoys its moment with its fellow humanoids—dancing and celebrating. The last scene shows that there is power in collectivity and in the community.

Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi (dir. Shiri Francesca de Leon)

De Leon’s story shows us an old virgin who hires a callboy due to the pressure she experienced with her peers. The chemistry between Lola Mayumi (Ruby Ruiz) and the callboy (Julian Roxas) is where the charm of the film comes from. It is comedic yet traumatic; humorous but senseful. It is charming without sacrificing the depth of the film subject. Perhaps there is magic and care when women capture their own struggles in cinema. It isn’t appropriation. It is authentic and honest. 

I just hope that even after this health crisis, audiences appreciate short films and remember how these films have helped them cope. We have to call for support for shorts, local development labs, and more platforms for them. And I hope that one day, the label “short” wouldn’t be necessary as well—as we have surpassed the purist cinema. The kind of cinema that believes that shorts are being produced out of boredom or as proof of concept for a longer version. Short films have defined themselves for their own purpose: the art of telling a story or evoking a feeling within a brief period of time.

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