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From domestic violence to cannibalism, Cinemagis films mirror social horrors

Mindanao conflict. Violence against women. Abduction. Incest. Religious prejudice. Unrequited love. Gut-churning cannibalism.

These elements have converged, assembling the captivating menu of digital short films for the sixth year of Cinemagis festival under the auspices of Xavier Center for Culture and the Arts (XCCA).

“This year’s festival has curated films that have social relevance and impact,” said Hobart Savior, XCCA director. “They reflect on social biases, peace issues, self-awareness and climate change.”

Since the establishment of Cinemagis in 2009, it has developed by leaps and numbers in terms of participating film makers and audience. Running on January 23-25 at the XU Little Theater and SM City Cinema 3, the event presents 5 professional entries, 8 student films, 3 special citation pictures and the critically acclaimed film, “Crossfire” by Arnel M. Mardoquio.

Cinemagis serves as the springboard for short films coming from Northern Mindanao to compete in the 6th Cinema Rehiyon, the national film festival organized by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

The winners of Cinemagis will be featured in Cinema Rehiyon on February 18-22, to be hosted also by XCCA.

Provocative plots

From the professional category, each entry has dealt with intriguing yet morally-baffling themes, enough to spark reality checks on various social matters.

Trauma and condemnation on the abuse of women unravel in the story of a battered wife, Estrella and how the exploitation has reshaped her definition of love and self-respect. “Estrella” is a film directed by Mark Gio Amoguis.

Tat Soriano’s “Panamilit” takes the audience to a heart-wrenching story of letting go and moving on with a tinge of nostalgia and surrealism.

“Hello” by Kevin Nico Surposa shows the acquaintance of good old friends and an uninvited follower— a mysterious lurker the protagonist has to face. “The film is about conquering our past,” said Surposa.

Gray Em Erezo, whose past entry was screened during the 5th Cinema Rehiyon, joins this year’s Cinemagis with “Lugdang”. Erezo said his film was inspired by a girl he met at Divisoria last year.
“She was like mentally drowned,” Erezo emphasized. “I used the word ‘drowned’ because she was drowned physically, mentally and emotionally. She could not even talk. She lost her family during the flash flood brought about by [Typhoon] Sendong.”

A short film that reaped a rundown of nominations during the 2013Mindanao Film Festival in Davao City and Sala Mindanaw in General Santos City— “Ika-3 Putahi” by Joeromer Bacus will be competing once again in Cinemagis. As a psycho-thriller, the film underscores the consequences of an unrequited affection and tells a journey to the limitation of one’s sanity.

From human flesh obsession to fairytales

On the other hand, the student films offer appealing story themes as much as the aforementioned entries.

Aimed at raising consciousness against incest crimes, “Lugos” (Rape) by Christine Pulgo takes us to the struggles of Juliet (the protagonist) and how she faces the aftermath of the most frustrating period of her life.

“The issue [of incest crimes] is very alarming. This story is made to raise awareness to the viewers. Thus, this film ought to lessen the crimes and immoralities in our society,” Pulgo said.
“A devil in human form,” that is how Angel Frances Borres describes Perla, a certain high school teacher lashing her ruthlessness to her students. However, the question remains: “What little hope shall the students cling on for Perla to change, not for the worse, but for the better?”

Inspired from a real cannibal from Japan, Richard Mar Caberte’s “Kaon Ta” chronicles the main character’s perversion over the human flesh and the appetite-stirring horror that comes with his uncanny obsession.

Krystel Hypa Magallanes’ “Unawa” deals with the religious divide and prejudice between Christians and Muslims. Her characters take on the struggles of stereotypes and the hope for a mutual understanding.

Recently, “Unawa” won the Best Film in the Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao- Peace Film Festival with the theme, “Mindanao: Lights. Camera. Peace.”

On a related subject of sort, Jamela Bato’s film, “Ceasefire” exhibits the question of peace and the true price of war between the Moro and the government forces in Mindanao.

Cinemagis also offers films with a touch of enchantment, astrology and real-life fairytales with Janine Banday’s “The Perfect Girl,” Eastine Charles Taneo’s “Wa Ko Kakita” and JS Legara’s “Binibining Cancer”

“‘Wa Ko Kakita’ was patterned after the legend of the pineapple but with some interesting twists,” Taneo said.

Cinemagis perks

Cinemagis also features three films with special citation: “Backwash,” a Sendong aftermath documentary film by Jose Alfonso Sendaydiego, the award-winning film thesis of Glenn Mark Doromal, “Walang Katapusang Adlaw” (Infinite Sun) and a documentary film on Cagayan de Oro City’s “Hapsay” governance, “Street Vendors” by Joi Gacayan .

In addition, the festival offers a free Guerilla Film Making Crash Course to interested film enthusiasts on Jan 24-25, 10:00 am to 12 noon at the XU Little Theater.

Over the years, the best student directors have been given scholarships on filmmaking at DLSU – College of St Benilde to hone their skills and pursue a career in the film industry. The recipients of the said scholarship were Glenn Mark Doromal and Jenriel Pons Lagat, who started with Cinemagis during their high school years.

Dr.Steven Patrick “Tibo” Fernandez, Felimon B. Blanco and Rudolph Alama comprise the festival’s jury. The winners from the student and professional categories will be announced during the awards night on January 25 at SM City Event Center.

Supported by the NCCA through its National Committee on Cinema, Cinemagis is organized in collaboration with Xavier Science Foundation (XSF), Research Institute for Mindanao Culture (RIMCU), XU NSTP and SM City Cagayan de Oro.

“Cinemagis has sustained the harvest and in nurturing the potentials of Northern Mindanao filmmakers,” said Savior, adding that the growing involvement of the Mindanaoans, resulting to a higher level of cultural awareness, serves as the evidence to this statement.