Passions and Obsessions

Benildean filmmakers bag awards at 2023 Cinemalaya

Dealing with violence, gender roles, parental absence, domestic abuse, these original works boldly articulate the Filipino experience

(Still) 'Ang Duyan ng Magiting,' Paolo O’Hara as Gabriel Ventura, Dolly de Leon as Jill Sebastian

Filmmaker, playwright, and Benilde Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) educator Dustin Celestino

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the Cinemalaya Foundation, Inc. concluded the 19th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival with recognition for the original works that boldly articulated and interpreted the Filipino experience with fresh instincts and artistic integrity.

Among the awardees were homegrown talents and industry experts from the Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) Program of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) School of New Media Arts (SNMA).

Ang Duyan ng Magiting (The Cradle of the Brave), a socio-political anthology on life and terrorism in the Philippines, nabbed the Special Jury Award and the Special Award for Best Ensemble in Full-Length Feature.

Written and directed by filmmaker, playwright, and screenwriting professor Dustin Celestino at the height of red-tagging and extrajudicial killings, it revolves around a student named Jose who wishes to learn more about the armed movement.

The ensemble includes Dolly de Leon, Bituin Escalante, Agot Isidro, Miggy Jimenez, Jojit Lorenzo, Frances Makil-Ignacio, Paolo O’Hara, Joel Saracho, and Dylan Ray Talon.

“It is a criticism of the impulsive violence that was normalized during the last half decade of our country’s history and a reminder that everything we do has far-reaching consequences,” Celestino says. “It is an attempt to take the first step by extending our empathy towards those we disagree with the most.”

Benildean filmmaker alumnus Gian Arre’s full-length entry Tether, which blurs the line between romance and horror, bagged the Best Sound Design. Its lead Mikoy Morales was also named Best Actor.

Benilde Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) alumnus Gian Arre

A study on power and connections, it follows an arrogant playboy and a timid woman who discover that any physical sensation is shared with the other.

“It is a story about abuse, self-harm, suicide, sexual awakening, the subversion of gender roles, and the helplessness of becoming a victim,” Arre explained. “It explores what we’re capable of when we’re handed the lifeline of another person, and asks how much is left of who we are when others are handed the reins to our own lives.”

Cinemalaya also recognized DFilm program alumnus Mike Cabarles as Best Director for his short Makoko sa Baybay (I am Going to the Beach).

‘Tether’ by Benilde Digital Filmmaking alumnus Gian Arre

Benilde Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) alumnus Mike Cabarles

An homage to the artist’s Pangasinense roots, it narrated the daily lives of two siblings who visit the beach to find the sea creature who took their mother. It delves into the essence of innocence and death amid constant longing for companionship, warmth, and comfort.

“It acts as a bridge for the audience to see the desires of the youth,” Cabarles noted. “It is important to reexamine the effects of maternal and/or paternal absence, which is oftentimes neglected. As youth, we always want to seek answers—we long for love and affection.”

Creative Benildean duo Sam Villa-Real and Kim Timan received the Special Jury Prize for HM HM MHM, a stop-motion short that utilized the concept of playtime to highlight the challenges of closing a traumatic chapter from the past.

‘HM HM MHM’ by Benilde Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) alumni Sam Villa-Real and Kim Timan

Benilde Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) alumnus Sam Villa-Real

Benilde Digital Filmmaking (DFilm) alumnus Kim Timan

It introduces a young lady who returns to her ancestral home and rediscovers her makeshift dollhouse. With one touch, she breathes life back into her tiny dolls, who replay an all-too-familiar story.

“We want to speak to the survivors of domestic abuse in a way that even children will understand,” Timan said. “And hopefully, it resonates with them as much as it does with us.”

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