By Ibarra C. Mateo
Arden Rod Condez’s John Denver Trending was declared the Best Film of the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival during the awards night on Aug. 11, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo.
The 15th Cinemalaya jury cited John Denver Trending for “its nearly epic sweep of its masterful use of the resources of cinema to depict a boy’s entrapment and doom.”
Meanwhile, the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (Netpac) also gave its stamp of approval to John Denver Trending, commending it for “an unflinching look at mob mentality in the digital age, convincingly taking us through the psychological anguish of a victim of cyber bullying.”
John Denver Trending is the first directorial project by Condez. It is a film about a 14-year-old farm boy whose life is upended when a video of him brutally attacking a classmate went viral.
The film also garnered four awards, namely, Best Actor for Jansen Magpusao who made his debut in the film in the lead role, Best Original Music Score (Len Calvo), Best Editing (Benjo Ferrer III), and Best Cinematography (Rommel Sales), or a total of six awards.
John Denver Trending was also cited by the Cinemalaya jury “for its highly relevant subject matter, its highly convincing characters and effective ensemble acting by a cast of non-professional actors” and “for its coruscating critique of the social media as an engine of lies, hate, and destruction.”
The Special Jury Prize went to Thop Nazareno’s Edward, whose lead character comes of age as he is left alone to take care of his father in a public hospital.
Nazareno’s film also bagged the awards for Best Actress (Ella Cruz) and Best Production Design (Alvin Francisco).
The Best Direction award went to Eduardo Roy Jr. for F#*@ BOIS. The film also gave Ricky Davao the Best Supporting Actor award for his portrayal of a libidinous politician with a fondness for young men. Davao was cited for “for lending the weight of his artistic acclaim and professional reputation to independent cinema, and for taking on a very daring role and effectively playing it without lapsing into parody or cliché.”
Theodor Boborol’s Iska, the story of an impoverished woman who lovingly cares for her autistic grandson, won Best Actress for Ruby Ruiz who played the lead role. The film also won Best Screenplay (Mary Rose Colindres) and Best Sound (Immanuel Verona).
In the Short Feature Category, the animated ‘Wag Mo Akong Kausapin by Josef Dielle Gacutan grabbed the Best Film plum “for its very unique depiction of the universal rift between generations and for its craftsmanship” while Special Jury Prize went to Shaira Advincula’s Tembong “for its poignant take on grieving and loss and its incisive character study of a man challenging culture and tradition.”
Also in the short Feature category, the Best Direction award went to Don Madula Senoc for Sa Among Agwat while Best Screenplay went to Gilb Baldoza for Kontrolado ni Girly ang Buhay Niya.
Special Mention for Subject Matter went to the film Hele ng Maharlika by Norvin De Los Santos for its “timely but sensitive handling of the trenchant reality of juvenile warriors.”
Disconnection Notice by Glenn Lowell Forneste Averia won the NETPAC award in the Short Feature category.
Audience Choice awards went to Joji Villanueva Alonso’s Belle Douleur in the full length feature category and Julius Renomeron Jr.’s Heist School in the short feature category.
Now on its 15th year, Cinemalaya has supported and promoted the production of Filipino full feature independent films and short films. Many of these films have won awards in local and international competitions and festivals.
Through the annual festival, Cinemalaya has showcased over 1,000 works by independent filmmakers including full feature films, shorts, documentaries, Filipino film classics, and art films.
This year, Cinemalaya went nationwide. It was held at the CCP from Aug. 2 to 11 and at selected Ayala Cinemas and Vista Malls in Manila, Pampanga, Naga and Legaspi in Bicol, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Davao Aug. 7-13.
Cinemalaya was established in 2005 with the aim to discover, encourage, and support the cinematic works of upcoming and veteran Filipino filmmakers who boldly articulate and freely interpret the Philippine experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity.
Photo by Kiko Cabuena / CCP