Sulk no more, Cinemalaya Filipino full-length film lovers

By Ibarra C. Mateo

Sulk no more, Cinemalaya Filipino full-length feature film lovers.

While short films dominate the competition section due to COVID19 pandemic impact, the Cinemalaya@17 is also showing full-length Filipino films written and directed by Filipino directors.

Chris B. Millado, Cultural Center of the Philippines vice president and Cinemalaya festival director, announced on Aug. 4 that four “never-before-seen films directed by award-winning Filipino directors will premiere” during the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, from Aug. 6 to Sept. 5, 2021.

Millado said the four new Filipino films will be screened under the “Premieres” section of the festival.

The Premieres section features full-length and short films which have been produced in the past year, but will be screened for the first time in the Philippines. The Premieres is showing at

This year’s Cinemalaya, its second online edition due to the COVID19 pandemic, showcases 13 short films competing for the prestigious Balanghai trophies.

In an online media call, Millado said full-length films also will be featured in the “Visions of Asia,” one of the major components of the film festival, which screens award-winning indie films from Asia.

The four Filipino films in the 2021 Premieres are the family drama “Highest Peak” by director Arnel Barbarona, drama “He Who Is Without Sin” by director Jason Paul Laxamana, noir film “Love and Pain In Between Refrains” by director Joselito Altarejos, and social monologue “Tao Po” by Mae Paner aka Juana Change.


From today (Aug. 7) to 14, “The Highest Peak” is showing. It is about a man who decides to follow through his family’s plan to climb the highest mountain peak in the Philippines after he lost his wife and son.

“A journey of redemption, closure and healing, the film was shot predominantly in Mt. Apo,” Davao-born director Arbi Barbarona told journalists during the zoom media conference.

Shot before the pandemic, the film stars Dax Alejandro, Mara Lopez, Henyo Ehem, Rowena Caballes, Jea Lyka Cinco, Johnny Hager, Buggy Amplayo, Jun Alcover, Bong Artil and Ferdinand Mesias.

Barbarona is known for his films centered on indigenous peoples of Mindanao including his debut feature film “Tu Pug Imatuy,” which won several awards in various film festivals.


“He Who Is Without Sin” is showing from Aug. 15 to 21. The 75-minute film follows what transpired during a chance meeting between a broadcasting student and the TV reporter he idolizes.

In the days that follow the encounter, the young student shares with his friends separately three versions of what transpired: what happened, what really happened, and what might have actually happened.

Through the conversations with friends, he comes to terms with the idea that his idol – a dignified newsman who is supposed to be a paragon of virtue – is not who he appears to be on television.

Director Jason Paul Laxamana said this was his last film shot before the Philippines went into lockdown due to COVID19.

In mid-March 2019, many parts of the country were placed in varied states of movement restrictions, or “community quarantine.”

Laxamana said he was happy to have one of his films shown again at Cinemalaya Film Festival, which he said “shaped him as a director.”

Laxamana said the movement limitations have “affected his script writing because he prefers to write in cafes or where people gather.”

“It is rather to do it now given the situation,” he said.

Laxamana’s “Mercury is Mine” won the Special Jury Prize and Best Screenplay in the 2016 Cinemalaya.

“He Who Is Without Sin” features Elijah Canlas, Enzo Pineda, Pearl Lagman, Migs Campanilla, Lara Fortuna, Gio Gahol, Marnie Lapus, and Iman Ampatuan. It marks the Sinag Maynila debut of Laxamana.


“Love and Pain In Between Refrains”

You can catch “Love and Pain In Between Refrains” from Aug. 22 to 28.

A neo-noir film dealing with the tragedy that feeds on love and co-dependency, and the cycle of abuse and violence, the 88-minute film is about high school sweethearts who lost touch with each other after high school graduation and met again after 10 years. As feelings rekindled, they start living together. But what supposed to be a beautiful relationship turns into a traumatic reunion.

Director Jay Altarejos said “the film is about a romance marred by violence, its cycle of abuse, and the addiction to this kind of relationship.”

“Love and Pain In Between Refrains is a cautionary tale, that no one wins in this type of relationship. Both the abuser and the abused become victims,” Altarejos said.

The film’s “beautiful palette of colors is an allegory to the feeling of being in love.”

“Like a song, this film has an introduction, verse, and refrain,” Altarejos said.

The film cast includes Oliver Aquino, Elora Españo, Richard Quan, Anelle Durano, Suzette Doctolero, Natileigh Sitoy, Anjo Resureccion, and Jill Urdaneta.

With 2076 Kolektib production company, Altarejos aims to create and produce multimedia contents that will “arouse, educate, and inspire his audiences to become more vigilant and conscious of the social issues and challenges they face in the age of yet another strongman rule.”

An advocate of “Cinema of the Social Consciousness,” Altarejos is known for his films 2014 Cinemalaya Best Film “Kasal,” “Tale of the Lost Boys” (2017), “Unfriend” (2014), “Ang Laro sa Buhay ni Juan” (2009), and “Ang Lihim ni Antonio” (2010).


“Tao Po”

Starring Mae Paner aka Juana Change, “Tao Po” premieres on Sept. 3. The film follows the social awakening of a photojournalist when he covers the “tokhang” beat.

From several immersion trips and in-depth interviews conducted by artist-activist Mae Paner and playwright Maynard Manansala emerge four monologues that give faces to the issue of extra-judicial killings.

Originally a stage play mounted at the CCP’s Tanghalang Batute in 2017, Pane said Tao Po

was “a product of her sleepless nights when the series of nighttime killings supposedly related to drug cases started happening and dominating the headlines.”

Tao Po had Philippine, Australian, and European tours.

“I started feeling numb about these killings. As an artist, that was an emotional weird state for me,” Paner said.

“Together with Maynard Manansala, we joined journalists and photographers who covered the night beat. They were called nightcrawlers. Among them was a photojournalist who became a character in this play and now a film,” Paner said.


The 2021 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival is co-presented by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Cinemalaya Foundation Inc., in partnership with streaming partners and Kumu, corporate partners Huachen Bayfront Hotel, McDonald’s Philippines, Optima Digital, B+C Design Inc., and media partners Rank Magazine, Adobo Magazine, Our Awesome Planet,, ArtPlus Magazine, ClickTheCity, Business World Online, WeThePvblic, Philippine Primer, and the Manila Broadcasting Company. 

Tickets for the Premieres are priced at Php250.

Get your tickets at

Follow the official CCP and Cinemalaya social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates on the Cinemalaya Film Festival screening schedules and other offerings.

Visit the CCP website ( for more information.


#Cinemalaya #Cinemalaya2021 #Cinemalaya@17 #NavigatingCurrents #IndieFilms #CCP

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