Starting this Wednesday, March 18, moviegoers will have the chance to watch five full-length movies with out-of-the-box plots set against the backdrop of the country's social issues.
These movies are part of the newly established film festival called Sinag Maynila.
Celebrities who are part of the inaugural edition include JM de Guzman, Alessandra de Rossi, Rocco Nacino, Allen Dizon, and Odette Khan among others.
The five official entries of Sinag Maynila 2015 are:
1) Balut Country by Paul Sta. Ana (about the heir to a duck farm who must decide between selling the property or saving the loyal caretakers)
2) Bambanti by Zig Dulay (how the search for a missing watch instigates the painful quest for the truth)
3) Imbisibol by Lawrence Fajardo (revolving around four Filipino migrant workers in Japan)
4) Ninja Party by Jim Libiran (students of an elite Catholic all-girls high school explore their sexuality via an underground sex soiree)
5) Swap by Rempton Zuasola (about a young father torn between solving a crime and committing another crime to save his son)
Spearheaded by CEO and founder Wilson Tieng and Cannes award-winning firector Brillante Mendoza, Sinag Maynila aims "to give filmmakers the chance to tell the stories of Filipinos in the most compelling visual narrative possible."
The films are scheduled for screening on rotation basis daily from March 18 to 24, 2015 at SM Megamall, SM North EDSA, SM Manila, SM Fairview, SM Southmall, SM Mall of Asia and SM Aura. The awards night will be held this Saturday, March 21, at SM Aura Skypark. The film will be recognizing excellence in Film, Direction, Performance, Screenplay, Cinematography and Production Design.
SM will also be giving a special citation to the People's Choice movie.
After the festival period, Sinag Maynila plans to screen the films in other SM Cinemas as well as in universities and colleges.
For the first edition of Sinag Maynila, both Tieng and Direk Brillante handpicked five "reputable independent filmmakers" from the Philippines and gave them a production budget of P2 million to create their dream movie.
Directors Lawrence Fajardo, Rempton Suasola, Paul Sta. Ana, Zig Dulay and Jim Libiran
Here are the five films competing in the 1st edition of Sinag Maynila:
1. Balut Country
Written and Directed by: Paul Sta. Ana
Cast: Rocco Nacino, Ronnie Quizon, Angela Cortez, Nanette Inventor and Vincent Magbanua
Also Starring: Archi Adamos, Jelson Bay, Leo Sarmiento, and Denise Jewel Alfonso
Jun (played by Rocco Nacino) is the heir to the "balut" farm left to him by his late father.
When he learns that his girlfriend is pregnant with their child, Jun must decide between selling the property to secure a future with his partner or sparing the family of the land’s loyal caretakers of inevitable displacement.
Ronnie Quizon is cast as Dado, the caretaker who has been working on the family's duck farm.
According to Direk Paul Sta. Ana, he opted to shed light on the plight of workers in the balut industry.
"Very popular ang balut not only in the Philippines but also worldwide.
"It's known as an exotic food na pinandidirihan ng mga tao. Hindi nila alam na ang balut is a big industry in our country. Maraming binubuhay ang balut in our country.
"Nagustuhan ko ang idea na ang balut industry sa balut country na Pateros ay hindi na namamayagpag dahil na-displace na ang mga itik.
"Naisip ko na why not make it into a metaphor of displacement...may mga tao rin na nadi-displace sa kabuhayan nila."
2. Bambanti (Scarecrow)
Written and Directed by: Zig Dulay
Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, Micko Laurente, Julio Diaz, Shamaine Buencamino, Lui Manansala
Also Starring: Delphine Buencamino, Erlinda Villalobos, Celio Aquino, Abegail Edillo and Kiki Baento
The search for a missing watch instigates the painful quest for the truth in Belyn’s and her son’s life. Alessandra plays Belyn, the househelp who is the mother of a young boy (played by Micko Laurente) accused of stealing a watch.
Bambanti, which means scarecrow in Ilocano, is heralded as the guardian of the fields. In the same manner, mothers are regarded as guardians of their children in this film.
According to Direk Zig, they shot this film during the week-long Bambanti festival in Isabela held every January.
"It's kinda personal kasi hinugot siya sa personal experience ko nung bata pa ako. Yung Bambanti ay nag-ugat sa personal experience ko na hanggang ngayon hindi ko siya nakakalimutan," says the director who previously helmed another mother-centric story titled M. (Mother’s Maiden Name).
Directed By: Lawrence Fajardo
Written By: John Paul Bedia, Herlyn Gail Alegre
Cast: JM De Guzman, Ces Quesada, Bernardo Bernardo, Allen Dizon and Ricky Davao
Also Starring: JC Santos, Only Torres, Naoki Takai, Shinpei Suzuki, May Alleman, Kaz Sawamura, Masaharu Iwamoto, Oyee Barro and Ricky Davao
Shot mostly on location in Fukuoka and Hokkaido in Japan, Imbisibol revolves around four Filipino migrant workers. Linda, Benjie, Manuel and Rodel are suddenly caught together, amid their individual struggles, in a complex game of hide-and-seek where staying invisible is the only way to survive.
The film depicts struggles faced by Pinoys at a time when thousands of undocumented workers and overstayers were being deported in response to strict Japanese laws.
In 2013, Direk Law Lawrence rekindled his love for theater when he directed the play Imbisibol, which was staged at the Cultural Center of the Philippines as part of the Virgin Labfest 9. It was restaged the following year as part of Virgin Labfest 10.
This 2015, Direk Law says that through this movie version, he has one goal: "Gusto ko ikuwento ang desolation ng mga kababayan natin na OFWs.
"Inspired ito by a play tungkol sa mga bilog, yun ang tawag nila sa OFWs na nag-o-overstay sa Japan."
Lead star JM de Guzman is cast as a migrant worker who lost his job in Japan. He crosses paths with a "hosto" played by Allen Dizon.
Ces Quesada plays the landlady who hides Filipino overstaying immigrants in Japan. She recalled, "We had to work in extreme temperatures, the lowest of which was minus 13."
(Read: JM de Guzman to play illegal immigrant in new film shot in Japan)
4. Ninja Party
Directed by: Jim Libiran
Written by: Jim Libiran, Dominic Lim, Iris Lee
Cast: Annicka Dolonius, Julz Savard, Bea Galvez, Elora Espano, Mariz Reyes, Japo Parcero, Odette Khan, Teresa Loyzaga
Top female students of an elite Catholic high school discover their identities and sexualities amidst clashing values. Conflicts between themselves, their families, and their school forces them to grow up and grow in friendship. They face slutshaming when a rumor spreads about their participation in a secret orgy.
Sinag Maynila festival director Brillante says about Ninja Party, "This movie shows ano ang klase ng education we have now at ano ang values na tinuturo [sa schools]."
Best known for his Tondo film about gangsters titled Tribu, Direk Jim Libiran thanked the organizers for bringing him out of his three-year hiatus.
"Ninja Party is a monicker for anonymous orgy among our adolescents," revealed the director.
He says this movie is based on urban legends about girls from exclusive high schools who organized naked soirees. In these orgies, the girls have their faces covered while the guys are blindfolded so they will not know the identities of their sexual partners.
"We are coming out with an R-16 version," says Direk Jim in order to comply with the ruling of SM Cinemas not to release films that are rated R-18.
He also plans to come up with a director's cut that will be shown in film festivals abroad.
(Read: PEP EXCLUSIVE: Annicka Dolonius agrees to shoot orgy scene for indie film Ninja Party)
Written and Directed by: Remton Zuasola
Cast: Dionne Monsanto, Matt Daclan, Mon Confiado
Also Starring: Publio Briones, Ramon Bagatsing, Jesus Mendoza, Genica Ines Mijares, Charisse Mari Fonacier, Natileigh Sitoy, Maria Cristina Mondragon, Eli Razo, and Ronyel Compra.
Swap revolves around a young father who is torn between solving a crime and committing another crime. His only son is kidnapped and the criminals demand that he steal another kid in exchange for the life of his son.
When Remton was a young boy, he was actually kidnapped and he used anecdotes from his parents and other people to come up with this story.
"Wala siyang putol o cut. Isa't kalahating oras na diresto lang siya.
"Kasi sa totoong buhay, wala namang cuts talaga.
"The movie is one whole take yet the storytelling is non-linear," says Direk Remton about his film that used the Cebuano language.