Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — It’s hard to watch something with full attention on your phone or laptop. By this time, our concentration spans have been milked relentlessly by 10-second Vines and Twitter videos, viral campaign ads, and star-powered YouTube videos, that Globe’s decision to put their own independent film festival online is a rather bold, if not wholly risky move.
Usually, any video not worth a viewer’s time will die — 10, maybe 20 views glaring at the bottom of the page signifying its failure to engage the audience. But, when an entry is done right, such as the case of Dan Villegas’ endearing take on Metro Manila traffic, “Stop. Steady. Sayaw.,” which has racked up over 343,000 views, it’s a step towards taking film festivals out of cinemas and into the digital platform.
“Parang masaya kung pwede kang manood from where you are,” says Globe Studios head Quark Henares on the thrust of the film festival. To some extent, it is convenient. If you have as close as two hours to spare, you can finish watching the 25 entries (five per category) of the Globe Independent Film Festival (GIFF). It yields an interesting crop of films, as well as names to watch in the future. Below are a few notes on the entries.
Filipino animation is a neglected genre in the film industry. There are only a handful of memorable titles and even then, the films might not be as technically polished as its Western contemporaries. Asking for a Pixar equivalent among the entries might be asking for too much, but some of GIFF’s short animated films brim with heart that is distinctly Pinoy, as in Arnold Arre and Emil Flores’ winning “Lakas ng Lahi.”
It is a testament to how our own myths can be ushered into a new world, something that’s already been done by countless creators in local comic books, short stories, and novels (such as Arre and Flores in their respective works). Running under 10 minutes, “Lakas ng Lahi” is brisk, hinting at the origins of the film’s heroes while setting up an action sequence. Here, past, present and future collide. And it helps that good eventually triumphs over evil.
The rest of the entries have modest stories, showcasing form rather than content. Another standout is Jonathan Carl To’s “Mira,” which starts out like a cutscene from a video game (it looks like it, too) and then proceeds to explore a version of the afterlife that is eerie and intriguing.
The short documentary form offers effectiveness in its own way. Its running time leaves it up to the filmmaker to cut and condense a wealth of information to something packed yet resonant. The winning entry, “Nothing Too Supreme” by Jay Hernandez, focuses on a Cebuano street artist Soika Vomiter and opens up a discussion of the role of art in urbanity and nation building. Dino Placino’s “Ang Pelikula ni Rey” shines a light on the world of its titular “director” — a janitor and assistant at the Asia Pacific Film Institute who dreams of making his own films, even pitching a few of his ideas and revealing that he has soaked up the influence of the students and filmmakers he’s spent time with, including Jet Leyco, his favorite director.
There’s a shot in Ryan Machado’s “Engkwento” where the fire is dying and the protagonist, Andoy, is slowly consumed by the darkness around him. The film, where a young boy looks for his supposed engkanto father, is an eerie and hypnotic search for identity, and how folktales can shed light on the murkiest depths of ourselves.
In the winning entry, “All Your Algorithms,” it is technology that forms the core of the self, how the dead can still be distilled into tiny bits of information for the living. Reminiscent of “Be Right Back” from “Black Mirror” and Spike Jonze’s “Her,” “All Your Algorithms” is a shock of loneliness — the effect only amplified by the film’s vertical aspect ratio — its parting shot a reminder of how our smartphones can be our only window into the world when we seek intimacy and belongingness.
Also of note is “TransParent,” the story of an OFW father, now a transwoman who has to come home to her family and face the hard truth whether they’ll accept her or not. Much of the film is about her hesitation, whether she should reveal herself to her son or not. But in the end, it takes courage to reveal the true self.
Rather than mere marketing objects, music videos now stand as a test of innovation, both for the musicians and the filmmaker. Clips can run from the fatally simplistic to the oversized and ambitious. The entries in GIFF’s music video category offer up interpretations of the song (as in the videos for Moonwlk’s “Prefer” and Olympia’s “Nothing Wrong”) or an exercise on atmosphere and texture (in Escuri’s “Sepia,” which seems to touch back on Ana Lily Armipour’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”). Gio Puyat’s video for Nanay Mo’s “Absent Minded” revels on the nostalgia of Super Sentai and slingshots the song’s verve around the clip’s primary colored warriors. But it is Christine Silva’s video for BP Valenzuela’s “Building Too” that mesmerizes and makes a lasting impression — an animated video that lives and breathes like a city trying to make sense of how connection manifests in all of us.
Based on the genre of the five entries, it seems like comedy is the doe-eyed belle of the ball. The required rigor of comedy, however, opens up the entries for pitfalls, and a lot of them stumble. Karlo Policarpio’s two winning Wag Po films, “DOTA Dad” and "Hugot Sword" place premium on briskness and material that is readily relatable to anyone who spends most of their time living online. Though “DOTA Dad” is built on a jargon-heavy script, the tirades still hit the spot, resulting to a hilarious turnaround of parental lectures that usually invoke the toils of labor (i.e. "Hindi kita pinalaki ng ganyan!").
But if the basis of the webisode is how a story can be spread out further, it is “Biculao Warriors IV” that merits a closer look. The bad props and special effects can only highlight the infantile vision of the web series-to-be, but what matters here is how the titular warriors can be an extension of what our Pinoy childhood dreams could have been like if there were any cameraphones around during the ‘90s.
The ferocity of beauty plays centerstage in two of the winning experimental shorts entries. Gab Mesina’s “Peñafrancia” revolves around resolve and superstition, and Anna Meer’s “Girl Magazine” is a cut-out exploration of the image of the self and how it is presented in increasingly artificial ways. These two clips, interestingly, are by students, providing a glimpse of how clear-cut narratives are eschewed to tackle issues that largely live in our avatars online.
The winning film, “Isda” by Mark Glenn Doroja, is the inverse of the two other winners, an ugly look at how man is ruining nature. It is insidious in its intentions yet its visceral subtlety and inventiveness make a case for how the medium can transcend its perceived shortcomings.
Watch all the Globe Independent Film Festival entries on the Globe Studios official website.