Staying true to its dedication to originality, this year’s Cinema One Originals Film Festival takes pride in a lineup of entries that feature unique and interesting stories – there’s a “mockumentary”, a spy-thriller, a sports-crime film, and even an animated feature, to name a few.
|| Related: Cinema One Originals 2018 Festival Guide
As part of our Festival tradition, we are compiling the “capsule reviews” of our fellow film enthusiasts in the form of a Festival Report, to serve as your guide in navigating this year’s Festival. This article will be updated as our team’s reports come in, so be sure to revisit this page for updated reviews.
Cinema One Originals 2018 Reviews
A Short History of a Few Bad Things (Keith Deligero)
Synopsis: “In the southern Philippine city of Cebu a troubled detective struggles to solve a series of grisly killings, while a deep conspiracy works to keep the truth just out of his reach.”
Review: “Much like his short film “Babylon”, there’s a certain unique, eccentric quality to Keith Deligero’s “A Short History of a Few Bad Things”. The film follows officers Felix Tarooy (Victor Neri) and Jay Gonzaga (Jay Mendoza), who are investigating the mysterious killing of small-time businessman Daniel Binaohan (Julius Augustus Amrad). Despite the fact that the crime happened in broad daylight at a busy intersection, Felix and Jay are stumped and no witness is coming forward. That is until a woman named Gemma (Maricel Sombrio) approaches Felix, claiming to know who the culprit is.
“A Short History of a Few Bad Things” serves a surreal noir vibe, treading along the lines of being a satire and mystery / crime-thriller. Some of the characters are cartoonish and the situations bizarre, but these all work in the context of the film being a social commentary on the absurdity of politics. Definitely one of this year’s best entries.” – Geoff
Asuang (Raynier Brizuela)
Synopsis: “ASUANG, the God of Sins, was once a ruthless and fickle God of Bicol, but now he is a loner and a loser who has no place in the world that is overrun by sinful human beings. He resorted to social media to regain his former glory and fame but to no avail. On his track to retirement, he was approached by the Seers to help them stop Armageddon. Along with a group of sinful misfits, Asuang will go on a quest, against his nature, to help mankind… Or so he thinks he will. “
Review: “Asuang (Alwyn Uytingco), the God of Sins, doesn’t want his powers. He wants to be a social media influencer. He’s tried everything—vlogged, unboxed toddlers’ toys, and filmed cooking videos—to no avail. Apparently, even Gods of the same echelon as Asuang can’t beat algorithms. A God who goofily tries to buy the adoration of mortals through social media? It’s hard not to laugh at that. And harder still not to laugh with Uytingco, who offers the film much of its comic and emotional weight. He’s fucking incredible in this, conveying a spiteful and insecure air to a fame-obsessed God whose sole power is to become invisible.
Structurally, “Asuang” is a bit wonky. It’s kind of hard to buy that there are actual stakes in it as the film slithers on. It ultimately falls apart two-thirds in, where everything kind of stampedes over the story. But that’s not to discount the tight hold the film has over its audience, and I’d be remiss not to recommend this jolly ol’ mockumentary even if it’s only for Uytingco’s performance alone.” – Armando
Bagyong Bheverlynn (Charliebebs Gohetia)
Synopsis: “Three months mataposang break-up ni Bheverlynn sajowaniya of 4 years, magko-conjure anghugot at kalungkutanniya ng isang superduper-uber-grab-angkas typhoon namatatalo lang niya through achieving genuine happiness. Ngayon, ang safety ng buong Pilipinas at santinakpan ay nakasalalaysapagmo-move on ni Bheverlynn.”
Review: “I can’t blame the moviegoers I was with in the cinema, who left midway through the screening of Charliebebs Gohetia’s “Bagyong Bheverlynn”. They probably thought that their time is worth spending somewhere else, or are contemplating how to get refunds. Like a storm’s aftermath, the film is a huge mess. Not even Ruffa Mae Quinto’s innate comedic charm can salvage this movie from being a disaster.
A huge chunk of the film is dedicated to the characters hurling each other hugot jokes that all fall flat. There’s no humor in its senselessness, and at some point the film even becomes borderline offensive. I feel bad for the cast for having to endure this one. “Bagyong Bheverlynn” is the ugly cousin of “Hurricane Bianca”. – Geoff
Double Twisting Double Back (Joseph Abello)
Synopsis: “A year ago, Badger is one of the best gymnasts in the Philippines. He wants to be the very best, until his reckless best friend sabotaged his athletic career. Now, Badger is miserably working as a distributor, selling alcoholic beverages to the managers of bars and supermarkets. To his delight, Badger receives a new opportunity to pursue his quest to be the best Filipino gymnast. He immediately resigns from his job. His reckless best friend, who fulfills his desires through this job, gets pissed and vows to stop Badger’s dreams once again.”
Review: “Imagine “Fight Club”, but instead of an automobile recall specialist, we have a talented gymnast aspiring to be an Olympian. Also, the soap salesman is an uncontrollable nymphomaniac. That’s pretty much the elevator premise of Joseph Abello’s “Double Twisting Double Back”. The difference is that while Fight Club’s “twist“ is revealed at the latter part of the film, “Double Twisting Double Back” casually establishes the relationship of the two main characters early on in the movie.
Fresh from starring in “ML”, Tony Labrusca demonstrates that he’s more than just eye-candy with his performance in “Double Twisting Double Back”, serving both the physical and mental demands of the role. The spotlight though shines brighter on Joem Bascon, who does an incredible job with his character, he is essentially the id personified.” – Geoff
Hospicio (Bobby Bonifacio)
Synopsis: “After surviving what seems to be a drug-related incident that left her sister, LIAN, in a coma, LESLIE, a budding 20-something artist, is left in deep grief. With great guilt, Leslie is forced by her parents to go to a rehabilitation facility to recover from her drug dependency. As Leslie stays longer, she gets to uncover even more mysteries and secrets. She would later realize that the promised change is actually more sinister than it seems, and she has to do something before it’s too late.”
Review: “The sorest drawback of Bobby Bonifacio Jr.’s “Hospicio” is that it’s a horror movie that, like many, gets in the business of startling their audience instead of genuinely scaring them. You know the drill: empty, loud drum hits that are seemingly sound-engineered to rip the tympanic membrane off your ears. They come without warning, and so frequent too that you condition yourself to watch out for one every few minutes or so, as if you’re braving a pitch-dark funhouse—and that’s neither fun nor scary.
This is frustrating, because the film’s central premise is primed to conjure some truly terrifying moments, and is ripe for social commentary: The film tells the story of young addicts who are taken to a creepy “wellness center” that either 1.) simply have terrible staff on payroll, or 2.) subscribe to an ancient witchcraft ritual—*leans in and whispers* it’s obviously the latter. It’s not hard to take grasp of what this represents from our current zeitgeist, and what the film, however hokey in the whole as a horror movie, has to say about it. Anna Abad Santos, who plays the headmistress in the eponymous rehabilitation center, is pretty fucking scary in the few times that it counts.” – Armando
Mamu; and a Mother Too! (Rod Singh)
Synopsis: “A transgender sex worker in her late 40s along Fields Avenue whose only aspiration is to have breast implants for her profession unexpectedly assumes the role of a mother to her orphaned niece, a transgender youth who is only beginning to discover her own sexuality. As she works more shifts to save for her implants, troubles arise when she begins to feel the weight of her struggles – being an aging sex worker in fast-evolving society, a partner to her young fiancé, and a parent to a teenager she just met. Her difficult confrontations eventually lead her to a new attitude towards life, and a unique recipe to a famous Kapampangan dish, Sisig.”
Review: “In essence, Rod Singh’s “Mamu; And a Mother Too” is family story. Iyah Mina portrays the titular character, a transgender woman who is essentially everyone’s mother figure. Mamu is always willing to go out of her way to help others who are in need – she’s a mother to her fellow sex workers, to her friends in the parlor, and some would say, even to her boyfriend. When her transgender niece is orphaned, she decides to become a mother to her too.
“Mamu; And a Mother Too” reminds me of Auraeus Solito’s “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros”. Both are endearing, heartfelt stories of what some may consider as an unconventional families, but loving families regardless. The punch lines and catchphrases are actually funny and catchy, although behind its veil as a comedy, the film also works well as a family drama. It became a bit wobbly though at the third act, where the characters’ motivations aren’t heavy enough for the conflict.
The performances of the cast are superb. Aaron Villaflor is charming and lovable as Mamu’s boyfriend, Vincent. EJ Jallorina is a delight to see on screen as Mamu’s transgender niece, Bona. Iyah Mina is an incredible as the motherly Mamu herself. She no doubt deserves her Best Actress award.” – Geoff
Never Tear Us Apart (Whammy Alcazaren)
Synopsis: “Q is an aging spy in search of a monster known as The Shadow – a rumored darkness fabricated by the media as a murderer with a grudge against promiscuous women. His wife, M, is taunted by a haunted closet and low television signal range in their mountaintop mansion. Alex, their son, is your typical boy at the verge of maturity experimenting both sexually and emotionally. Things head south for the family when The Shadow impregnates M and Q must find a cure in time for Alex’s college graduation at week’s end. The game then finally begins. In these dire straits, Q begins the process of fisting. He lays out the bodies of evidence before him: creatures hidden in museums, the difficult man befriended by his son, and ladies of the night who sit on hard secrets. He eases into them like a man carefully dipping his hand into a tub of warm water. But Q is still sucked violently into this dark hole, this backdoor cavity of secrets and lies. As with all family dramas, it will all climax with blood-curdling screams.”
Review: “If you’ll let me describe this movie to you (your greatest mistake), I offer this. “Fisting: Never Tear Us Apart” is a film about a spy, a serial buttfucker (ahem, killer), and a long list of sacrilegious acts.
If you look closely, there’s a faint splotch of a narrative about an affluent nuclear family who, in each of their own ways, go to extreme pains to “open up”. Their stories, interwoven using flashes of pop culture pieces and consumerist relics, are threaded by a nagging feeling of disconnect. Their lives are scored by olden American commercials and sweet ol’ jazz. Then, things turn weird(-er): A woman births a lemon. Wickedly creatures threaten the existence of humanity. Somewhere, a young man asks his leather daddy to insert his whole arm up his butthole.
Shot vertically using the iPhone X, “Fisting” captures a dazzling fever dream that’s inquiring to the banalities of man. Or at least that’s how I see it. It’s hard to pin down what the movie is actually about, but part of its beauty is that it’s resonant in spite of this ambiguity. I kind of fell in love with it.” – Armando
Paglisan (Carl Papa)
Synopsis: “Crisanto and Dolores’ marriage is going through a rough patch. Going through a marital crisis, a couple’s marriage is tested when Crisanto is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease as Dolores sinks deeper into depression. Paglisan tells the story of how a married couple attempt to survive together through fading memories and fleeting identities.”
Review: “There’s beauty in the simplicity of Carl Joseph Papa’s “Paglisan”. It tells the story of Cris and Dolores, a middle-aged couple holding on to their marriage after Cris is stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s. There’s no question about their love, but they’re both getting old, and Dolores is sinking deeper into depression and exhaustion brought by their predicament.
You don’t see a lot of animated Filipino films, much less one that’s also a musical. Carl Papa deserves merit for exploring and taking a risk with “Paglisan”. Sure, the animation is rough (though I believe it’s a stylistic choice), inconsistent even, yet the characters are so relatable and the story so emotionally engaging, that I didn’t really mind the visual imperfections.
The voices lent by the cast are the lifeblood of this film. Eula Valdez and Ian Veneracion’s remarkable performances breathed life into the characters, making them more real and human than actual live-action characters in other Cinema One entries this year *cough Bagyong Bheverlynn cough* I’m also glad that the songs are actually well-written, I wouldn’t mind listening to the tracks again.
I say “Paglisan” is one of this year’s best entries. If you can only see a few films from this year’s lineup, be sure to add this movie to your list.” – Geoff
Pang-MMK (John Lapus)
Synopsis: “Being the legitimate son, Janus was given the stressful responsibility to take care of his father’s funeral. With the presence of a senator, constant phone calls from his mother (who was in the United States), and the conflict between his scandalous sister and his father’s mistress; the funeral became dramatic, chaotic, and hilarious. Pang MMK is about one’s strength of character, overcoming adversities, and facing them headstrong!”
Review: “I can imagine that Pang-MMK sounds promising as a pitch, but whatever potential it had on paper did not translate well on screen. The film feels like it’s holding back, ending up premature in both the drama and comedy departments. It has some good ideas that deserve at least a chuckle, but I wish that the film is bolder and more playful in its claim to be a story that’s MMK-worthy.
There is no significant development in the characters from the beginning until the end of the story. If anything, at least the performances of the cast redeemed what would have been an otherwise flat storyline. Nikki Valdez shines in this film, giving substance to her character despite the limited material.” – Geoff
Shorts – Set A
“Whatever sentiments Jazz Sol’s “Wall” has about mortality, faith, and chance have escaped me. In a seemingly endless white square, the film poses its intriguing questions by way of obnoxious exchanges that looks inversely gorgeous to how deep it makes itself seem. It’s Bergman if Bergman asked none of the great questions.” – Armando
“It’s a gag!—in case that slipped by you. Denise Dar Juan’s “Ketchup” casts our eyes to a convenience store cashier, who listlessly goes about his terminally listless night shift. A motley cast of customers shuffle in, from whiners to criminals to soulless, ever-smiling husks ripped straight out of “They Live”. It’s brief, but a really fucking engrossing watch.” – Armando
“There’s something poignant about the way this short ends, and even more so with the way it begins: a restaurant service crew, bum chucked in his mouth, out to take a five-minute break. The camera follows him in one uninterrupted shot as he gets called back in to tend to customers who order food for different reasons. Some banter, some bicker, and some just scuffle along to use the comfort room. The film ends with the information that the restaurant had been foreclosed.” – Armando
Para Kay James
“Steven Evangelio’s “Para Kay James” is an emotionally charged, vividly captured portrait of the life of a young gay Filipino. There are no villains in the story, except a self-destructive notion that sadly permeates in the minds of queer people every day. That can be as harmless as a thought one can shrug or the singular push that tips someone into doing an irreversible act. Beautiful film.” – Armando
“There’s a better film in Edmund Manabag Telmo’s “3021”, but I didn’t get to see it, at least until the final moments. It’s tough breaking through the “Star Wars” references and the heavy-handed parallels to crises we’re currently faced. Its sentiments about living in a “post-truth” world is fascinating. The ending is a true acid trip.” – Armando
Walay Humayad Sa Tanglad
“The “Sanctissima” of this year’s stable, and easily one of my favorites. Neil Briones’ “Walay Humayad Sa Tanglad” crafts an investigative thriller that mounts dread with impressively exacting resolve. Think Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” as a Tofarm film entry, with tinges of wry-and-dry humor in delightful spurts.” – Armando
Shorts – Set B
“Glenn Barit’s “Nangungupahan” maps the different histories housed in a small apartelle. The film flicks from one time period to the next, and later meshes them together in the same frame. The result is an often enlightening insight into how a space as mundane as the film’s subject mean different things to each person.” – Armando
“Happy accidents? Everything happens for a reason? OK.
I’m sure there’s a good *accidental* reason that the subtitles for this short was left out of the cutting room, but that’s no matter. The film, at least visually, is BEAUTIFUL. Let that capslock hit you like whiplash. It’s damn gorgeous. The eponymous river seems to carry a message that, because of the lack of the subs, is doubly enigmatic to me, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. What I’ve learned: context clues is a language unto its own.” – Armando
Wag Mo Akong Kausapin
“There’s myth even in something as small as a family unit. In the case of Josef Gacutan’s “Wag Mo Akong Kausapin”, it’s a sad one. An estranged father’s guilt and trepidations about reconnecting with his son manifests itself. Years would go on and he’d tell his grandchildren it was an actual demon, because a demon is easier to explain—and really, accept—than your own blood’s deep-seated derision.” – Armando
Pag-Agos ng Panahon
“I’m known to be averse to stories that end with one devastating phrase. Often, these films don’t know how to end their stories so they use the most conveniently cop-out one available. It deflates the very thing the story have studiously built. In Annika Yañez’s “Pag-Agos ng Panahon”, there’s function to this sorry form. And it’s still quite charged with emotion, thanks to the actors. The scene in the confessional is something to behold.” – Armando
To Remain Is To Have Been Left
“I loved this short film. It has a simple idea but a very strong core. It doesn’t shove its message down your throat; rather, it has you work for it, to fish it out of its silly loops. And when you do, it’s really powerful. Past its artfully woven conceit, there’s one thing that I think Pam Miras’ “To Remain Is To Have Been Left” wants to say: we all have the key, but there are doors better left shut.” – Armando
Manila Is Full Of Men Named Boy
“Andrew Stephen Lee’s “Manila Is Full Of Men Named Boy” is a bewitching piece. Every velvety glide of its camera echoes the mounting ire of a man who buys a young boy who can drink and smoke in order to please his estranged father. The whole thing feels awkward to watch, and that’s part of its far-reaching genius.” – Armando
Ang Mga Turo Ng Gabi
“At its core, “Ang Mga Turo Ng Gabi” is about the trepidations of a young mother. That’s essentially a blank canvas, and can branch into a handful of other things, but director Christian Villanueva offers something perfectly pointed and honed in. Ever in a state of fear, the mother center to the short’s story grapples with external pressures as well as her own mental instability. The result is a beholding drama that feels powerful from end to end.” – Armando
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