Indie fest yields exceptional portrayals

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ROSALES. Search for missing loved ones.

Jericho Rosales stirs and scares in his exceptional portrayal of a single father who embarks on a search to find his missing son (Bugoy Cariño) in Ian Loreños’ harrowing human-trafficking drama, “Alagwa,” a guest entry in this year’s Cinema One Originals Film Festival.

The acclaimed actor effectively finds the delicate balance between tough love and unstinting paternal devotion as his character raises his child in the country’s harsh economic environment.

The 13 official entries this year are a diverse mix of dark comedies, memorable dramas and an unnerving bunch of pretentious, viewer-alienating mush.

Fueled by Maria Veronica Santiago’s out-of-the-box performance, Pam Miras’ engaging drama, “Pascalina,” is better than the sum of its parts—but, cinema being a visual medium, it is dragged down by grainy, gloomy visuals that put its Best Picture triumph in question.

Adolf Alix Jr.’s “Mater Dolorosa” impresses with its stellar cast, which includes Gina Alajar, Phillip Salvador, Rossana Roces, Alessandra de Rossi, Anita Linda, Cogie Domingo, Carlo Aquino and Jason Abalos. However, the “consciously” photographed black-and-white drama is hobbled by ponderous storytelling and an exposition that never quite achieves the emotional peak it seeks.

Two sisters

If you were blown away by the magical realism of “Busong,” you’ll find Auraeus Solito’s “Baybayin” even more visually and thematically satisfying. It’s anchored on a titillating tale about two sisters (intelligently limned by Assunta and Alessandra de Rossi) who fall in love with a deaf-mute (Adrian Sebastian), who communicates through Inaborlan, an ancient way of writing in Palawan.

Maribel Legarda’s crowd-pleasing dark comedy, “Melodrama Negra,” will make you laugh one minute and cry the next as it follows three dead people (Gee Canlas, Jerald Napoles and Bong Cabrera) and the events that transpire before and after their passing. The film is also notable for its theme song, “Ikaw Ang Aking Bituin,” rendered by Arnel Ignacio in a poignantly moving scene as his transvestite character mourns the death of his closeted adopted son.

GONZALES. Search for missing loved ones.

Emmanuel dela Cruz’s hilarious but protracted gender-bending comedy, “Slumber Party,” showcases the exceptional performances of Markki Stroem, Archie Alemania, RK Bagatsing and Sef Cadayona as it examines love, friendship and sexuality. However, it is gravely compromised by a scene depicting sexual abuse that the production passes off as comedy. We immensely enjoyed the film, but sexual abuse is never funny.

Christian Linaban’s “Aberya” and Ato Bautista’s “Palitan” feature the award-winning performances of Nicholas Varela (a major acting find), Alex Medina, and Mara Lopez (less credible here than in her light comedic  role in “Melodrama Negra”).

The lovely Erich Gonzales beefs up her thespic oeuvre as she boldly embraces her character in Richard Somes’ tonally creepy but flawed “Mariposa sa Hawla ng Gabi”—a gritty drama that channels David Lynch as it follows a woman’s (Gonzales) search for her missing sister. Would that other young actresses could be as daring in their choice of roles!

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