Benilde’s very own Iar Lionel Arondaing, a Multimedia Arts student, debuted his first full-length film as an official entry in the 13th installment of Cinemalaya, the country’s largest independent film festival; but it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the young filmmaker’s first Cinemalaya directorial experience.
Arondaing’s film, titled “Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig,” explores the depths of morality and righteousness in telling the story of a woman’s confession of murder that plunges the parish priest and altar boy into a maelstrom of conflicting emotions. The pair struggles between following the Seal of the Confessional and the need to deliver justice. The film stars Angel Aquino, Jake Macapagal, Mercedes Cabral, and Ricky Davao, among others.
Social action through film
Arondaing shared how he uses film as a medium towards social action, which is one of the recurring themes in his works. He participated in various workshops on independent filmmaking, using a number of his early films to tell the the struggles of minority groups in the Philippines such as farmers, workers, and indigenous people, adding his work aims to give such minorities a chance to be heard.
“Lahat po ng mga nagawa ko ay may tema na kinabibilangan ng mga pambansang minorya dahil sila ay ang mga grupo na hindi napapakinggan at hindi kadalasang naririnig dahil sa antas ng kanilang pamumuhay at hayrarkiya na kinalang kinabibilangan. Sila ang madalas na sinasamantala ng mga nakatataas at pilit inaapakan. Sa paggawa ko ng mga pelikula sa ganitong tema at makatutulong ako upang mapagpatibay at mabigyang sila ng kalayaan tulad ng mga na sa ibabaw at mga grupong mayorya,” the 28-year-old Benildean said.
Prior to his Cinemalaya stint, some of his works have already been recognized in local and international awards. In 2013, his film “Gapas” was awarded second place in the experimental film category of the 25th Gawad CCP for Alternative Film and Video, while ”The Reap” was shown at the 10th Naoussa International Film Festival in Greece in the same year.
Road to Cinemalaya
In an interview with The Benildean, Arondaing shared how one of his works eventually made it to Cinemalaya, but not without his fair share of twist and turns.
“Nagkaroon kami ng [klase] na ang pokus ay pagsusulat ng mga dulang pampelikula. Marami akong natutunan hindi lang sa turo ng guro kundi sa sariling pagbabasa din ng mga aklat na makakatulong sa paglinang ng aking kaalaman sa pagsusulat…Sinubukan ko gamitin ang mga natutunan ko at sumulat ako ng isang full-length script. Iba pala ang pakiramdam ng makatapos ng isang kwento kaya naghanap pa ulit ako ng bagong kwento at nagsulat tungkol dito,” he said.
It was October 2015 when Cinemalaya called for entries, prompting the young filmmaker to submit his scripts. The next year, he received an e-mail from Cinemalaya asking for an interview.
“Pagdating ko sa interview, nagulat ako na kaharap ko sina Direk Joey Reyes, Direk Mel Chionglo at Rica Arevalo,” he added.
Arondaing found out two of the scripts he submitted were accepted in the initial process, but he could only pick one. He ended up choosing “Sa Gabing Nanahimik ang mga Kuliglig” (which was previously named “Seal of the Confessional”).
After a few months, Arondaing unfortunately learned his work failed to make the final cut and said, “Nalungkot ako pero naisip ko na hindi pa ito ang tamang oras at malaking bagay na ang mapili ang script bilang isa sa mga semi-finalist.”
But that wasn’t the end credits for Arondaing’s Cinemalaya story.
In December 2016, he received another e-mail asking if he can fill in a slot in the final entries, making him an official finalist at Cinemalaya 2017. The young filmmaker learned that Eduardo Roy, known for his films such as Quick Change (2013) and Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016), backed out of the competition because of health reasons.
“Na sa class ako at last week ng finals nung natanggap ko yung email. Napasigaw ako sa class sa sobrang tuwa, pero nalungkot din para kay Eduardo [Roy] dahil nag back out siya dahil sa health reasons,” he said.
Moreover, the Benildean’s film is in the running for the prestigious Balanghai Award.
“Masaya po ako na nabigyan ako ng chance na gawin ang film at sa pagtiwala ng Cinemalaya sa kwento ko kahit estudyante pa lang ako,” Arondaing said.
Cinemalaya 2017 will run from August 4 to 13 at various venues of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). The awarding ceremonies will be held on the night of August 13th, at the CCP Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theatre).
See below for all the official entries under the full-length category for Cinemalaya 2017
To find out more about the film fest, visit Cinemalaya’s official website or call the CCP Media Arts Office at 832 – 1125 (local 1704-1705).