CULVER CITY, Calif. – From dystopian takes, including an American president adopting Duterte’s directive to kill all drug dealers and addicts, to stories of longing for the homeland, Philippines Film Day celebrated moviemakers during October’s FilAm History Month, with 12 short films and the Academy Award foreign feature submission, “Signal Rock.”
“Signal Rock,” is about a brother who helps his sister in Finland try to win back her child from her Finnish husband. Intoy, usually without ambition, now starts to involve his small town, faking legal and financial papers and learning more about why his sister left their hometown in Samar, Philippines, in the first place. He can only get a cell phone signal when he climbs onto remote rock formations on the island. The drama, submitted to the Academy for consideration for best foreign language film, runs 2 hours, 10 minutes, was filmed in 2018, directed by Chito S. Rono, and starring Christian Balbes and Daria Ramirez. It debuted Oct. 27 at the ArcLight Cinema in Culver City, and again was shown Oct. 29.
“No matter how alone you are, you can find someone who loves you,” Chris Aguilar, star of “The Hierarchy of Needs,” (2017, 5 minutes, 42 seconds; directed by Ryan Michael Connolly) said of the plot of the movie he co-produced. Aguilar described himself as a Filipino “ex-American” during a Q&A session after Philippines Film Day Oct. 27 inside the ArcLight Cinema.
Films on Filipinos in America with ties to the homeland included: “Boxed,” (2018, 8 minutes, 24 seconds; directed by Nicole Dizon); “Promise (Pangako),” (2018, 9 minutes, 55 seconds); “Legacy,” (2018, 9 minutes, 57 seconds; directed by Ashleigh Coffelt); and “Ingat, Nanay,” (2018, 5 minutes, 57 seconds; directed by Joanne Ducot).
“Always remember the Filipino values of your parents, even if they hold different views,” said “Legacy” star ArlynDela Pena. That value certainly was felt in “Boxed,” a documentary starring Marcelina Rodriguez, who displays what it is to understand a 40-year longing for the homeland in her continued sending home of Balikbayan boxes loaded with toiletries and foodstuffs for her relatives back in the Philippines. “Promise (Pangako),” a heart-wrenching story of a boxer who returns to the Philippines to be with his dying biological mother, who gave him up for adoption to a Filipino American family. “Ingat, Nanay,” is another true story of how a family rallies around their mom, Carmelita Ducot, as she recovers from a stroke doctors said she wouldn’t survive. Her daughter, Joanne Ducot, directed and produced.
In a less hopeful scenario, “Shabu,” (2018, 10 minutes; directed by Kiersten Villanueva), tells the story of an America, only three years in our future, in which U.S. President Williams adopts current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2016 call to kill-on-sight any drug dealers and even drug addicts. Shabu is the Filipino slang term for illegal methamphetamine.
Two other futuristic films: “Who To Love,” (2017, 10 minutes; directed by Rommel Andaya) starring Michael Kuya and Aina Dumlao; and “No Regrets,” (2018, 10 minutes; also directed by Andaya) starring Kuya alongside Melissa Jane Rodriguez, are two stories about what romantic love will look like in the faraway future.
Other love stories at Philippines Film Day Oct. 24 at the Asian World Film Festival include previously premiered: “I Won’t Miss You,” (2016, 25 minutes; directed by Bernard Badion), about enduring friendships between the living and the dead, written by Joy Regullano in memory of Timothy J. Kim, a real friend who died too soon; also, the lovely musical tale, “Mango Sticky Rice,” (2016, 15 minutes, 21 seconds; directed by Mallorie Buenaventura Ortega) with well-produced songs.
Another short, “I’m Okay,” (2018, 6 minutes 47 seconds) is about the love of a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-suffering military mother for her young son, with soundtrack by Fil Am rapper NAK, whose Facebook page states that he “makes emotional music for introverted people.” ArlynDela Pena, who starred in “Legacy,” also stars in “I’m Okay,” and the film’s producer Kuya Paul Abesamis stated the film’s message was, “No matter how strong people think you are, everyone needs help.”
A strong person, Angel Qinan, stars in “Act Like a Woman,” (2018, 14 minutes, writer-director-producer Drama Del Rosario), the poignant story of the FilAm Creative membership chair’s transition and constant rejection by the film industry.
“We need to get our stories out there,” Qinan said, after the docudrama was shown in the ArcLight Cinema. FilAm Creative was pivotal in getting the 12 short films shown during the Asian World Film Festival Oct. 24-Nov. 1 at the ArcLight.