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Taking the Spotlight: Meet the Young and Talented Filmmakers of Cinemalaya '21

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

It takes not only courage but passion to make a film in a time of pandemic. We can all agree that because of this global crisis, it has changed how movies and films are made with all the restrictions and not to mention the zero to limited budget and resources.

Despite all that, there are hundreds and hundreds of filmmakers in the country who have mustered their courage, unleashed their creativity, and poured out their hearts into making films. In fact, there were almost 200 entries for the 17th Year of Cinemalaya and out of those aspirants, 14 new breed and young filmmakers rose to the top and were given that life-changing opportunity to showcase their masterpiece.

Streaming on August 6 to September 6 at and other digital platforms, the biggest independent film festival in the country seeks to navigate the social currents and plugs in the life support for the Philippine cinema industry.

But before we all binge-watch and be amazed with the powerful narratives in this year's Cinemalaya, let us all meet the creative geniuses, talented storytellers and filmmakers who will take this most-awaited film festival into another level.


Director, An Sadit Na Planeta (The Little Planet)

Logline: A young man explores a little planet.

Synopsis: Awakened by a mysterious voice, Arjan finds himself alone on a small planet, called Planet I. Soon, he finds himself exploring the little planet for 40 days.

Filmmaker's Profile:

Arjanmar H. Rebeta, is a Bikolano filmmaker from Cabusao, Camarines Sur, is an alo Screen Lab. He is also known as AstroNoy, a content creator character that inspired him of the treatment of his film “The Little Planet.”

His short films include: “Super-Able,” “Viral Kids,” “My Father is an Astro-Not,” “The Complicated Dance to the Wheel of Life,” “A Boxing Country,” among others. His short film “Palabas” was nominated at the 42nd Gawad Urian for the Best Short Film. His films have been selected and awarded in different local and international film festivals. He is a recipient of Ani ng Dangal by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, a film ambassador by Film Development Council of the Philippines, and a recipient of Indie Bravo Award by Philippine Daily Inquirer.


Director: Ang mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa

(The Lost Hope and Flavors)

Logline: A documentary on the quest of finding “pagkaing Iloco” in the midst of a pandemic.

Synopsis: Micro food establishments have been gravely affected by the pandemic. The film features the struggles faced by Ilocano food entrepreneurs and how they slowly rise amidst the challenges of this health crisis.

Filmmaker's Profile:

Currently based in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Kevin Jay Ayson finished his degree on computer engineering at Mariano Marcos State University, Batac City. The 29 year-old filmmaker pursued his passion for filmmaking through his own wedding video company Hearts in Motion. Aside from creating wedding videos, he directed short films that won awards in the different local film festivals in Ilocos Norte. His socio-political horror short film “Brad” won the grand prize and other major awards at the 2020 Lilia Cuntapay Short Horror Film Contest held during the Ilocos Norte Semana ti Ar-aria Festival. “Ang Mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa” won first runner-up at the 2021 Tan-ok ni Ilocano Film Festival.


Director, Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi

Logline: A virginal old woman hires a callboy to change her perspective about men.

Synopsis: After years of being teased as the town’s old virgin, Lola Mayumi decides to hire a young callboy who never expected to have an elderly client. When the two meet, an unlikely connection forms between them. After a night of intimacy and vulnerability, Lola Mayumi and the callboy start to question their beliefs. Her belief on how she sees men is be tested, are they really all bad? Or are there actually good men out there?

Filmmaker's Profile:

Currently pursuing her film degree at Meridian International College in Pasig City, “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Lola Mayumi” is Shiri De Leon’s first short film. She learned filmmaking from her family members who are all media practitioners. She fell in love with the art of storytelling and aspires to be a messenger of stories who pushes the beliefs of humanity and tackles topics and issues that are important and can be translated universally. She aspires to break the stereotypes on female filmmakers, and hopes to work and collaborate with different people, adding a piece of them and her heart in her work.


Director, Ate O.G

Logline: A struggling aging house helper finds herself going through an unexpected and uplifting experience.

Synopsis: ATE, an aging household helper, struggles with the slow, dull, day-to-day depression of home quarantine in the midst of a nationwide lockdown. Her two teenage employers also struggle and cope in their own way, but seem to take out their negative feelings on her. After running a series of stressful chores for them, Ate finds a familiar medicine that gives her an unexpected form of relief and a newfound connection with the teenagers in her care.

Filmmaker's Profile:

Kevin Mayuga was born in the cinema when he started kicking in his mother's womb while she was watching Goodfellas in a movie theatre, thankfully there was a nearby hospital. Since then, he's been obsessed with the audio visual arts, with a little bit of disco. His career roots are in advertising as a creative writer where he eventually got jaded and slowly started shifting into filmmaking. He has directed and produced multiple digital content, commercials, music videos and short films with various production outfits. Kevin is now shifting his sights and finding his voice in narrative filmmaking - focusing on his first feature film, web series, short films and finally watching Goodfellas again.


Director, Beauty Queen

Logline: A young woman struggles to find herself after losing her father during World War II.

Synopsis: Set in Pampanga in 1940, Remedios Gomez is a classic woman through and through, and she has the town’s beauty pageant crown to prove it. But when the Empire of Japan invades the Philippines, plunging the country into unmitigated chaos and violence, her quiet provincial life is completely overturned. After her father is tortured and killed by the Japanese for his refusal to obey them, Remedios runs to the mountains with her brother Oscar to join the Hukbalahap resistance and find renewed purpose in the war. Once she arrives in the thick jungle encampment, however, she discovers that not only does being a woman limit her options in the resistance, but her suppressed grief over her father’s death continues to persist. She must grapple with both obstacles as she tries to find the strength to be who she needs to be for her country, while still unapologetically being herself.

Filmmaker's Profile: Myra Aquino is a writer-director who grew up in Guam and the Philippines. She graduated in 2020 with an MFA in Directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. She is passionate about telling stories that explore the impacts of multiculturalism and globalization on Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, and other underrepresented communities.


Director, Crossing

Logline: A desperate robber is forced to choose whether he should become a hero to his victims or fall victim to a robbery himself.

Synopsis: Driven by desperation, security guard Gabriel Arkanghell resorts to robbing a bus. Just before he could commit the crime, two seasoned robbers beat him to the punch. As one of then approaches his seat, Gabriel tightens his grip on his concealed firearm and struggles to make the decision whether to become a hero and take the robbers down or fall victim to the robbery himself.

Filmmaker's Profile: Marc Misa is a writer and filmmaker based in Antipolo, Rizal. He produced and directed his first feature film “Askal” in 2010 through a grant from the National Commission for Culture and Arts. He then went on to direct commercial advertisements and online content with PaperbugTV. He has also worked on various projects as a screenwriter for Star Cinema. He is currently a graphic designer for a gaming company and working on literary fiction. Whether writing stories or directing films, all his endeavors are geared toward his love for storytelling.


Director, Kawatan Sa Salog (A Toy in the River)

Logline: A mischievous child learns the value of time and life as he finds his way back home to his father.

Synopsis: Santi, an ill-behaved child, steals a dinosaur toy which makes his father mad. After he runs away from home, Santi accidentally drowns in the river but wakes up on a mysterious island where odd traditions are meant to be followed. He is then sentenced to clean the shore full of trash as punishment for stealing the revenant's sacred boat. Luckily, an old woman helps him and they form a strong bond. But after helping the old woman achieve her peace, the revenant finally allows him to leave their sanctuary. He returns home but his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, he finds the dinosaur toy floating on the river.

Filmmaker's Profile: Currently residing in Imus, Cavite, Alphie Velasco is a film student from Asia Pacific Film Institute. His fascination with films began when he was working as an auditor in a BPO company. He enjoys mystery and cult stories, especially character-driven films, such as Nymphomaniac, Mulholland Drive, 8 1/2, Watchmen, Grindhouse, etc. His favorite film directors are Lars Von Trier, Gaspar Noe , Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky and Roman Polanski. He loves reading manga and watching Japanese animations, especially the works of Satoshi Kon and Junji Ito. His music taste varies from psychedelic to progressive metal.


Director, Kids On Fire

Logline: A prepubescent boy discovers the power of his sexuality during a religious camp.

Synopsis: J.C., a prepubescent boy, slowly learns of his special role in the impending apocalypse during a religious camp. As he participates in the camp activities, he gets confused between constantly emerging sexual fantasies and his divine calling.

Filmmaker's Profile: A Filipino producer and director, Kyle Nieva co-founded the Manila-based creative agency and production company Screen Asia. At 18, he began exhibiting his directorial work in various institutions including the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. The films he directed and produced have since been selected for various international film festivals such as Berlinale, San Sebastian, Busan, and Vancouver. His recent work as producer, “Filipiñana,” won the Silver Bear at the 70th Berlinale and was nominated for Best British Short at the British Independent Film Awards and at the London Critics Film Awards. His latest film as director, “Kids On Fire,” premiered at the 25th Busan International Film Festival and at the 47th Film Fest Gent. He is an alumnus of Tribeca Film Institute's Talent Lab and the 73rd Festival del Film Locarno’s Open Doors Lab. Aside from directing and producing, he has been involved in marketing, distribution, and festival programming of shorts and features in the Philippines.


Director, Looking For Rafflesias And Other Fleeting Things

Logline: A tikbalang transforms into a teenage boy to disprove the rumor that horse demons are killing civilians in the mountain.

Synopsis: A community fears the tikbalang (horse demon) which is mistakenly blamed for various killings in the forest. Gubat, a tikbalang, transforms into a teenage boy and searches for the truth. In the mountain, he meets Darren, an American botanist who is looking for rafflesias. His interactions with the American unravel his inner desires that he has never faced before. This pushes him to reveal his identity and puts his life at risk.

Filmmaker's Profile: James Allen Fajardo graduated magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines Diliman with a degree in film in 2020. He has taken courses on Gender and Media Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands for his exchange program in 2019. His previous works include: “A Letter to the Person I Have Met on Tinder” and “The Boy Who Bleeds in the Middle of the Sea,” which were awarded and selected in different international and local film festivals. He won the Gold Prize at the Viddsee Juree Awards Philippines 2020. He is currently working as a freelance multimedia artist for different international brands while pursuing his passion in filmmaking.


Directors, Maski Papano

Logline: A disposed facemask turns into a humanoid and starts an adventure looking for its previous owner.

Synopsis: After getting disposed of, a facemask starts to turn into a humanoid figure. It searches for its previous owner, but finds him already with a new and better face mask. It gets heartbroken then wanders around different places in Manila, and eventually finds another similar looking facemask figure.

Filmmakers' Profile: Che Tagyamon is a director, editor, and animator from Manila, Philippines. She is an alumna of the Berlinale Talents 2019, SGIFF Southeast Asian Film Lab 2018, Busan Film Commission’s FLY Film Lab 2019, Docs by The Sea 2020 and ASEAN ROK’s FLY where she was given the Best Fellow Award 2017.In 2019, she was among the grantees of the first edition of Southeast Asian Short Film Grant by the Singapore International Film Festival. Her previous works often address the subjects of diaspora, class, and memory in relation to women’s psyche.

On the other hand, Glenn Barit is a Filipino director, sound designer and musical scorer. He uses elements of play in his works to ease the burden of filmmaking as well as to bring into light different societal issues. His short film “Aliens Ata” won the NETPAC Jury Prize in Cinemalaya 2017. It has also been part of Kaohsiung Film Festival 2017 and SeaShorts 2019 among others. His short, “Nangungupahan” also premiered in Cinemalaya 2018. “Cleaners,” his debut feature film, premiered in the QCinema IFF 2019 where it won Best Film, Best Screenplay and Audience Choice Award in the Asian Next Wave section. It is a coming-of-age film about high school students and the pressures they are boxed in. It has since premiered in Busan IFF, Taipei Golden Horse IFF, Torino Film Festival among others.


Director, Namnama En Lolang (Grandmother's Hope)

Logline: A grandmother and her baby grandson find solace in each other and face the harsh reality of the pandemic together.

Synopsis: Entirely shot using a mobile phone, the film depicts life during the quarantine. It focuses on the story of Lolang Keyag who lives in isolation with her baby grandson Eli, as she was left to take care of him during the lockdown period. Despite the difficulties faced in this trying time, she tries her best to be hopeful for her grandson.

Filmmaker's Profile: Jonnie Lyn Dasalla is a budding filmmaker from Baguio City, Benguet. She is currently taking her master’s degree in Media Studies (Film) at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is working full time as a digital media editor at GMA Network Inc.


Director, Out Of Body

Logline: A young model is coerced into a macabre commercial shoot.

Synopsis: Elle, a young model new to the industry, arrives to the set of her first commercial job to discover that the initial idea was scrapped. A mysterious new concept has been developed, but the crew and director keep forgetting to let her know what it is. However, after an afternoon of tight costume fittings, rough prop work, and meetings with creepy producers, Elle begins to suspect something else might be afoot.

Filmmaker's Profile: Enrico Po is a young Filipino filmmaker based in Manila. A film buff since childhood, he graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts majoring in Film & TV. Since returning to the Philippines, he has worked on various documentary, narrative, and commercial projects.


Director, The Dust In Your Place

Logline: Career and friendship are on the line when a comic strip artist tells her writer the truths about his relationships.

Synopsis: After witnessing an awkward fight between her writer and his girlfriend, a comic strip illustrator decides to tell him what is plaguing his relationships with other girls. The conversation explodes into a discussion on relationships, social norms, their history, and their possible future, and it becomes increasingly clearer that the trajectory of their career and friendship are on the line.

Filmmaker's Profile: David Olson has been working in the industry for 10 years as a director, cinematographer, editor, and producer. He has worked on films, TV, documentaries, music videos, commercials, and video advertisements. In 2011, he edited his first short film. Since then, it has been a never-ending educational experience for him, experiencing filmmaking from many viewing angles: From cameras and concepts to keyframes, call sheets, and coffee-making.

These young and talented filmmakers are a testament that creativity and passion will never be locked down. Equipped with the heart in telling stories, they will continue to learn, create and share. Watch out for these filmmakers in their up-close and personal stories exclusive with The Film Dream. Coming SOON!

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