Cinemalaya 2021: Shorts B Tackles Loss, Privilege, and Challenging Existing Social Order


Exploring social issues using new modes and technologies in storytelling, the curated films in the Shorts B category chart the human condition dealing with grief and loss and a commentary on existing social structures emblematic of the Cinemalaya stamp on filmmaking.

On its second year taking on the virtual space, the 17th season of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival takes on the challenge of breathing new life to diverse narratives mirroring social currents with short films crafted by new and established young filmmakers.

Exploring social issues using new modes and technologies in storytelling, the curated films in the Shorts B category chart the human condition dealing with grief and loss in the time of the pandemic as seen in Namnama En Lolang (Grandmother’s Hope) and Ang Mga Nawalang Panlasa at Pag-asa (The Lost Hope and Flavors), while commentary on existing social structures are touched in revolutionary depictions of Kids on Fire and Beauty Queen.

Rounding down the six short films completing this year’s entries in competition, here are our thoughts on the Cinemalaya Shorts B category streaming on KTX:

Namnama En Lolang (Grandmother’s Hope)

Production still courtesy of Cinemalaya

This 5-minute film depicts life during the quarantine period as told from the eyes of an old woman, Lolang Keyag, living and taking care of her infant grandson. Throughout the film, Lolang Keyag was talking to his son, Landon as she describes to him their everyday life in lockdown. The film’s first person perspective created a personal chronicle of life in the unprecedented stop brought by the pandemic that easily appeals to the emotions of its viewers. A short but sweet film, director Jonnie Lyn Dasalla does not leave much to be thought of because everything in this film needed only to be felt.

Kids on Fire

Production still courtesy of Cinemalaya

Kids on Fire is a satirical take on the hypocrisies of religion and the idea of apocalypse as a retribution for the sins of humanity told through the story of JC, a pre-pubescent boy who joined a religious camp, who, instead of getting closer to God, was caught between his carnal desire and his divine calling.

This coming-of-age dark comedy is divided into ten chapters with cinematography that perfectly fits the narrative. The film has a literally strong finish—with scenes going from suggestive at the beginning to downright audacious towards the end. Nevertheless, Director Kyle Nieva was successful in boldly driving a point using the lost innocence of a young boy to spell out what cannot be read aloud by those wearing the holy masquerade.

Beauty Queen

Production still courtesy of Cinemalaya

The film is a tribute to Remedios Gomez-Paraiso a.k.a. Kumander Liwayway, a Kapampangan beauty queen known as the Philippines’ “Joan of Arc”, who became one of the highest female commanders of the Hukbalahap. Director Myra Aquino’s storytelling is straightforward, which makes for an easy watch.

The film exemplifies women empowerment in the early times— Kumander Liwayway unapologetically defied the norm during a time when the role of women during the war is constrained to nursing men back to health. Instead, she held a gun and fought in the resistance. She eventually emerged as a leader of which, around 200 men were under her command. Aquino made the 18-minute film tightly packed with meaningful symbolisms so interesting it deserves a full length feature of this unsung heroine story.

Ate O.G.

Production still courtesy of Cinemalaya

In this real life household setting during a nationwide lockdown, ATE, a kasambahay is confined in a space where her own struggles are aggravated when her teenage employers take out their frustrations on her. This film showcases the reality that everyone had to face during this pandemic. As the lockdown drags on, our agony increases exponentially and we all need something to cope with the situation.

For others, like the teenage employers, it is bossing around someone to vent out their frustration. For ATE, it came in a surprising little packet. If only there was a similar packet for an entire nation that would somehow ease our suffering during this pandemic. The film told a story which may seem ordinary and clichè at first but in totality, it felt cathartic and appropriate in the times that we are living in.

Ang mga Nawalang Pag-asa at Panlasa (The Lost Hope and Flavors)

Production still courtesy of Cinemalaya

The only documentary in competition in this year’s festival is an introduction to unrecognized Ilocano cuisines featuring hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Ilocos Norte, where the docu-film was shot,  and its entrepreneurs’ journey to survival after the pandemic hit and affected their businesses.

The story is undeniably relatable yet, Director Kevin Ayson did not stop there. Ayson deserves credit for beautifully establishing an emotional tie to the film through the documentary’s refined approach to food and culture. Also worthy of acknowledgment is the well-grounded editing and its unique focus to each dishes that are featured while resounding the voice of the people behind these Ilocano recipes worth celebrating.

The Dust in your Place

Production still courtesy of Cinemalaya

A film that boasts of its well-crafted screenplay, The Dust In Your Place is a gripping look at a conflicted love between longtime friends, a comic strip illustrator and her writer as they discuss what is plaguing his relationship with other girls, which escalated to a deeper conversation about relationships, love and even society. Director David Olson’s attempt at telling a story through exhibiting real conversations is as effective as its cinematography.

While the film has a bit of a drag, it has no ulterior motive. The film is presented as it is, as if through an invisible camera where the characters’ thoughts and feelings are unabashedly revealed.

Rank Magazine is an official media partner of Cinemalaya 2021.

Watch these films and all the other productions at this year’s Cinemalaya film festival, running from August 6 to September 5, 2021 on