Must Watch: Lakbay2Love

Solenn Heussaff and Dennis Trillo in Lakbay2Love (FB/Lakbay2Love)
Lakbay2Love movie poster: Dennis Trillo, Solenn Heussaff and Kit Thompson
Biker-actors Dennis Trillo, Solenn Heussaff and Kit Thompson star in environmental advocacy film Lakbay2Love.

Erasto FilmsLakbay2Love is a romantic, coming-of-age, environmental advocacy film by director-producer Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil (Boses) starring actors and real-life bikers Dennis Trillo, Solenn Heusaff (two of my fitspirations!) and Kit Thompson.

Dennis Trillo, reliable as ever, fits the bill as forest ranger and biker Jay-R. He bikes during his free time based on his social media (I promise I’m not a stalker!) and it shows. He seems to have done all the biking stunts on his own, even climbing up to a high mountain peak. It was a beautiful visual, and it felt like I was transported to the mountains, but I was holding onto my seat for dear life.

Solenn Heussaff plays half-Filipino half-French photo journalist (or was she a videographer? Not really sure) Lianne. Reeling from her boyfriend Macky, played by Kit Thompson, recently leaving her, Lianne accepts an environment-focused project at Jay-R’s request. She, along with her work companion and friend Monday, played by Patricia Ismael, embarks on this project and immerses herself in the world of biking. There’s a funny bit where Lianne says that growing up as a half-French people asked her weird questions including “what does voulez-vous coucher avec moi really mean?” LOL! IMO, this is Solenn’s best acting piece so far.

The film features actual biking events and the people involved in these kinds of projects. We get to visit a vintage bike shop, witness a bike race, and see padyakeros on and off the tracks. We even get to travel to different bike trails in and around the metro. The Benguet trail looks so gorgeous and beautifully captured on film. Aside from the beauty, we also briefly see the ugly side of things, poignantly depicted by the felled logs caused by illegal logging. Having seen that Lianne realizes that all of her problems seemed so petty. It also made me realize that the environment is still not a primary concern in our country, and that needs to change. To those running for office this coming elections, please focus on these issues. Include the environment in your platform and you have secured my vote.

We can’t just stop at watching this beautiful environmental film. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.” That also applies to our fight for the environment. Let’s start supporting more environmental advocacy projects. Let’s pick up a bike and ride around the metro to decrease pollution. Let’s spread the message of this film and make this a personal journey for all of us—a journey to love for Mother Nature. 🙂

If you’re looking for a light feel-good movie that packs a message, I recommend watching Lakbay2Love. Support Philippine indie films. Watch the trailer below:

When the world is crumbling around you, love may just find you a new trail.
Starring: Solenn Heussaff, Dennis Trillo, Kit Thompson
Directed by: Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil
Screenplay by: Layeta Bucoy & Elle Marfil
Produced by: Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil 

Have you watched Lakbay2Love? What did you think of the film? Are you into biking? Do you suddenly want to buy a bike, learn it, and ride all around the country? Sound off in the comments below.

Apocalypse Child

apocalypse-child-poster-fbApocalypse Child is the story of surfing instructor and Baler native Ford (Sid Lucero), who is apparently the son of famed director Francis Ford Coppola. At least that’s the story, nay the urban legend even, in town.

By Mario Cornejo (writer-director) and Monster Jimenez (writer-producer), Apocalypse Child was an official entry to the QCinema International Film Festival Circle Competition just last month. It went home with four awards including Best Film, and Best Director for Cornejo. I was already eyeing to see this during the festival but alas my schedule got in the way. So when they held a charity screening at Rockwell earlier this week, I immediately grabbed the chance to catch it. I must admit: I came for Sid Lucero (I’m a huge fan!) but I stayed for the beauty of Baler and the mysteries that surround it. I’ve only been to Baler once, but this film is tempting me to go back.

Some, after watching the trailer, might dismiss this as merely a surfing movie, but it is much more than that. It isn’t even just the story of Ford. The people around Ford also get their space to share their own tragedies. Chona (Ana Abad Santos) is Ford’s mother who firmly believes that Francis Ford Coppola is Ford’s father, and is determined for father and son to meet in the future. However the truth is much bleaker than that. Fiona (QCinema Best Supporting Actress Annicka Dolonius) is Ford’s girlfriend, in town to tend to her dying grandmother. Ford’s childhood friend Rich (RK Bagatsing) left Baler for several years but has now returned to fulfill his duty as newly-elected congressman. He and Ford were as close as brothers before but time, distance, and conflicts happened, causing a rift in their relationship. If that’s not enough tragedy for you, he also has a damaged eardrum preventing him from surfing ever again. Serena (Gwen Zamora) is Rich’s fiancee, but spending time with Ford during surf lessons might give her second thoughts about her relationship. Jordan (Archie Alemania), Ford’s close friend, is the fifth wheel paving the way for comedic moments in the film.

I can’t say this enough, but Apocalypse Child is a visual and aural (thanks to Up Dharma Down’s Armi Millare) feast. Sid Lucero really fits the bill as the laid-back, carpe-diem-believing surfer. When the scene requires intensity and passion, he gives in spades. (I think I blushed a little during that scene.) Annicka Dolonius deserves the accolade as she shines in every scene that she is in. I have to give props to that scene when Fiona ambles to Ford’s house and asks him to hug ang console her for the last time. Pretty intense. I’m not too familiar with RK Bagatsing’s filmography but I’m looking forward to see more of him in films like this. On the flipside, I am familiar with Gwen Zamora’s work as a TV actress, but this film showed a new side of her. Archie Alemania is in a lot of films lately (my first reaction to seeing him on screen was siya na naman?) but his every-man character works perfectly in this film providing the comic icebreaker for when times might get overly dramatic. Finally, I have to commend Ana Abad Santos’s performance as Chona. I love how at the beginning she was just being Ford’s cool young mom and then slowly unraveling to a woman who has gone through a tragic childhood and coping. I was at the edge of seat in that scene where she was recounting the events leading to Ford’s conception at her young age of 14.

Here’s hoping there are more screenings (or even a commercial run) in the works soon. In the meantime, here’s the trailer for Apocalypse Child:

Have you watched Apocalypse Child? What did you think of the film? Are you, like me, wanting to return to Baler, feel the sun, surf the waves, and immerse in the town’s culture?

Dayang Asu (Dognation)

Dayang Asu (Dognation)
Dayang Asu (Dognation)

Inspired by true events, Dayang Asu (Dognation) narrates a disturbing reality inherently familiar to us all. We live in a society that has corruption as an integral part of its system from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor. Perhaps some are innocent, but most of us, one way or another, have taken advantage of someone. A close friend, a student (teacher), a boss (an employee) or a traffic enforcer. The sad part is we don’t feel guilty about it, for in our own version of the truth, we are just surviving. Our moral grounds are subject to our personal needs and desires. A dog-eat-dog world ‘ika nga.

The film was supposedly an entry to Cinemalaya two years ago but, due to funding issues, production stopped. (Googling, I found an old trailer of the previous version of the film, which had an English title that I loved: “In Pampanga, We Eat Dogs”. I wish I knew about this film sooner. Tsk.) Fast forward to now, the script found its way to Cinema One Originals and last November 10 (gala night), it officially premiered. I attended the gala night and even joined in during the Q&A. I don’t usually participate in Q&As but, that night, I was so elated by the film I just had to confirm my thoughts. I asked if an alternate ending was considered, even though I absolutely loved the ending. What struck me was how passionate the director Bor Ocampo was with his response. No wonder the film was so powerful. More movies please!

Junjun and I 😀

Beautifully shot in the province of Pampanga, the film introduces us to Tonton (Junjun Quintana) a diligent out of college youth working for his father, Peping (Ricky Davao), a good son and kuya to Jeljel (Inna Tuason). He also cooks the best kalderetang aso (well, according to his father). Working alongside Tonton in the quarry are three other men whose names I don’t recall, except for Bor (if I remember correctly), who is named after the director I guess.

Peping and his men are tasked by the mayor to cook him kalderetang aso for his birthday. Side note: When I was 8, I witnessed my pet dog, Douglas, killed, cooked and eaten. 🙁 As they complete this task, they are exposed to different scenarios displaying their lack of moral judgment and revealing their corrupt selves. One particular scene (that is part of the trailer) is when Peping’s driver backs up and hits a parked jeepney. Obviously, the jeepney driver is not at fault, but Peping is able to turn the tables around, just like that. Like cancer, the film slowly destroys each character. (And I now realize that the pace of the film is a figurative device. WOW!) Scene by scene, we discover how broken the system is.

Not that I need to mention it, the performance of the cast is outstanding. Ricky Davao and Junjun Quintana are not native Kapampangan speakers but their performances are as authentic as it gets (at least to a non-Kapampangan speakers’ ears, like mine). Ricky Davao is a veteran to these types of roles and, as expected, he delivers. He always does. Junjun Quintana, one of my faves, has always been a reliable actor. More projects for this guy, please! Elora Españo of Ninja Party, also has a small non-speaking role. I actually didn’t realize it was her until I read the programme.

As an audience member during the gala night commented, the cinematography is nearly perfect. The buildup is slow but certainly not dragging. Everything is intentional. There are no unnecessary shots. Transitions are smooth like the one where the camera pans out to an aerial shot of the city hall transitioning to the scene of the governor’s children playing with a remote-control helicopter. Writing this down now also makes me realize how many figurative devices are in the movie. *sings* It’s all coming back to me now… 

More importantly, the film delivers a message which is still very much relevant today. In elementary, we are taught to always follow the rules and always do the right thing. The real world, however, hinders us from doing so. Nakasanayan na eh. We justify the little things we do to the point that they become our truths. The cycle goes on.

The challenge lies in our hands. Will we ever break this cycle?

Dayang Asu (Dog Nation)
Director: Bor Ocampo
Cast: Ricky Davao, Junjun Quintana, Inna Tuason, Lui Manansala, Bernard Laxa, Elora Españo
Synopsis: “Amidst legalized corruption, a son proves to his father that he is fit to survive in a dog-eat-dog world.”

Catch Dayang Asu and the other films in Cinema One Originals Festival 2015 until November 17. #C1Orginals #KakaibaKaBa

UPDATE: Albert Banzon was awarded Best Cinematography for Dayang Asu.

Sinag Maynila 2016 Finalists

I am a fan of Sinag Maynila. (Too bad, I didn’t finish reviewing all the films. Sorry.) It’s a film festival that doesn’t try to impress, or at least please, everyone. Each film spoke different realities in different languages to a somehow universal indie-following audience. The fact that it only had five entries meant that the qualification process was more rigorous than a certain commercialized film festival in December.

I found out from the Sinag Maynila FB page that the 2016 finalists have been announced. Notably, all have one word titles. Here are the five relevant films to watch out for next year along with some of my thoughts based on their short descriptions:

Sinag Maynila 2015 Finalists
Sinag Maynila 2016 Finalists

1. “DYAMPER” by Mes de Guzman

Apeng, Poknat, and Tinoy are “dyampers” on the lookout to steal from rice trucks as they meander along the treacherous winding roads of Dalton Pass. In one of their encounters, they accidentally discover a pack of illegal substances which will lead them to the biggest mission of their lives.

I love how Sinag Maynila entries take us to places we have never been to or part of the country where you wouldn’t know to be fit for cinematography, just like last year’s Bambanti. Dyamper will be shot in the Dalton Pass that connects Nueva Ecija and Nueva Viscaya. I can only imagine how difficult the production will be. The things we do for cinematic metaphors. I’m also guessing that the three leads are children or boys in their adolescence judging by their names. Can’t wait to see how this will turn out!

2. “EXPRESSWAY” by Ato Bautista

Old-timer Ben needs to do one last assignment before the syndicate boss he works for grants him his much delayed retirement. Assigned to be his partner is neophyte Morris, yearning to prove his worth. This last trip will turn out to be a journey of introspection, self-healing, and redemption.

Is it just me or does the synopsis sound similar to On The Job? The nature of the syndicate is not specified but I do hope it isn’t drugs. Whatever it is, I’m sure the story will be attacked differently.

3. “LILA” by Gino M. Santos

To escape a past that threatens to consume her, a young woman decides to move into a house owned by a warm-hearted landlady, looking for a fresh start and a chance for atonement. The house, however, has other ideas.

I smell a horror flick! This is a first in Sinag Maynila. I’m so excited! I’m just not a fan of film titles with a person’s name. In the long run, films with names tend to become forgettable (except for Bona of course). Well, that’s just me.

4. “MRS.” by Adolf Alix Jr.

70-year old Virginia lives in a bungalow house that stands on an earthquake fault area. When her ever-loyal maid Delia tells her she’d be leaving for good, what follows shows a portrait of a woman and a mother trying to juggle the sad realities of life.

This is very relevant, especially after Metro Manila underwent an earthquake drill recently. Hopefully, people will still recall it next year when the films are shown. Anyway, the premise of the film is very promising and I expect this to be nostalgic and heart-warming. I absolutely love old lady characters. Just don’t kill Virginia please. I will cry for sure!

5. “TPO (Temporary Protection Order)” by Joselito Altarejos

Teresa, an abused wife, attempts to secure her freedom by filing a Temporary Protection Order against her abusive husband only to be caught in the battered system of bureaucracy filled with neglect and indifference.

I’ve always wondered how a TPO helps in actually protecting the victim. I mean, it’s just a piece of paper. If someone wants to get near you, he can do so, unless detected and properly apprehended. In the country, bluntly speaking, I doubt that a TPO can do anything . This could be a big eye-opener for the government. How do we really protect the abused? Do we make it easy for them? Or is this another case of process paralysis?

We have to sit and wait a few more months to see how this new batch of films will deliver. Moreover, I can’t wait to find out which actors will be tapped to play the lead and supporting roles. Sinag 2015 did very well and I hope 2016 will be even more impactful and unconventional.

Are you looking forward to the Sinag Maynila 2016 Film Festival? Which film is your early favorite among the Sinag Maynila 2016 finalists? Sound off in the comments below.

11th Cinemalaya Film Festival Schedule

Cinemalaya 2015 Schedule
From Indie Fans of Manila (

For indie film enthusiasts, I just found out from Indie Fans of Manila that Cinemalaya 2015 Broadening Horizons is opening tomorrow, August 7 until 15. Last year, I was only able to watch The Janitor so this time around, I want to catch all if not most of the short films in the competition. Oh yes, all entries are short films. The full length category is not included this year.

Click on the image above to see the full calendar of activities. Follow Indie Fans of Manila for more updates on the 11th Cinemalaya Film Festival and other pinoy indie film related news.