Your Primer On The Full-Length Feature Films Of Cinemalaya 2023

Philippine cinema!

Here’s what you can expect from the exciting new batch of movies competing at this year’s Cinemalaya.

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It’s that time of the year again, and now, we aren’t talking about back-to-school season. There are few events quite as eventful for the local film industry as Cinemalaya, the local independent film festival that was established nearly two decades ago to help promote, champion, and give a platform to Filipino cinematic excellence.

This year, the festival is back for its 19th edition as it’s set to run from August 4 to 13, with screenings until the 12th and the awarding ceremony on the 13th. This year’s festivities will be mainly held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) with participating cinemas, namely Ayala Malls Manila Bay, Trinoma, Glorietta, and UP Town Center, also screening this year’s ten competing full-length films. Tickets will cost 300 pesos, with students getting a discounted rate of 200 pesos. And for those who want to see all of the movies, you can avail of a festival pass here

Opening Cinemalaya 2023 will be Quark Henares’ Marupok AF, which was based on the viral Twitter thread of a trans woman who got catfished back in 2020. Closing the festival, meanwhile, will be Dwein Baltazar’s Third World Romance. Of course, the stars of the festival will be the films competing, which will be composed of ten short films and ten full-length features. With Cinemalaya 2023 having the theme of “ilumiNasyon”, this year’s batch of movies looks to enlighten both the viewer and filmmakers, as seen with the historic firsts in this year’s festival. Here are the ten full-length movies of Cinemalaya 2023 offering impactful narratives and new avenues of the Filipino story. 


From director Dustin Celestino comes this film about the complex narratives in a society built by politics in the Philippines. Stories of protagonists, antagonists, victims of war, terrorism, and war in Philippine politics take center stage to remind us how the undercurrents of life are shaped by the powers that be. 


Khalil Ramos and Ashley Ortega star in this love story for the 21st century from director John Rogers as James and Gemma, a struggling musician and fading social media star who fall in love and try to build a relationship that’s realer than real. 


What would you do to find peace in your life? That’s the premise of this Kenneth De La Cruz movie as it centers on Makoy who, after losing his grandfather, explores a mystical mountain to find the legendary golden deer that can grant wishes. During his adventure, he meets a mountain boy and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. 


The thing about love is that it can transcend language barriers, which is the case for Jopy Arnaldo’s narrative on finding connections in unlikely places. The film revolves around a young Filipina translator and Japanese director as the director rushes to meet the deadline for the Philippine festival premiere of his movie in Bacolod while the translator creates subtitles for the film in Ilonggo. 


Set in 2001, this Ryan Machado-directed feature follows Andoy as he sets out to find his missing father through, out of all things, VHS tapes. But Andoy’s world gets turned upside down as movie-like characters appear in his small town. 


Cinemalaya 2023 features two historic films, one of which is Cinemalaya’s first full-length animated movie. The film follows Eric whose world is rocked following the passing of his uncle an alien who arrives to come and claim him. Oh, and Eric so happens to be mouthless. Featuring a voice cast including Carlo Aquino, Gio Gahol, and Dolly de Leon, the movie spent over a year in production with 90 Filipino animators and director Carl Joseph Papa at the helm. Made with a mix of rotoscope and traditional 2D hand drawing, the film is said to be a dive into the effects of trauma and how we process it. 


It’s no secret that political discourse in the Philippines has heated up over the last few years, to say the least. And that is what Cinemalaya’s first competing full-length document focuses on. In a time of heated partisan attacks, Sherly Rose Andes follows three women named Maria as they fight for truth and justice in Philippine society. 


If this movie’s viral poster didn’t give it away, there’s sapphic representation in this year’s Cinemalaya. Combining volleyball with wlw stories, Samantha Lee’s latest project centers on a teenager who joins her school’s volleyball team. Things take a turn when she falls in love with her team captain.  


Director Gian Arre brings a new meaning to the idea of the inseparable couple. Following a one-night stand, an arrogant playboy and a timid young woman discover that the pain they inflict on themselves is immediately felt by the other. What could possibly go wrong? 


During the height of the pandemic, people were forced to stay in their homes. But that didn’t stop some from holding low-key get-togethers and parties that were high-key illegal. It’s those pandemic parties, and the desperation behind them, that director Kevin Mikhail Mayuga brings to life in this movie starring Juan Karlos Labajo. A young man, desperate to escape his reality, strikes up a deal with a group of privileged misfits to hold a secret party at the height of the pandemic. 

Continue Reading: This Filipino Movie About Real-Life Catfishing Is Making Waves In International Film Festivals