It’s that time of the year again. CINEMALAYA 2023 is back for another round. Trust us, the line-up this year is pure gold, spanning a wide range of themes and genres that will get you excited. From the visually stunning animated masterpiece, “Iti Mapupukaw,” to Samantha Lee’s latest creation, “Rookie,” this year’s line-up is proof that Philippine cinema is thriving.

The CLAVEL team hit up the showings and here are our quick and honest reviews of the must-see features. Just one thing to keep in mind: spoilers lie ahead, so proceed with caution. At the end of the day, these are just our opinions, so take them with a pinch of salt. Let’s get into it!

Iti Mapukpukaw by Carl Joseph Papa
Rating: 5/5
Review by: Maxx Macalinao

With a team of 90 animators, the film utilized the technique of “rotoscope animation,” converting real scenes into animation frame by frame. This method effectively illustrates that even in mere drawings, there’s a deeper significance beyond artistic representation. These depictions truly represent real occurrences, not mere figments of imagination. The film skillfully integrates representation and metaphors to subtly communicate the actuality underlying the fantasy.

The performances in the film were exceptional, particularly noticeable in the depth one can perceive in the characters’ eyes. Every movement and emotion are palpable, with Ms. Dolly De Leon standing out in particular.  This film starts in a form you’re not familiar with until gradually, you understand and comprehend it.  This film becomes a human that you should listen to and value. If everyone knows how to listen, no one will lose their voice. This film didn’t just achieve listening; they also gave voices.

The film “Iti Mapukpukaw” is replete with substance. It’s an animated masterpiece that you’d proudly share with others due to its vibrancy, diversity, and optimism.


When This Is All Over by Kevin Mayuga
Rating: 4/5
Review by: Pau Sauz

On the surface of Kevin Meyuga’s feature film debut, you can see the flashing lights, hear the electrifying cheers, and hear the echoes of upbeat music, but underneath is a nuanced take on social class.

Set during the global pandemic, we follow The Guy, played by Juan Karlos, as he attempts to reunite with his mother. While on lockdown inside his Makati condo, he befriends the building staff and hangs out with penthouse owners. With the protocols in place and the virus looming in the air, the privileged see it as a mere suggestion, a challenge even to their lavish lifestyles, as the building staff struggles to keep them in place.

Stuck between the two ends and with nothing to do, The Guy finds himself scheming to throw a party in the middle of a nationwide quarantine. For him, the party is his ticket out of the country, and he gambles on the friendships he made without calculating the costs for everyone involved.

In this trip, Meyuga’s direction and Maria Pasio’s editing guides us through its highs and lows, knowing when to indulge in its comedic moments without sacrificing character arcs. Paired with Martika Ramirez Escobar’s cinematography, we are fully immersed in The Guy’s world and inner struggles as he navigates his own moral compass.

Ang Duyan Ng Magiting by Dustin Celestino
Rating: 4.5/5
Review by: Denise Vergara

The film tackles chronic terrorism in the Philippines and the Police system that we have. The story goes with the two young boys, Jose Santos and Simon Manuel, who were forced to be imprisoned and were accused of being terrorists, because they were in the church where the bombing happened. But the real reason why they were present at the crime scene was because they wanted to help the local farmers through immersion. They eventually got tortured by the policemen and forced to admit that they were in charge of the bombing incident. 

The film focuses more on the present notion of most people towards the youth along with the false accusations. These kinds of issues began when the abusive police power took a toll on the country and regarded themselves as the ‘Gods’ and purposely silenced the youth to speak their truths.

Rookie by Samantha Lee
Rating: 4/5
Review by: Isa Lim

Rookie was a completely unique experience, not only because of the audience we were with but also because of the relatability of the film. It felt more like being a part of the film itself rather than just watching it. While watching the film, I had several realizations, which I would like to share:

  • Love is love.
  • The pressure we feel doesn’t always come from our peers, but often from our parents’ expectations.
  • Parents often pass on their dreams to their children when they shouldn’t.
  • It’s important to be aware of different forms of harassment because harassment is harassment no matter how big or small the gesture may be.
  • Speaking your truth and showing up for yourself and others truly matters.
  • It’s always meaningful when someone you love shows up for your events.

As we wrap up this exhilarating journey through CINEMALAYA 2023, it’s important to remember the power we hold as supporters of independent cinema. With each ticket purchased, each film shared and discussed, we inch closer to the day when these remarkable works of art break into the mainstream scene, reaching audiences far and wide.

Cheers to the visionaries behind Cinemalaya and here’s to a future where their genius shines brightly on the big screen for all to see. Keep the love for cinema alive and let’s continue to celebrate the magic of storytelling in all its forms.

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