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Films on troubled relationships and shattered dreams due to the Mindanao conflict won major awards for this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival.

“The Baseball Player” by Carlo Obispo won as best film along with three other awards: best editing by Zig Dulay, best screenplay by Obispo, and best actor by Tommy Alejandrino.

“12 Weeks” by Anna Isabelle Matutina won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award along with best actress for Max Eigenmann.

For “Bula Sa Langit”, Pepe Manikan won the best sound design award.

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“The Baseball Player” tells the story of Amir ( Alejandrino) , a 17-year-old Moro child with dreams of becoming a baseball player but who has to train as a soldier for the Moro rebels.

Khalid (JM San Jose) is a young boy survivor of an armed conflict who is adopted by Amir’s family. The presence of Amir as his new “older brother” opened the path to healing.

Unfortunately, another all-out war against Moro rebels breaks out, and he is confronted with making a choice between pursuing his dream or fighting in the war.

Obispo’s film was cited for “its sheer poignance and quiet power, for its subtle but trenchant storytelling, and for its penetrating take on the Mindanao conflict and the sad wreckage it has made of young innocent lives.”

Obispo said armed conflicts ruin the basic necessities of life. Families are broken apart, opportunities are lost. Dreams – especially those of the children, if they even had the chance to have any – are shattered. Unfortunately, wars still continue to destroy the lives of many. Children are always the most vulnerable. The impact of war adversely affects the life trajectory of the young ones

In “12 Weeks”, Alice (Eigenmann) is a single 40-year-old woman working with a non-government organization (NGO) which is organizing a relief mission to the Bakwits or evacuees due to the Marawi siege.

She discovers she is pregnant after breaking up with her boyfriend (Vance Larena). With her age and current relationship status, her first instinct is to have the pregnancy terminated. As her body undergoes dramatic changes, Alice struggles and needs to decide whether she wants to be a mother or not.

The fetus is most vulnerable during the first 12 weeks. During this period of time, all of the major organs and body systems are forming and can be damaged if the fetus is exposed to drugs, infectious agents, radiation, certain medications, tobacco and toxic substances, in addition to emotional stress.

Matutina said that the film aimed to tell modern Filipinas that they and they alone should decide about their bodies, certainly not the men in their lives.

“Bula sa Langit” tells the story of a young soldier (Gio Gahol) who returns from Marawi war to find himself heavily disturbed by one of his traumatic kills . Despite his excitement to come home, Wesley struggles to reconnect his present relationships with his family and girlfriend (Kate Alejandrino) while celebrating the town fiesta.

At the heart of the conflict in Mindanao lies deep-rooted prejudices against the Muslim and indigenous population.

Many armed groups fought against the government to establish an independent Muslim region on the island of Mindanao.

The conflict is seen as the result of social inequity and the skewed distribution of resources, including land grabbing which was a main issue for the Muslims, wrong policies and corruption, and the historical prejudice against the Muslims resulting further to unfulfilled aspirations which had consequently led to violent conflicts.

The almost slice-of-life stories in these films showed how the armed conflict threatens to tear away the lives, hopes, and dreams of the characters caught in the crossfire.

The other winners for the full length films section include: Ma-an L. Asuncion Dagñalan (Blue Room) as best director; Ruby Ruiz (Ginhawa) as best supporting actress; Soliman Cruz (Blue Room) as best supporting actor: Neil Daza (Blue Room) for best cinematography: Marxie Maolen Fadul (Blue Room) for best production design; Isha Abubakar (Retirada) for best original music score; “Kargo” by TM Malones as audience choice award and “Blue Room” by Ma-an L. Asuncion Dagñalan for the special jury award.

Since 2005, the Cinemalaya has continued “to discover, encourage, and support the cinematic works of Filipino filmmakers that boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity.”

(Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail info@sapalovelez.com, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.)

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