Most times, I am a minuscule speck overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe; the enormity of choice sending me into a perpetual state of paralysis. Our patron saint of girl rot Slyvia Plath said it best: “I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited."
Other times, I am at a film festival, and my life’s purpose has never been clearer. I was made to sit in the movie theater for hours and write nonsensical one-liner reviews on Letterboxd, a social platform for sharing one’s taste in film.
So I share with pure joy and bliss that QCinema International Film Festival is back this Nov. 17-26, 2023—a festival that, yes, I rarely go to because I live in the south and hate the MRT-3, but one I dream about yearly because of its track record of screening local and international films that are, frankly, really good. And I invite you to embark on this path of cinephilia with me, allegations of being “pretentious” be damned. After all, Plath’s desire to live many lives can be easily assuaged by cinema.
Letterboxd users, rejoice! The film festival returns to select cinemas from November 17 to 26, 2023.
Here are three films to watch out for in this year’s QCinema.
Gitling (dir. Jopy Arnaldo, Philippines)
Full disclosure: I am the marketing officer of this movie, by which I mean I saw it (twice!) at another festival earlier this year and proceeded to talk about it nonstop, online and offline. It centers on a Japanese filmmaker (Ken Yamamura) and his translator (Gabby Padilla), who bond over stories of heartbreak and a language that the latter made up.
Many have called it the Filipino Lost in Translation, and while I send my regards to Sofia Coppola, Gitling is a different beast altogether. Director Jopy Arnaldo parses how people communicate, with the film using five languages while still leaving so much unsaid. Perhaps this is not the most apt review of a movie that leans so much on language, but words will never compare to simply seeing this for yourself.
A Catholic School Girl (dir. Myra Angeline Soriaso, Philippines)
I collect media about Catholic school girls like Thanos did Infinity Stones, and my eyes couldn’t help but sparkle at this short film by University of the Philippines Visayas student Myra Angeline Soriaso. It follows a student from an all-girls school, Kaya (Ora Palencia), as she confronts her feelings for a school nun (Sharon Idone). As Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky said in a well-circulated meme: “poetic cinema.”
This film not only garnered a QCinema grant but also won Best Pitch at Globe Virtual Hangouts GoWATCH Film Lab. During production, Soriaso was mentored by filmmakers Antoinette Jadaone, Martika Ramirez Escobar, Arden Rod Condez, Sonny Calvento, and Sheron Dayoc, AKA the Avengers of hard-hitting independent cinema. I’m seated.
All of Us Strangers (dir. Andrew Haigh, UK & US)
Everyone is highly anticipating the feature that finally brings together Andrew Scott and Paul Mescal, thus expanding the official Sally Rooney-Taylor Swift-Phoebe Bridgers-Fleabag Cinematic Universe. By “everyone” I mean everyone in my corner of the internet, for whom the aforementioned cinematic universe requires no further explanation.
This, of course, is no reduction of Andrew Haigh’s craft. Based on the 1987 Taichi Yamada novel Strangers, Haigh tells a lightly devastating story about ghosts of the past and present. As Adam (Scott) connects with a neighbor (Mescal), he also reconnects with his long-deceased parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy) who seem to haunt his childhood home. With Haigh’s moving honesty and Paul “Only Acts in Sad Movies” Mescal at the helm, I’m sure we’re bound to have a bad time in the best way.
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QCinema will be screened at Gateway Cineplex 10, Robinsons Movieworld Magnolia, Ayala Malls Cinemas’ UP Town Center, Power Plant Cinema, and Shangri-La's Red Carpet Cinemas. Visit qcinema.ph for screening schedules.