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From Romblon to Berlin: Cinemalaya’s ‘Huling Palabas’ to compete at the Berlinale

MANILA, Philippines — The 19th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival entry “Huling Palabas,” which earned Best Director award for Ryan Espinosa Machado and Best Performance of a Supporting Actor for Bon Andrew Lentejas, is poised to compete at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival or Berlinale under its Generation 14plus category. The event will take place in Germany from Feb. 15 to 25.

The 90-minute film is set in 2001, in the town of Romblon, Philippines, during a time of transition from VHS to VCD. According to its logline, it follows the story of a young boy searching for his long lost-father. His reality becomes mystified when two movie-like characters appear in his hometown.

“Huling Palabas” cast members include Shun Mark Gomez, Cedrick Juan (2023 Metro Manila Film Festival Best Actor for his portrayal of Fr. Jose Burgos in “GomBurZa”), Jay Gonzaga, Serena Magiliw, and Senandra Gomez.

In an interview with The STAR, the film director said he is still in awe of how the film has traveled from the small town of Looc, Romblon to Berlin, Germany.

Even before joining the Cinemalaya, Machado recalled that he and the rest of the production team were eager to try their luck in film festivals abroad.

“We took note of festival deadlines, and after the film premiered at PICC (Philippine International Convention Center), Ferdy Lapuz, one of our producers, began sending screeners to some A-list festivals in Europe. Not long after, we started receiving rejection emails. It was disheartening but my creative producer, Cris Bringas, would always tell me that we’d make it to a big one,” he shared.

“Kanakan Balintagos, whose debut film premiered at Berlin in 2006, suggested that I submit ‘Huling Palabas’ to Berlinale. He connected me with some people he knew in Berlin, and we were able to submit the film with a waiver code! On Jan. 9, I received an email from the programmer stating they wanted to invite ‘Huling Palabas’ to the Generation 14plus competition.”

So when Machado received an email saying that “Huling Palabas” made it to the list, he got emotional as he continued reading the rest of the message. “I jumped out of bed and ran around the house shouting. My sister,