During the 19th installment of the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, held from August 4 to 13 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), all eyes were on ANIMA Studios as they stood out amidst the captivating array of films.

The crowning moment arrived at the Cinemalaya Awards Night, where ANIMA’s remarkable presentation, featuring “Rookie” and “When This Is All Over,” claimed prestigious accolades. Pat Tingjuy secured the title of Best Actress for her exceptional performance, while Martika Escobar’s outstanding cinematography in “When This Is All Over” earned her the Best Cinematography award.

Aya Fernandez of Audience Choice Awardee ‘Rookie’ and Best Actress Pat Tingjuy.

Director Samantha Lee’s masterful creation “Rookie” bagged this year’s Audience Choice Award for Full-Length Feature Film, Best Actress for Tingjuy, and Best Editing for Ilsa Malsi. Another prized entry  “When This Is All Over,” directed by Kevin Mayuga, meanwhile, took home major technical awards including Best Cinematography for Escobar, Best Production Design for Kaye Banaag, and Best Original Musical Score for Kindred Music Productions (Jorge Juan B. Wieneke V, Fern Tan, Luis Montales, Vince Dalida, Othello Intia, Moses Webb, and Jaime San Juan).

Fun times for the team behind When This Is All Over, including lead Juan Karlos (foreground right), breakout stars Aaron Maniego and Lottie Bie (middle), and director Kevin Mayuga (upper right).

“Rookie” which stars Tingjuy, Aya Fernandez and Agot Isidro, is a touching coming-of-age story that navigates the complexities of teenage life and sports dynamics, delivering a relatable narrative of growth and self-discovery.  On a contrasting note, “When This Is All Over,” headlined by actor-musician Juan Karlos, delved into the pandemic-stricken lives of young adults, questioning the consequences of their choices. The film’s exploration of choices and their repercussions struck a chord with audiences, showcasing ANIMA’s ability to engage viewers on both emotional and intellectual levels.

Notably, ANIMA’s daring exploration of diverse genres extended to  “Marupok AF (Where is the Lie?)” helmed as the festival’s opener. The celebrated film, directed by Quark Henares and stars EJ Jallorina, Royce Cabrera, and Maris Racal, is a dark comedy that blends humor and intrigue while inviting viewers to reexamine the essence of love.

The curtain fell on Cinemalaya with the poignant film “Third World Romance,” which illuminated the often unnoticed existence of service workers, capturing the very spirit of perseverance and optimism in the face of challenges. The screen came alive with the genuine chemistry of real-life couple Carlo Aquino and Charlie Dizon, marking their highly awaited joint debut on the cinematic stage. It is now showing in theaters nationwide.

“We are deeply honored and elated to have participated in Cinemalaya the way we did this year,” shares ANIMA Head of Studios Bianca Balbuena. “To have won for ‘Rookie’ and ‘When This Is All Over’ and open and close Cinemalaya with ‘Marupok AF’ and ‘Third World Romance’ respectively to rave reviews motivates us to continually create content that resonates with our diverse audiences and holds up a mirror to the times.”

Ian Monsod, CEO of ANIMA’s parent company KROMA Entertainment, says, “The accolades ANIMA received at Cinemalaya wouldn’t have been possible if not for the talented, dedicated individuals who work before and behind the cameras. Their collective output is in keeping with KROMA’s passion to champion Filipino creativity and purpose of inspiring and entertaining the world.”

From heartwarming coming of age tales and slice-of-life love stories to explorations of pandemic-era challenges and the pitfalls of social media, ANIMA showcased an unparalleled commitment to producing high-quality films that resonate with audiences on multiple levels.  ANIMA’s sweeping success across genres at the 2023 Cinemalaya is a true testament to their unwavering dedication to crafting cinematic experiences, solidifying their reputation as a studio committed to producing films of exceptional quality and artistry.

Originally published on Cinema Bravo.