The Spears Activation and PR production arm Spears Films puts children’s films in the spotlight with the coming-of-age “Children of the River,” one of full-length features in competition at the 2019 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival. It was written and directed by Maricel Cariaga, the filmmaker behind the 2016 TOFARM film “Pitong Kabang Palay” and the 2017 Sinag Maynila Best Documentary “Journeyman Finds Home: The Simone Rota Story.”
Cinemalaya 2017 Best Actor Noel Comia, Jr. headlines the cast composed of GMA heartthrob Juancho Trivino, Kapuso actress Rich Asuncion, Ricky Oriarte, Dave Justine Francis, Junyka Santarin and JR Custodio. Award-winning actor Jay Manalo plays a very special role.
The story of “Children of the River” revolves around the young Elias (Comia) whose life with his three best friends becomes more exciting when a certain Ted (Trivino) vacations in their provincial town. Their eagerness then turns into dread when they receive news about their fathers who are soldiers stationed in Mindanao.
According to Cariaga, the idea for “Children of the River” came about because of the Marawi siege in 2017. She explained, “Instead of writing about soldiers and their battles, I went ahead and wrote about the stories of their families.”
“When your family member is fighting in a war and you know that any time, you may get a call that something has happened to your loved one,” Cariaga continued. “How do you live your life? How can you manage to live everyday knowing your loved one may die any time? So, ‘Children of the River’ is a story of four friends trying to live a normal life while battling their own demons and while their fathers are fighting in a pointless war.”
“Children of the River” is the fifth children’s film that Spears Films’ executive producer Albert Almendralejo has produced. His advocacy began in 2009 with “Bakal Boys (Children Metal Drivers),” a heart-tugging docu-drama about kids who scavenge for scraps that reaped acclaim in various local and international filmfests including the NETPAC Prize at the 2009 Cinemalaya.
Spears Films would make three more after that. These were the documentary on young Filipino footballers who trained in the United Kingdom titled “Little Azkals,” the thriller on human trafficking through teenage labor titled “Tumbang Preso” and the documentary on Azkals football player Simone Rota’s search for his biological mother titled “Journeyman Finds Home.”
“These are films about young people and how to improve their well being,” Almendralejo remarked. While he also desires to produce different types of films, he will always strive to create material for and about children.
Spears Films is also one of the producers of 2019 Cinemalaya film titled “Malamaya.” It co-produced “Children of the River” with with GMA Films and Luna Studios.
All of the entries to the 2019 Cinemalaya, which runs from August 2-13, 2019 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines, will also be screened in Glorietta, Greenbelt, Trinoma, Market Market, UP Town Center in Metro Manila; Abreeza in Davao and in Evia cinemas in Pampanga, Naga and Iloilo. For screening schedules, visit cinemalaya.org.