Unknown to many, Philippine Cinema has prospered despite the flagging support of the general viewing public. Since the early 2000s, brave storytellers like Lav Diaz and Raya Martin have released a steady stream of films that have carved out a distinct perspective of our myths and stories. Producers and filmmakers like Raymond Lee and Jade Castro shun mainstream and indie categorization for the sake of clear-cut narratives that are both accessible and more endearing than most big studio drivel, as depicted in films like Endo and last year’s hit Zombadings:1 Patayin sa Shokot si Remington.
Film critic Philip Cheah even noticed the strong lead of the Philippines in the new wave of Southeast Asian films. “Filipinos themselves don’t realize the nexus of creativity that they exist in. They groan at the thought of how far behind their cinema is. But any outsider would be rendered breathless at the amazing power of their independent spirit. I know I was blown away when I watched last year’s crop of new indie films at the Seventh Cinemalaya film festival. There were tons of new films and after the regional wave of 2010, you could say that the empire (or the country’s center) struck back! The Manila-based directors rallied and released a surge of great films. But it’s not a real competition anyway. Filipinos know that they were born to create.”
With the emergence of films like Yam Laranas’s The Road in the international circuit as well as screenings of small-budget gems like Antoinette Jadaone’s Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (the most critically acclaimed local film of 2011) in film festivals abroad, it’s truly an exciting time for Philippine cinema. The numbers of local releases may have dwindled but it’s undeniable that there are more quality films being produced.
Just in case you need more convincing, here is a list of recent films, including shorts and full-length, that deserve a wider audience not just locally but elsewhere in the world.
Tundong Magiliw (Tundo Beloved)
Dir: Jewel Maranan
Unlike other films that deal with poverty, Jewel Maranan’s Tundong Magiliw refuses to slither down Tundo’s infamous image. Instead, she captures an intimate portrait of a family struggling to make ends meet, and witnesses a birth that foretells a future riddled with its own emotional baggage and promises.
Dir: John Torres
Torres’s take on the aswang myth wanders from the idyllic into a poetic play of the supernatural. Made from outtakes of a collaboration with a Danish filmmaker, Mapang-akit creates its own language while still grounded in cultural quirks of a hushed town haunted by a grim spell.
Dir: Shireen Seno
Big Boy approximates the glories and pitfalls of childhood in a swirl of hallucinatory images. Seno’s film, based on the experiences of her father, evokes the traps of our labyrinthine remembrances, where faces and names blur but the emotional resonance resounds stronger than ever. Timmy Harn and Gym Lumbera’s Class Picture, a short film that recaptures the fading pleasures of the titular photograph, should serve as a companion piece.
Sakay sa Hangin (Windblown)
Dir: Regiben Romana
Sakay sa Hangin immerses us into the rich culture of the Talaandig tribe as we follow the tribe’s musician on his quest to save his dying heritage. Romana’s film reminds us that our country holds more riches than what our school textbooks have shown us and that music will always be a universal vessel of peace.
Lawas Kan Pinabli (Forever Loved)
Dir: Christopher Gozum
Mixing fiction and documentary, Lawas Kan Pinabli shatters the heroic notions about overseas Filipino workers. The film is divided into several interviews with OFWs in the Middle East whose harrowing experiences stem from their dream of better lives. But the film also shows how some Filipinos knowingly break rules and cultural norms to fit their misguided intentions, not realizing there are realities far bigger than themselves until they eventually hit rock bottom.
Originally published in The Philippine Star Supreme (May 26, 2012)