Philippine Cinema is back on its feet, so declares its most rabid supporters—even tottering off to a new Golden Age. Given a much-needed adrenaline shot by Erik Matti’s On the Job, finally rousing the middle class to troop to a local film, things have been pretty upbeat for homegrown films and this time it’s not just people in the industry who are flaming the cinematic fire. It’s the triumph of Norte, The End of History, On the Job and by association, Ilo Ilo and Metro Manila that got onlookers curious about Philippine Cinema once more. While the ninth edition of Cinemalaya went well, with more commercial-ready films at its wing, and tried-and-tested success of It Takes A Man and A Woman swept the nation off its feet, it’s when the Philippine delegation to Cannes 2013 sounded off with critical acclaim that the year became one hell of a time for Philippine Cinema.
Two new film festivals—TV 5’s CineFilipino and the Film Development Council of the Philippine’s All-Masters Festival—debuted this year, with Salamindanaw International Film Festival joining by the wayside. By the time CineFilipino wrapped up its screenings, prognosticators were all too happy to list a preliminary Best Filipino Films of 2013 because the crop of films were that good, you can actually fill a ballot up to 20. Some films got out of the indie circuit, thanks to distributors who still take a chance on little films. Films like Ang Turkey Man Ay Pabo Rin or Sana Dati were released alongside mainstream releases and Hollywood blockbusters. Although the numbers were still small, the fact that these films tried to exist outside film festival and onto a wider audience was enough to gain a glimmer of hope for better films.
Ultimately, this year’s best films dealt with the terrible embrace of the human condition: Norte’s nihilistic punch in the gut; Bukas Na Lang Sapagkat Gabi Na’s reshaping of our dark history; and Badil’s slow-burning tale of terror and corruption. But at the other end of the spectrum, there lies the light hearted toying on hot-button issues: Ang Huling Cha-Cha ni Anita’s charming portrayal of young lesbian love; Lukas Nino‘s mythic plunge into young ambition and mythmaking, Blue Bustamante’s spin on 90s nostalgia and the OFW phenomenon; and Iskalawags’s gritty but tender take on small-town dreams and childhood fears. And then, there’s Sana Dati, a deconstructed tale of love fraught with familiar strains longing and loss.
12. Blue Bustamante (Miko Livelo)
10. La Ultima Pelicula (Raya Martin and Mark Peranson)
9. Quick Change (Eduardo Roy)
7. Sana Dati (Jerrold Tarog)
6. Lukas Nino (John Torres)
4. Iskalawags (Keith Deligero)
3. Ang Huling Cha-cha Ni Anita (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo)
2. Badil (Chito Rono)
1. Norte: Hangganan Ng Kasaysayan (Lav Diaz)