Twenty Best-Reviewed Pinoy Films of 2010

1. Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria

Writer/Director: Remton Siega Zuasola

Genre: Drama

Cast: Donna Isadora Gimeno, Gregg Tecson, Lucia Jeucian, Emelda Masubay

Synopsis: Terya, a simple island girl is about to leave her home to marry a foreigner. Her journey ignites a series of events and introduces certain characters that affect her eventual decision to stay or go. The story takes place in the scenic Olango Island in the midst of the Baliw-Baliw Festival that hold parallel to Terya’s state of mind as she walks towards her destiny.

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Review Snippet:

“The masterful camerawork, the very apt music that drowns the visuals and becomes the supporting backdrop when it needs to, the courageously convincing acting of the entire cast that blurs all moral condescension, and the narrative that naturally flows without need of a single cut all communicate the emotions that pulsate as Terya nears the demise of her very own dream.” (Oggs Cruz)

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2. Kano: An American and His Harem

Director: Monster Jimenez

Producer: Mario Cornejo

Genre: Documentary

Synopsis: An American Vietnam War hero decides to spend the rest of his post-war life in the Philippines. Hundreds of women have come and stayed in his house located in a poor, remote village. In 2001, Pearson was charged with over 80 counts of rape.

Pearson is now in jail but many of the women remain by his side. Kano is the fascinating and awful story of a convicted rapist and his women who come together to form a most dysfunctional family.

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Review Snippet:

Kano left me shattered. The documentary dives deep into our country’s broken soul, a place where a man like Victor Pearson might still hold on to the loyalty of his many wives. It is a place where the parents of a rape victim might take the side of the rapist. It is a place where poverty has made terrible things possible, where the most damaged of souls can find sick comfort. The film is finely crafted and keenly observed, pushing deeper into the minds of its subjects without the hubris of judgment.” (Philbert Dy)

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3. Limbunan

Writer/Director: Gutierrez Mangansakan II

Genre: Drama

Cast: Tetchie Agbayani, Jea Lyka Cinco, Joem Bascon, Mayka Lintongan, Jamie Unte

Synopsis: Limbunan happens during the entire month where Ayesah (Jea Lyca Cinco), betrothed to a man she has never met, is confined within her bridal chambers, as Maguindanaoan tradition would dictate. (From Oggs Cruz’s review)

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Review Snippet:

“Simplistic yet eloquent, Limbunan lovingly paces the wedding preparations of a family grounded by the Maguindanaoan tradition. As it flows with every wedding ritual and every forced emotion, it also plays around with elements of the supernatural and the languished soldiers of the war. The way Mangansakan makes the film move show strong hints of maturity from a New Breed director, and every hostile reality implied in every beautifully-shot image is nothing short of a confirmation of this promise.” (Sanriel Ajero)

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4. Sheika

Writer/Director: Arnel Mardoquio

Genre: Drama

Cast: Fe GingGing Hyde, Perry Dizon, Popong Landero, Dan Lester Albarracin, Christine Lim,  Mario Lim, Ricardo Torres, Jhoanna Cruz

Synopsis: Sheika is a story of a woman ravaged by war in Mindanao. In search of peace, she runs to the city but violence and death continue to haunt her.

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Review Snippet:

“Fe GingGing Hyde gives a stunning performance as a Tausug mother using her wiles to save her children from the evil ones. This film further enhances Arnel Mardoquio’s reputation as an excellent regional filmmaker.” (Nel Costales)

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5. Senior Year

Writer/Director: Jerrold Tarog

Genre: Drama

Cast: Danielle Afuang, Aaron Balana, Sheila Bulanhaqui, Franzes Bunda, Nikita Conwi, Rosanne de Boda, Ina Feleo, RJ Ledesma, Mary Lojo, Daniel Lumain, Eric Marquez, Daniel Medrana, LJ Moreno, Celina Penaflorida, Che Ramos, Arnold Reyes, Dimples Romana

Synopsis: A group of old friends arrive at their high school reunion. They remember the days of their senior year: a year of both triumph and disappointment, marking their entrance into the endless possibilities of adulthood.

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Review Snippet:

“It is a strange film, one that blends real life with the equally familiar language of teen filmmaking. The final product can be both entertaining and devastating, drawing fond laughs from nostalgia even as it reveals the high school experience to be ultimately empty… I hope everybody goes to see it.” (Philbert Dy)

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6. Ang Ninanais

Writer/Director: John Torres

Genre: Experimental

Synopsis: Sarah moves among the inhabitants of Guimbal on the island of Panay and improvises her scenes. She collects debts and possessions, but also people’s dreams, stories and memories. She moves to the island of Negros in order to meet the man of her dreams and then she takes on various roles. The film maker also follows his dreams and collects stories and poetry. The great poets Eric Gamalinda and Joel Toledo are quoted, but also dialogues in the original Hiligaynon language are included untranslated in the film for their sound, as music. An unusual approach. A kind of experimental anthropology. (From Rotterdam Film Festival)

Trailer (link): http://johntorres.multiply.com/video/item/8/Ang_ninanais

Review Snippet:

“John Torres’ attempt at mythmaking is erotic, funny, and like nothing you’ve ever seen before.” (Noel Vera)

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7. Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio

Writer/Director: Mario O’Hara

Genre: Drama

Cast: Mailes Kanapi, Danielle Castaño, Lance Raymundo, Alfred Vargas

Synopsis: Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio tells the untold story of Andres Bonifacio’s trial for treason under the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo. The two leaders fought for freedom for the Filipinos yet a nation can only have one ruler. It is a film documentation of less often told episodes in Philippine history by Mario O’Hara. (WikiPilipinas)

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“Mario O’Hara’s take on the other great Filipino hero is understated drama, anguished tragedy, a tremendous love story, and in my opinion the film of the year.” (Noel Vera)

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8. Ang Mundo sa Panahon ng Bato

Writer/Director: Mes de Guzman

Genre: Drama

Cast: Edwin Pamanian, ZJ Vicente, Ilyong Biernes, Rissia Quezon

Synopsis: When Vergel goes home to see his siblings, he discovers that his younger sister is living with an old man. After separating them, he tries to earn a living by recruiting some of the children in the town to find gold mines in the deep mud nearby. What follows is a series of haunting images that touches on innocence, love, and greed. (Cinemarehiyon)

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Review Snippet:

Bato is the second in his Earth Trilogy, coming after Yelo and before Bakal, and it’s quite a harrowing piece of shit I’m willing to eat. Mes shoots town children diving for gold mines in a muddy creek, soaked in grubby briefs, forced to scuba their way down the sludge. In his casual leisurely style, he keeps his distance without losing his grip on their starving innocent souls, leaving the audience a climax that shatters as much as it disheartens.” (Richard Bolisay)

9. RPG Metanoia

Director: Luis Suarez

Writers: Luis Suarez, Jade Castro, Tey Clamor

Genre: Animation, Adventure

Cast: Zaijian Jaranilla, Vhong Navarro, Aga Muhlach, Eugene Domingo, Mika dela Cruz

Synopsis: A group of kids seek refuge from the mundane world by playing an online computer game. But when a deadly virus starts blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, the kids must step up to defeat the virus.

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Review Snippet:

RPG Metanoia, though far from having animation perfection, has decent enough visuals to truly be proud of. However unoriginal, the plot is well-developed with plot holes meticulously covered – ending in a very satisfying scene that comments on the surviving without all the online fuss.” (Sanriel Ajero)

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10. Vox Populi

Writer/Director: Dennis Marasigan

Genre: Drama

Cast: Irma Adlawan, Bobby Andrews, Julio Diaz, LJ Moreno, Suzette Ranillo

Synopsis: Vox Populi follows a woman candidate for mayor in a small town on the last day of campaign. To ensure her win, she will need to secure the support of voters and financiers who may have varying, and even conflicting, desires and agendas.

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Review Snippet:

“The naysayers weren’t being merely pissy when they said this looked ugly and tacky, it is ugly and tacky, but then that’s a function of the milieu and also the whole point. Ugly and tacky as our cities can get, they’re even uglier and tackier during elections. But in nailing the Philippine condition on little more than its surfeit of comic energy it pays the price for not exoticizing anything by disappearing into an obscurity it doesn’t deserve.” (Dodo Dayao)

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11. Mondomanila

Director: Khavn Dela Cruz

Writers: Khavn Dela Cruz, Norman Wilwayco

Genre: Drama

Cast: Marvin Agustin, Dave Kahn, Anna Bernaldo, Noel Sto. Domingo, John Agustin, Marlyn Caseno, Chito Munar

Synopsis: Mondomanila is an adaptation of Norman Wilwayco’s Palanca-winning short story (2002), novel (2002), and script (2003). It is a post-modern version of Edgardo Reyes’ novel Sa Mga Kuko ng LiwanagIt not only explores Manila and its humanity, it also delves into the whole rationale behind the irrational lives these people experience everyday(khavndelacruz.org)

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Review Snippet:

“Khavn dela Cruz finds a gem underneath all the feces, cockroaches, freaks and trash that occupy his beloved alternate Manila, which doesn’t seem as alternate if you really think about it. This is probably the pinnacle of dela Cruz’s streak of rule-breaking films. It is surprisingly sleek (compared to all of dela Cruz’s previous works), weirdly elegant, and nobly shocking.” (Oggs Cruz)

* * *

12. Here Comes the Bride

Director: Chris Martinez

Writers: Chris Martinez, Marlon Rivera

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Eugene Domingo, Angelica Panganiban, John Lapus, Tuesday Vargas, Jaime Fabregas, Tom Rodriguez, Cherry Pie Picache, Cai Cortez

Synopsis: A freak accident causes five very different people to swap souls right before a big wedding. As the five try to figure things out and return to their bodies, they quickly learn to appreciate looking at life from a very different perspective. (From Click the City)

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Review Snippet:

“Dripping with talent, the cast is a well-curated collection of talented actors who are all great comedians in their own right. Chris Martinez applies a taught quality to the way he tells a classic story of body-switching and role reversal, so this comedy never drags and is full of little hilarious moments that happen when the screenplay and the actors are perfectly in sync. Bravo.” (Ria Limjap)

* * *

13. Balangay

Writers/Directors: Sherad Anthony Sanchez, Robin Färdig

Genre: Experimental

Cast: Robin Färdig, Randy Quilos, Remlanie Ruca

Synopsis: Balangay is set at an old abandoned airport that offers temporary shelter for the Lumads, an internally displaced indigenous people. The two filmmakers move in among shamans, big families, and NGOs trying to help them out. The result is a collective mosaic of memories that take off from the ground zero of globalization. (Cinemanila 2010 catalog)

Review Snippet:

Balangay, for the most parts, talks about the juxtaposition between young and old (sometimes quite literally with film strips on top of each other) – how they move, interact and live – all these amidst the seemingly endless repetition of life. It’s truly personal and uncompromising. I admit I’ve only understood bits and pieces of it – but what I got are insightful, and quite unforgettable, probably more than enough for me to like it this much. This is one of those that needs to be felt than deciphered.” (Sanriel Ajero)

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14-15. Chassis

Writer/Director: Adolfo Alix, Jr.

Genre: Drama

Cast: Jodi Sta. Maria, Angeli Bayani, Rustica Carpio, Evelyn Vargas

Synopsis: Single mother Nora lives with her daughter Sarah on a cardboard groundsheet and hammock tied to the undercarriage of a semitrailer in the parking lot of a Manila cargo terminal. Deep in debt and receiving little help from her husband, Nora has nothing to live for except for Sarah. Living in a community suffering from abject poverty, Nora sifts through trash and spends time with Vilma, a happily single shopkeeper, and Minda, whose truck-driver husband disappeared a month ago presumably to live with another woman. With no other viable options to support her daughter, Nora turns to prostitution. (From IMDB)

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Review Snippet:

Chassis, a film about a homeless woman’s extreme poverty, may represent the darkest of the entries here, its tone one of unrelieved hopelessness, but surprisingly, albeit narrowly, it justifies its bleak outlook on the world and its very subject.” (Noli Manaig)

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14-15. Halaw

Writer/Director: Sheron Dayoc

Genre: Drama

Cast: John Arcilla, Ma. Isabel Lopez, Arnalyn Ismael

Synopsis: The film centers on an illiterate Badjao, Jahid and his 9-year-old daughter Daying as they illegally cross the border of the Philippines and Malaysia through the southern backdoor. Determined to reunite with his wife, he leaves behind everything they have in Jolo to search for his lost wife in Sabah where an uncertain future awaits him. He meets Hernand, who poses as a war photographer as he is drawn into the world of white slavery across the sea border. The two meet as they board the pump boat to the nearest Island of Sabah.

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Review Snippet:

“Although it does not have resources to traipse around the world exposing human trafficking from a global dimension, the implications it raises about what makes Philippine illegal overseas workers surrender their fates to unscrupulous human smugglers and the vicissitudes of the sea is no less serious. From a Mindanao coastal village to the shores of Sabah, Malaysia, Sheron R. Dayoc charts a voyage of innocence lost.” (The Hollywood Reporter)

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16.  Cameroon Love Letter (For Solo Piano)

Writer/Director: Khavn Dela Cruz

Genre: Experimental

Cast: Lourd De Veyra, Jose Dalisay, Jr., Gertjan Zuilhof

Synopsis: A Westerner (Gertjan Zuilhof, voiced by Lourd de Veyra) travelsto Cameroon. The place feels foreign. The roads are littered with potholes filled to the brim with muddy water. The cityscapes and the rural towns, while seemingly familiar, are estranged. The cuisine, the nightlife, the culture, they serve no purpose greater than the various museum pieces on display. They are objects of curiosities and temporary fascination.

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Review Snippet:

“Like magic, like that spark that binds disparate people into a union supported only by the flimsiest yet most heralded of feelings, the elements marry during the hour or so that you allow yourself to wallow in the weakness of love.” (Oggs Cruz)

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17.  Donor 

Writer/Director: Mark Meily

Genre: Drama

Cast: Meryll Soriano, Baron Geisler, Jao Mapa, Karla Pambid, Joy Viado

Synopsis: Desperate for money, Lizzie pursues the dark and thankless world of organ donation, hoping for a better life.

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Review Snippet:

Donor is an astoundingly sleek production. From the crisp digital lensing by cinematographer Jay Abello to the believable production design, the film adamantly refuses to surrender glossiness to the demands of grittiness. Indulgences, as with most of Meily’s previous films, are abundant with the overused fade-outs, whatever the supposed intent for such editorial trickery, as the most apparent. Fortunately, these ostentatious displays of directorial know-how hardly function to dissuade the viewer from being enamored by the novelty of Meily’s carefully crafted tale.” (Oggs Cruz)

* * *

18-20.  Emir

Director: Chito Roño

Writers: Chito Roño, Jerry Gracio

Genre: Drama, Musical

Cast: Franceska Farr, Dulce, Julia Clarete, Kalila Aguilos, Bodjie Pascua, Bayang Barrios

Synopsis: Emir tells the story of a nanny, Amelia, a Filipina from Ilocos who decides to work abroad to help her family. She takes care of the Sheik’s wife who is about to give birth, and later acts as the nanny to the newly born, Ahmed – the Sheik’s eldest son. Amelia sees Ahmed growing up, and in the process, introduces him to the culture, values and language of the Philippines. She becomes a mother to the young prince and ultimately sacrifices everything to protect him.

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Review Snippet:

“The impressive musical epic, about a Filipina nanny working in a palatial home in the Middle East, is a showcase for the country’s talented singers, songwriters, and dancers.” (Nel Costales)

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18-20.  Amigo

Writer/Director: John Sayles

Genre: Drama

Cast: Joel Torre, Chris Cooper, Ronnie Lazaro, Garrett Dillahunt, Yul Vazquez, Rio Locsin

Synopsis: When U.S. troops occupy his village, Rafael comes under pressure from a tough-as-nails officer (Chris Cooper) to help the Americans in their hunt for Filipino guerilla fighters.  But Rafael’s brother (Ronnie Lazaro) is the head of the local guerillas, and considers anyone who cooperates with the Americans to be a traitor.  Rafael quickly finds himself forced to make the impossible, potentially deadly decisions faced by ordinary civilians in an occupied country.

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Review Snippet:

“Brave, provocative, and insightfully funny, Amigo weaves a complex tale that does not simplify the issues involved in the war and tries to give voice to the Filipinos’ yearning for freedom.” (Lito Zulueta)

* * *

18-20.  Noy

Director: Dondon Santos

Writers: Rondel Lindayag, Coco Martin, Francis Xavier Pasion, Shugo Praico

Genre: Drama

Cast: Coco Martin, Joem Bascon, Cherry Pie Picache, Erich Gonzalez, Baron Geisler, Vice Ganda, Cheska Billiones

Synopsis: Desperate to find means of support for his family, Noy (Coco Martin) fakes his credentials to get a job as a TV journalist. His assignment is to come up with a documentary on the 2010 Philippines national elections while following the trail of his namesake, senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the top presidential contender. During the campaign Noy becomes more aware of the responsibilities of real journalists. While a fresh wave of nationalistic fervor and enthusiasm permeate the country, life at home fails to improve for Noy’s family and the disparity between the two “Noys” becomes increasingly evident. If one lives for the truth, the other lives a lie to survive. Infused with actual documentary footage of the presidential elections, interwoven with dramatic scenes, the film deals with the realities of poverty for many Filipino families and the fact that it may take more than one man to change the country’s history.

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Review Snippet:

Noy is a film well-directed by Dondon Santos and released by Star Cinema. Here is a film that is a documentary within a narrative. The contrast and the disjuncture of the two genres, that of the documentary for television with jerky and almost technically violent footage, and that of the melodramatic, sleek narrative meshed together. Its message is in its form.” (Gigi Javier Alfonso)