The 50 Best Filipino Films of the 21st Century


20. Maicling Pelicula nang Ysang Indio Nacional

Raya Martin, 2005


Maicling Pelicula is, on its most obvious level, a prolonged exercise in imagination: what if some artist had a movie camera (invented only the year before) and used it during the Philippine Revolution of 1896? The result may not be unlike this–silent images, accompanied by a tinkling, sometimes ominously booming, piano; disjointed vignettes on ordinary life inserted between dramatic footage of momentous events. It’s the most perversely casual and offhand depiction of revolution I’ve ever seen this side of Kidlat Tahimik (possibly it outdoes Tahimik in its offhandedness), and only too apt; when finally granted freedom, the Philippines could think of little else to do but squander what financial, educational and physical capital it had either been given or already possessed until circumstances forced upon it the arrival of a new tyranny, that of the Marcoses, who would rule the islands for another twenty years.” – Noel Vera

How to watch: iflix


19. Transit

Hannah Espia, 2013 


Transit is a complex film with a minimalist style that masks its multi-faceted subject. It is intimate in its characterization yet it is global in its reach. It is refreshingly laconic yet it is eloquent in its discourse on the Filipino diasporic experience. It is understated yet it is forceful in its critique of State programs to rein in the growth of migrant families. Through a seamlessly edited three-episode structure creatively maximizing the limited shots taken in Israel, Espia distills the essence of Janet, Yael and Joshua’s personal perspectives and at the same time reveals the vital intersecting points of their relationships. Hence, her incisive direction privileges a humanist voice rich with understanding and palpable compassion for her characters over exhausted narrative devices that treat characters as pegs, mouthpieces and symbols of ideological constructs.” – Mike Rapatan, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino

How to watch: Contact Cinemalaya Foundation to purchase a copy –, (02) 832 1125


18. Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino

Lav Diaz, 2004 


“Devoid of a commercial film’s artifice and entirely reliant on the almost real-time enactment of events, Ebolusyon compels us to look at film in a wider cinematic context as a form of resistance to mainstream narrative and style. Consequently, or because of it, the filmmaker allows us to examine the subject, the Filipino tragic past, with a sense of urgency, in a way that is more probing and thoughtful. More than anything else, the eventual valuation of Ebolusyon lies not only in its repudiation of the formal characteristics of popular film, but in its courage to insinuate that film is what social critic Edel Garcellano refers to as ‘ … extension of the contemporary sociopolitical ferment of society.’ The film, by acknowledging the issue of land as central to social unrest, suggests that it is only through the peasant class reclaiming ownership of their land that the nation will find its own redemption.” – Mauro Feria Tumbocon, Filipino Arts & Cinema International

How to watch: Email to purchase a copy


17. Magnifico

Maryo J. de los Reyes, 2003 


“The film, despite its very traditional filmmaking style, was way ahead of its time. In a way, it preceded the independent films of today in the sense that the story, more than the famous actors and actresses that lend their names and talent to the film, was the very vehicle that drove the film to acclaim. Magnifico is that rare children’s film that tackles mortality, the inevitability of death. It buffers the seriousness of its subject matter with levity and humor, allowing the children to create for the film an atmosphere of endearing innocence amidst the drollness of the affairs of the adults. By portraying life as a colorful tapestry of relationships affected by small acts that are fueled by good intentions, it emphasizes its value while underlining its fragility.” – Oggs Cruz

How to watch: Try Video 48 to purchase a copy –, (02) 373 2936; or any DVD store in the Philippines


16. Confessional

Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Dahis Antipuesto, 2007 


I still remember the shock I felt from the gunshot in Confessional’s penultimate scene – an extrajudicial killing, actually; the victim a self-confessed corrupt politician from Mindanao. But thinking about it now, ten years after its debut, one feels a kind of dated-ness of its gimmickry, how Jerrold Tarog and Ruel Dahis Antipuesto’s attempt at a mockumentary is not just about its dense commentary on our socio-political milieu, playfully elucidated by its villain-confessor (portrayed with gleeful connivance by Publio Briones III), but also so much about filmmaking as a performance. And Confessional sort of represents that wanting to break free from the mold of traditional storytelling at that time; there’s playful craftsmanship and yes, gimmickry, that even up to now, reflects the current state of independent cinema that bannered films like Confessional – still struggling to prove its importance, the voices that make up the movement still finding themselves trying to liberate from the forces that trump this importance. So the film’s inclusion in this list may not even be about its greatness and novelty at the time of its heralding, but what it became years after – a standpoint from which the current and budding crop of independent filmmakers can look at. Are we still trying to break free from something? That cynical equation on truth and lies is a mirroring, but it should really be a questioning. – Jay Rosas, New Durian Cinema

How to watch: Contact Cinema One Originals to purchase a copy


15. Balikbayan #1

Kidlat Tahimik, 2015 


“What Balikbayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment demonstrates is not so much the degree an auto-pastiche can put pressure on the entitlements of play filmmaking can advance with cinematic time, in spite of post-colonial limit, as the scope of seriousness a master of the technology can propose, because he can keep up with the temporalities of his art: what has passed, is passing, has yet to pass, and the interregnum of alternating histories that disturbs all manner of slow and swift passage, with or without montage or scenography. With this film, Kidlat Tahimik can still teach us so much about the contemporary.” – J. Pilapil Jacobo, Young Critics Circle

How to watch: Contact Voyage Studios or Ms Katrin de Guia to purchase a copy


14. Endo

Jade Castro, 2007


“There’s a lot to be said about the political undercurrent that this film has, the social commentary that it provides, but really, this film is primarily a love story. The filmmaking matches the low-key storytelling with a natural, intimate style that really brings this story to life. Digital filmmaking has its limitations, but the general roughness actually adds a little something to the feel of the film. It makes it feel less artificial, more genuine. Endo isn’t a very big movie, but it’s got a very big heart. Romantic films nowadays are often constructed, made only to serve as vehicles for this generation’s next batch of good-looking young stars. What sets Endo apart from the typical modern romantic film is that it makes you feel like everything’s coming from a genuine place. In a world of jaded cinema, the honesty is refreshing.” – Philbert Dy, Click the City

How to watch: Contact Cinemalaya Foundation to purchase a copy –, (02) 832 1125


13. Booba

Joyce Bernal, 2001


“Following the conventional standards of judging cinematic creations, Joyce Bernal’s Booba is undoubtedly a bad film. However, it is precisely because of this unabashed badness that makes the movie so watchable (the movie made tons of money making Rufa Mae Quinto an instant star). Bernal, writer Mel Mendoza-del Rosario, heck, even film studio Viva Entertainment have conspired to make a film purely to ridicule anyone and anything they can poke their fingers on and make everyone who dares to sit through the lampoon laugh. It is one circus act from start to finish. The very successful comedy of Booba was never replicated and probably will never be replicated. While sometimes funny, the several films that tried didn’t have or maintained that natural energy or gleeful abandon Booba balanced.” – Oggs Cruz

How to watch: Contact Viva Films to purchase a copy; or any video store in the Philippines


12. Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim

Arnel Mardoquio, 2012


Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim is not about travels than it is about travails. For all the romance in the title—stars and darkness and the promise of limpid light at the end of the night – this film is about weariness, discontent, and the in-between shades of ideologies. And yet the film is political. The story is about a boy who lost his parents to war or whatever it is that does not stop from harming the communities in Mindanao. Faisal inherits a bag full of American dollars after the boy’s parents turned to kidnapping with ransom. In the narrative, no one dwells on this. In fact, the storytelling of Mardoquio does not stop and dwell on anything. Very much like the individuals we see filling the screen with their presence so haunting because it is terrifically ordinary.” – Tito Genova Valiente

How to watch: Contact Cinema One Originals to purchase a copy


11. Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong

Mes de Guzman, 2005


“The rigors of travel do not break the kids, who have stout hearts and even stouter spirits. But they break the viewer’s heart, who can only watch disbelievingly at the heroism that comes from so lightweight a carriage and so tender an age. Directed by Mes de Guzman, Kalimugtong is poignant and moving. Here is a social document of poverty without the silly idealization or the agitprop condemnation. It presents poverty and hardship merely as a given, something that melds with stunning nature, which, incidentally, carries within itself harshness and cruelty. De Guzman, of course, is no naturalist. He’s not a pantheist who makes a temple out of nature, no matter the human sacrifices made in its name. In fact, he has shown a strong, adamant streak of humanism in portraying how men—and mere children at that—could face, withstand, endure, and even renew nature.” – Lito Zulueta, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino

How to watch: Message Ms Rhea Operaña De Guzman of CineLarga to purchase a copy


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