The 50 Best Filipino Films of the 21st Century

 

40. Apocalypse Child

Mario Cornejo, 2015 

Apocalypse-Child

“If the film has a model it’s probably Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, about a town that remembers the filming of George Stevens’ Giant and the production’s biggest star James Dean. Beyond the structural and thematic similarities (a small town unable to move past its memories of a famous film shoot; a bastard child unable to move past the shadow of his filmmaker father) the pictures couldn’t be more different: Altman’s film is all gossamer moonshine and candlelight, with pane after pane of picture-window mirrors through which the camera plunges into the past; Cornejo’s film treats the sea itself as a mirror, diving in and out and occasionally bobbing on the water, revealing both the submerged and the surfaced (a disapproving critic called the lighting ‘washed out;’ I prefer the terms ‘sundrenched’ and ‘dreamlike’ and call it a clever marriage of content and visual style).” – Noel Vera

How to watch: Contact Arkeofilms to purchase a copy – creative@arkeofilms.com, (02) 899 4504

 

39. Yanggaw

Richard Somes, 2008 

Yanggaw

“The film has Ronnie Lazaro branding the screen with such heat that all logic wilts before his loving and hardheaded patriarch. Unforgettable are those close-up shots of Lazaro. They are bare and, if there are techniques in being bare, the fact that we do not see the techniques is even horrifying. The scariest scenes in the film, however, are those with the character of Lazaro staying steadfast even when a monster is right there in the house he built. And when he sets free the witch so it could eat and survive, one sees the politics of this film and its writers: that which we know and hide deep in ourselves are the evil and the good. And both are not within our control, and both are embedded in our own quiet communities.” – Tito Genova Valiente

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

 

38. Walang Rape sa Bontok

Lester Valle, 2014 

Bontoc

“By pointing out the power that Bontok-Igorot women once held in many aspects, Walang Rape sa Bontok makes assertions linked to ongoing debates about matriarchy and egalitarianism that there is value to be found in returning to the past, especially when imagining and crafting the future. The film, continuously touring colleges and indigenous and lowland communities all over the Philippines, provides a powerful vision of what future present-day Filipinos can forge with lessons from the past. While the film makes arguable assertions that it was because of the ‘simple’ social organization of the Bontok-Igorot that gender relations could be egalitarian, a more important point that the film offers is that of reorientation: by revisiting the social organization of ‘simple’ societies such as the Bontok-Igorot, it can be argued that violence against women is a product of cultural encounter, historical erasure, and social normativization.” – Dada Docot, University of British Columbia

How to watch: Contact Habi Collective Media to purchase a copy – habi.collective@gmail.com, 0928 403 1190

 

37. Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis

Lav Diaz, 2016 

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“Through this melding of stories both fictional and real, the film posits the problem of our country’s curse of being oppressed by foreign entities, and later by our very own people; and our subservience to a ruling class – an oligarchy rather than a true democracy. And it places the solution into our hands, with one such solution expressed through the very notion of freedom as expressed in our literature, our art, our music. The film also shows how this art can be taken from us, destroyed like a Guardia Civil throwing a wrecked guitar into all-consuming fire. It also shows us how art can be privilege rather than right – where only the elites and the antagonists of El Filibusterismo view the newly birthed power of the Cinematheque, expressing mirth at the plight of the indio in frames within frames.” – John Tawasil, Present Confusion

How to watch: Email sineoliviapilipinas@gmail.com to purchase a copy

 

36. Riles

Ditsi Carolino, 2003 

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Riles is Ditsi Carolino’s ode to the resilience of the human spirit. Instead of utilizing the innate poverty of the slums of Manila as her passport to success, she instead focuses to document something more intimate, something more universal, probably less exotic and less intriguing, but definitely truthfully emotional. She captures the couple in periods of humanity — their daily arguments, Eddie’s flirtation with the bakeshop attendant, Pen’s ever-consistent bouts of endless nagging. It’s just fantastic how these couple retain the purest of humanity despite their living conditions, which Carolino also portrays unflinchingly: rats dwell alongside them, their ceiling leaks during rainy season, they try to make dinner for a huge family from a couple of potatoes and some eggs. Riles is a film with fully resounding themes and the sincerest portrayal of life in the slums.” – Oggs Cruz

How to watch: Email director Ditsi Carolino to purchase a copy – ditsi.carolino@gmail.com

 

35. Women of the Weeping River

Sheron Dayoc, 2016

WWR

“The film succeeds because while it tells the story of revenge in the intersection of culture and violence, it does not justify violence in the context of cultural mores. What the film does is to bring us into quiet households where old women listen to old, old songs reminding them of loved ones who used to live and who, we can presume, died a violent death. The film also brings to the fore persons who are not really bound by the culture but by the struggles within the demands of their closed society. For all the gore that’s expected out of this grand retelling of blood feud, Women of the Weeping River basks in the stillness of a narrative that observes and contemplates. Its rhythm has nothing to do with the brashness of murder but of the slow-tempered cadence of life and, in its terminus, death.” – Tito Genova Valiente, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino

How to watch: Email director Sheron Dayoc to purchase a copy – sherondayoc@southernlantern.com

 

34. Jungle Love

Sherad Anthony Sanchez, 2012 

Jungle Love

That Jungle Love turns out to be such a delight is the blindside Sherad Sanchez pulls on us. His ethnographic reveries always seemed in the grip of some somber, enigmatic gravity. But this piece of semiotic erotica is given over not only to humor and pleasure but to a rarefied lightness. Not that the veil of mystery is abandoned entirely but it’s more ornamental than forbidding. Its uncharacteristic playfulness comes from how this is really a tone poem about seduction and disappearance but wears instead the ghostly skin of a pop song about love and salvation, and somehow liking how it fits better. – Dodo Dayao, Piling Piling Pelikula

How to watch: No copies available, but inquire from director Sherad Sanchez (sherad_anthony@yahoo.com) how to schedule private group viewing

 

33. Ma’ Rosa

Brillante Mendoza, 2016

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“Mariin ang komentaryo ng pelikula rito, na kung tutuusi’y higit pang may sistema, at higit pang sistematiko ang inakalang magulong komunidad ni Rosa. Silang maliliit at maralitang nagkukumahog para sa kanilang buhay at kabuhayan ay pawang mga kasangkapan, mga kapital, at puhunan ng linsad na makapangyarihang pumipiga ng kapakinabangan mula sa mga katawang ito. Siklo na lamang ang patuloy na pagsusustina sa mga nasa itaas ng mga gaya nina Bongbong, Rosa, at Jomar. At hangga’t may makukuha sa mga ito, walang katapusan ang mga blackmail, ang mga banta at pakiusap, at mga paglabag sa impormal na kasunduan. Sa pamamagitan ng matagumpay na pagtatahi ng naratibo, editing, tunog at musika, sinematograpiya, at mahusay na mga pagtatanghal, malinaw at malalim ang talab ng pelikula sa pagsesemento ng kritisismo nito sa volatility na kumakatawan sa temperamento ng isang uri ng ekonomiyang nakasandal sa maligalig na sistema.” – Jema Pamintuan, Young Critics Circle

How to watch: Contact Centerstage Productions to purchase a copy – teeda.pascual@centerstageprod.com, (02) 5319831

 

32. Ari: My Life with a King

Carlo Enciso Catu, 2013 

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“The film looks at the importance of Capampangan poetic tradition, but in a powerfully oblique way. Instead of propping up the tradition, the film looks at the negation happening in the field. Poets are important, but our local governments have no time for them. In the film, the king of poets is the only one with special food; the other poets are offered packed lunch. It is a commentary that is not sentimental but realistic. Going home, the poets have to look for means to bring them home. There is no sneer in what the camera shows, just the sincerity of an observer imparting to us the lessons of heritage. We love to talk about our arts, but we really never care for them. For all its trenchant statements about the role of art, the film does not, fortunately, wave banners and flags of indictment.” – Tito Genova Valiente

How to watch: Message Ms Myra Lopez of the Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies to purchase a copy

 

31. Bwakaw

Jun Lana, 2012

Bwakaw

“Where many gay movies portray loneliness and pain as the natural state of gay men who want men but cannot have them (i.e. with the blessings of society), Bwakaw propounds the notion that happiness is not a state that one passively inherits from a given situation but the product of a conscious and definite choice to be happy. Unlike many gay movies where the gay hero ends up alone and lonely, Bwakaw tells us that there is life for a gay man even if he is rejected by the object of his affection or lust. In fact, the gay man can be truly happy living by himself, even when he is bereft of a boyfriend or any companion for that matter. In short, if the gay man chooses to be happy, solitude does not have to mean loneliness. It could actually bring about contentment in self-containment.” – Nicanor Tiongson, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino

How to watch: Contact Cinemalaya Foundation to purchase a copy – cinemalaya.ccp@gmail.com, (02) 832 1125

 

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