Two thousand and sixteen was a banner year for the Philippine Cinema. Countless awards and recognition for Filipino films from different film festivals all over the world is something that we should celebrate.
Lav Diaz’s “Ang Babaeng Humayo” (The Woman Who Left) won the 73rd Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion. “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” (A Lullaby for the Sorrowful Mystery) received the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. “The day before the end” won the Principal Prize of the Oberhausen Festival.
Our local talents were recognized internationally for their acting skills. Paolo Ballesteros won the Best Actor award at the 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival for the film “Die Beautiful. Jaclyn Jose won the Best Actress award at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
I’m proud and happy to say that I’ve seen 732 films (local and international) this year. Here’s my pick for what I think are the notable local films of 2016:
20. Ang Babaeng Humayo
Director: Lav Diaz
After 30 years of wrongful imprisonment, a woman plans to take revenge on her former lover.
19. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
Director: Prime Cruz
Jewel is a mysterious woman who lives alone in the city. She has a secret which has led her to settle into a lonely existence. That is, until she meets Nico, a broken-hearted, down-and-out guy who also feels unlovable like she does. Jewel is torn between wanting to love him and wanting to save him from herself. Will he accept her if he knew the truth about her? Can she ever find love, or is she destined to be alone forever?
Director: Zig Madamba Dulay
Garry Cabalic, a real Aeta, plays Atan, just 19, a ‘manggagasak’ finds himself in a fixed marriage with another Aeta named Ani in ‘Baytan’. The family of Atan’s bride-to-be requested Atan to provide two swine and Php20,000 as ‘Bandi’ or dowry. In order for Atan to raise the amount and the two swine, he has to go to the plains (kapatagan) and find alternative jobs in-between. During those times, he met Rain portrayed by Anna Luna whom he found special fondness and secret admiration with.
17. Si Magdalola at ang Mga Gago
Director: Jules Katanyag
Drug-dealing and sex-starved goons mistakenly disturb the peaceful lives of a frail witch and her nubile grandchild in a remote town in the mountains.
Director: Carlo Obispo
Luis is just one of the teenage boys in the idyllic and fishing island of Silag. He goes through the issues of adolescence with his childhood sweetheart, Maricar, while his younger sister, Lulu busies herself by joining amateur singing contests in hopes of becoming a star.
15. 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten
Director: Petersen Vargas
Felix is a friendless achiever in high school whose life changes after the arrival of the half-American Snyder brothers, entangling him in their dark ambitions.
Director: Alvin Yapan
Oro, tells a story inspired by these events, and brings harsh issues and tough questions to light. Yapan’s Oro follows a gold mining community under the care of Kapitana (Irma Adlawan). Elmer is a miner (Joem Bascon) who is thinking of marrying his girlfriend Linda (Mercedes Cabral), but he doesn’t know she is pregnant.
The barangay is disturbed by a group of armed men pretending to be environmentalists and tensions erupt between the two camps, as one tries to fight for their livelihood while the other tries to take over operations.
13. Ang Bababe sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNotEnough
Director: Marlon Rivera
Eugene prepares for her comeback vehicle after a long sabbatical from movie making. Rainier proposes “The Itinerary,” a heartbreaking anatomy of a crumbling marriage as told through a couple’s trip to Baguio, their former honeymoon location. Eugene Domingo is excited by the project but she has other ideas in mind. In the film within the film, we see Eugene’s absurd suggestions and recommendations changing Rainier’s script by employing the poetic of the Pinoy romantic comedy genre into what is supposedly a realistic portrayal of love and marriage.
Directors: Paolo Picones & Gym Lumbera
Once upon a time, you were born. In the Philippines, there was no science education when you were a child. When they began to offer it in your adulthood, you leapt at the chance and studied harder than everyone else. You learned of kingdoms and species and genes and atoms. Science helped you to see the bigger world beyond. You studied so well, an American university paid you to keep studying with them, so you left.
You gained mastery over the evolution of birds there, but you missed home the whole time. You lost your first wife and son to Science. So with degree in hand, you went back to your people. You found that they had burned their forests, and had exploded their seas. So you gave a new bird to your people; because, now you knew how to use it to save them. This was the piding. And the rest is the story of Oliver Carlos.
11. Mercury is Mine
Director: Jason Paul Laxamana
Carmen, a middle-aged cook, is about to close down her eatery at the foot of Mt. Arayat when a white American teenage boy named Mercury approaches her and begs for work in exchange of nothing but shelter.
10. Die Beautiful
Director: Jun Lana
Trisha, a Filipino transgender woman, suddenly dies while being crowned in a beauty pageant. Her last wish was to be presented as a different celebrity on each night of her wake, but her conservative father wants to bury her as a man. Trisha’s friends are left with no choice but to steal her body and hold the wake in a secret location. And as Trisha is transformed to look like different celebrities, they also look back at the colorful and extraordinary life that she has led – being a son, a sister, a mother, a friend, a lover, a wife, and ultimately, a queen.
9. Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis
Director: Lav Diaz
Interconnected narratives on the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1897 against the Spanish characterize, the story of the ballad Jocelynang Baliwag, which became the hymn of the revolution; Gregoria de Jesus’ forlorn search for the body of the Father of Philippine Revolution Andres Bonifacio; the journey of our national hero’s fictional book characters Simon and Isagani; the role of the Philippine mythical hero of strength Bernardo Carpio and the half-man, half-horse tikbalang/engkanto, and a discourse on the Filipino psyche.
8. Ma’ Rosa
Director: Brillante Mendoza
Ma’ Rosa has four children. She owns a small convenience store in a poor neighborhood of Manila where everybody likes her. To make ends meet, Rosa and her husband, Nestor, resell small amounts of narcotics on the side. One day, they get arrested. Rosa and her children are ready to do anything to buy her freedom from the corrupt police.
7. People Power Bombshell: The Diary of Vietnam Rose
Director: John Torres
A mystery dreamlike portrait of a movie star’s harrowing ordeal in the making of a film. This is about Liz Alindogan, then 19-year old naive newbie star, and director Celso Ad Castillo dubbed as Philippine cinema’s messiah. It is structured as a mystery film, making viewers question whether to believe the account of Liz Alindogan.
Director: Roderick Cabrido
In a small village, located deep within the mountains of Antique, lives ELENA,55. Elena is no ordinary woman, she is the village’s “Binukot” – a “kept maiden”, meaning she was chosen as the fairest amongst the women in her village and as such was confined inside her house, never being allowed to go outside, or work the fields; and because she is respected and revered, her face is always covered with a veil. She is also the one chosen to keep the oral tradition alive, memorizing the chants and performing it during special occasions. But as the world progresses into the modern age– the age of the epics she chants about, even the very existence of the “binukot”, slowly deteriorates. No one wants to be “chosen” anymore, least of all LETTY, 15; Elena’s young grand daughter. Letty wanted to live her life, go out, learn new things and fall in love. All of which Elena disapproves of because for Elena, Letty does not have a choice in the matter, just as she never had a choice when she was chosen. However, as Letty falls in love with a young man and threatens the sanctity of the “tuos”, (the pact made between the supernatural deities and their village) putting Letty in danger, Elena realized that she cannot just stand aside. And as she fights for Letty’s right to live her own life, Elena finds herself coming face to face, literally, with the ghosts of a tradition which shackled her into a life of solitary confinement.
5. Curiosity, Adventure and Love
Directors: Sunshine Lichauco De Leon & Suzanne Richiardone
Curiosity, Adventure & Love is a the story of a woman raised by fate to go boldly where few young women of her time and upbringing would go, into the arms of chance and life. A young American woman leaves her country and all security behind, to begin an adventure in the Philippines that would witness the birth of a nation, a cruel war and Occupation and reconstruction. Jessie is a striking personality, somewhere between Scarlett O’Hara and Amelia Earhart, who knew no boundaries and flew far ahead of her times, without regard to sex or society. Her story of a century well-lived is both rich and one that should restore our faith in our own humanity.
4. Sunday Beauty Queen
Director: Baby Ruth Villarama
Sunday Beauty Queen is a real-life Cinderella tale of a Filipina house helper who dreams to be a Beauty Queen in Hong Kong.
Director: Roderick Cabrido
Ilyong, a recently-dead man killed by the police, after he was caught stealing. This is the beginning of his story – his death. Soon after, he is brought into a sleazy funeral home, run by Violet, a greedy homosexual who has learned to survive by renting out the dead bodies in his funeral home to Simon. Along for the ride is Jojo, a police officer who is under the payroll of Simon and who supplies the dead bodies for Violet to take care of and make money from. Violet has two workers, On-on and Dyograd, who clean the cadavers and prepare them for the wake. On-on, for all his good looks, no longer feels alive except when he is gambling. Dyograd, on the other hand, only feels alive when he is having sex. Shortly after the arrival of Ilyong, misfortune and mayhem ensue.
2. Women of the Weeping River
Director: Sheron R. Dayoc
Two women in a remote Muslim community confront an escalating blood feud and reach deep into themselves in hopes to undo the feud stretching back generations.
1. Pamilya Ordinaryo
Director: Eduardo W. Roy Jr.
Jane and Aries are teenage parents. They make a living out of stealing on the streets… until fate hits back at them.