By Nonoy L. Lauzon/UP Film Institute
As one looks back at the country’s films in 2015, a handful of releases may be deemed truly outstanding and noteworthy. In random or no particular order, the ten best Filipino films of 2015 are listed as follows:
Para sa Hopeless Romantic
Where will Philippine cinema be if not for romance as its true staple? What rice is to the Filipino food table, romance is to the silver screens nationwide. Andoy Ranay’s adaptation of Marcelo Santos III’s novel of the same title showcases the James Reid- Nadine Lustre love team. The film turns upside down the sentiment that underlies all romance flicks with its peculiar illustration of situating the experience of love above all else. In one high moment of the film, it makes its bold assertion, albeit in deprecatory mode, that revolts and revolutions are puny compared to the pressing concerns of the heart.
The unbelieving may consider the present Golden Age in Philippine cinema with the rise of the indie as a hoax. What may not be counted as fraud, on the contrary, is the flowering of cinema in the country’s regions as demonstrated by this Pampangan gem from Carlo Enciso Catu. Here’s a directorial debut that should captivate audiences everywhere for the universality it embodies pertinent to themes of life and death, love and heartbreak, tradition and modernity. It’s a different kind of coming-of-age tale; a different kind of youth flick; a different kind of family fare with a narrative flow that could only lead viewers to a heartrending experience like no other.
More than three decades in the making, Kidlat Tahimik’s latest oeuvre has brought the director back to Berlin where he had his first taste of international triumph with his breakthrough feature in the 1970s. He is rewarded with a repeat victory that again places the country in the world map of cinema. But more than the potpourri of raves, accolades, citations and awards it has garnered, the film gains ultimate significance for the saga of nationhood it imparts beyond the terrain that the history books may allow readers to venture into. It states in a nutshell that endeavors of imagination assume precedence in the scheme of things and may be all that matters amidst the hustle and bustle of a crazy world.
Ang Kubo sa Kawayanan
Alvin Yapan’s ode to Bicol is personified by a country maiden with a pact never to abandon her dwelling by the bamboo grove. It’s an allegory that haunts as much as taunts the fractured spirit of Filipinos in perpetual search of greener pasture, with no sense of roots and clueless of proper values for culture and heritage. The film topped the competition for Filipino New Cinema at this year’s World Premieres Film Festival Philippines. It is one of the two features for the year that hallmark Mercedes Cabral’s award-worthy turn as lead actress.
I Love You, Thank You.
Independent filmmaker Charliebebs Gohetia sought to make a gay film that would draw audiences not for its scenes of nudity and same-sex intimacies. It turns out that he has accomplished much more. The film is reminiscent in sense and sensibility of the acclaimed period features by James Ivory; may be said to have achieved stratospheric heights for backpack film making and very much signifies a triumph of Pan-Asian cinema. It displays a knack for profundities one would never find in the usual rom-com of the local studio-production variety. (To be continued)
Anino sa Likod ng Buwan
As, perhaps, the most productive Filipino filmmaker of the year, Jun Robles Lana is credited with three titles all produced in 2015. While he falters in two: a forgettable romantic comedy on one hand and the atrocious horror entry at the latest edition of the Metro Manila Film Festival on the other, he must otherwise be extolled and deified for the year’s possibly most compelling film. His three-character sketch transports audiences to the milieu of the country’s seat of Communist power under siege in early 1990s with heavy assault from the military at all-out war with the insurgency movement. LJ Reyes delivers first-rate performance that would forever be memorable for its electrifying impact. With sustained intensity and suspense further charged with high erotica, the film poses insights on the games and dangers not-so-common folks flirt with as the escalating stakes of combat take their toll on a hapless population.
Buy Now, Die Later
Neophyte director Randolph Longjas ventures into mainstream with what turns out to be the only official selection of serious merit at the major roster of this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. Heralding post-modernity in Philippine film making, the horror comedy offers clever commentary on consumerist, acquisitive and materialistic society and soars with its amalgam of Faustian anecdotes interwoven with utter inventiveness. It juggles the sinister and the morbid with the hilarious and the obscure for an antidote to local cinema always in peril of ending up moribund.
Da Dog Show
The Filipino penchant for spectacle is deconstructed in this offbeat family drama that director Ralston Jover culled from actual life. It sparkles with a deglamorized Mercedes Cabral in a role of a differently able daughter of a senior citizen who trains dogs for street shows to make a living. The film has much to say about emasculated patriarchy and sheds newfangled light on Third World poverty without indulging on wallowing, self-pity and litanies expected of outdated accounts of the sordid predicament of the damned, the miserable and the proverbial earth’s wretched in this corner of the vast universe.
Mga Rebeldeng May Kaso
Raymond Red’s period feature is one of the year’s three exceptional films that get it right in a reckoning of history as filmic subject. It inspects the bearing of the People Power uprising on another agitation of the revolutionary kind involving creative film making in the country. Seemingly banal situations segue to deeper reflections and affecting reminiscences of the purer and more innocent times when aspirants still exuded idealism and had more conviction as they harbored dreams of making it in their chosen field of art.
Cebuano filmmaker Remton Siega Zuasola’s third full-length feature (following Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria in 2010 and Soap Opera in 2014) is the country’s Kabisayaan realm’s declaration of awakened force to make its presence in national cinema fully felt. It speaks volumes on the failed nation’s crooked state of affairs and the various twisted wicked ways resorted to by the government to attain a semblance of upholding the law. In this time and age when the motivation for making film is to lure the affirmation of scouts from the international festival circuit or to hit that hundred-million-buck mark at the box office, it is simply refreshing to have another fine exemplar of regional film making opting to stick to the dictum of a big-screen feature created solely for an unadulterated purpose of currency and social relevance.