The best local movies in the past decade or so are not produced by major productions (ex. Star Cinema, GMA Films, Viva Films, Regal Films) but independently produced the bulk of which, based on my list, are outputs from Cinemalaya and Cinema One Originals. Most of these movies are not dark and funny and stunningly photographed, unlike the popular notion that all indies tell dark stories, are poorly shot, and tackles only gay sex.
Here then is my list.
1. Melancholia. This Lav Diaz’s 8-hour opus and winner of Orizzonti Grand Prize at the 2008 Venice Film Festival is about how the people left behind by the desaparecidos wallow in sadness and cope with their silent disappearance. The film boasts of exceptional and disturbing images unlike anything I have ever seen – foreign or local. I can’t wait to see other Diaz films since this is the only one I have seen from his ouvre.
2. 100. The 2008 Cinemalaya crowd pleaser about a terminally ill woman who sets out to accomplish her 100 to-do list before she passes away. Mylene Dizon is wonderful and gorgeous in this movie. And for 3 years running, I have yet to attend another Cinemalaya screening that could top the audience reaction when I first saw the film at the CCP.
3. Jay. This is another 2008 Cinemalaya standout, in fact this won as Best Film for that year, about a documentary producer named Jay (Baron Geisler) who sets out to investigate the bloody death of a school teacher who also bears the same name. This film is not a whodunnit but a hilarious jab at our local current affairs programs.
4. Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe. Alvin Yapan’s entry in last year’s Cinemalaya about a wife (Irma Adlawan) who is battered not only physically but emotionally and psychologically by an abusive husband. This probably has the most mind-boggling ending I’ve seen in a Filipino film.
5. Endo. A lovely film about the lives and loves of contractual workers which zeroes in on the love affair between the characters portrayed poignantly by Jason Abalos and Ina Feleo.
6. Yanggaw. The daughter comes home after getting a blood infection which changes her into a blood-thirsty monster at night, terrorizing her family and her neighborhood. It is outstanding that the director can create such a terrifying milieu with a very limited budget. Ronnie Lazaro is terrific and the final sequences are to watch out for.
7. Tirador. Brillante Mendoza’s film about the lives of crooks who live in the slums of Manila. It is an absorbing piece of filmmaking which looks, at times, like a documentary. The most memorable line from the film is a woman berating a policeman who barges in the middle of a heated encounter between couples. She screams, showing a tootless mouth, “Alam niyo naman may nag-kakantutan!”. Hilarious.
8. Bayaning Third World. This film is directed by Mike de Leon about our national hero, Jose Rizal. Unlike Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s overrated Rizal bio-pic, de Leon focuses on how difficult it is to film a film about Rizal and allows Joel Torre and Cris Villanueva to show off their debating skills. Too bad de Leon, director of such classics like Sister Stella L and Kisapmata, has gone into seclusion after releasing the film in 1999. Perhaps he can do a Mario O’Hara and join next year’s Cinemalaya?
9. Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. A touching film about an effeminate adolescent who develops an affection for a young policeman who is after his father and brothers who are involved in illegal ways of earning money.
10. Kimmy Dora. The movie that launched Eugene Domingo as a lead star. The film is laugh-out-loud funny and a surprise hit at the box office.
11. Dinig Sana Kita. Winner of the Audience Award in last year’s Cinemalaya about a deaf man searching for his mother and falls in love with a rebellious teenager. The most “mainstream-looking” and heartwarming independent film I have seen. And watch out for the Ugoy ng Duyan scene.
12. Boses. Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil’s film about a battered boy who finds solace in his violin. Watching Coke Bolipata and the child prodigy share music together using the violin is sweet and touching. I’m confused why this and #11 on this list didn’t get the mainstream audience that they deserve.