Director: Aloy Adlawan (Signos, Condo)
Starring: Jay Aquitania, Baron Geisler, Hazel Ann Mendoza, Rita Avila, Irma Adlawan
Padyak explores the mysteries of life and man’s interconnectedness with each other. It is an ode to the circle of life as it bursts with philosophical anecdotes and personal reflections. Aside from the compelling script and peculiar narrative structure, the tour-de-force performance from the excellent cast makes this an engrossing mantra to life.
11. Last Supper No. 3
Director: Veronica Velasco (Maling Akala, Inang Yaya)
Starring: Joey Paras, Jojit Lorenzo, Beverly Salviejo, JM De Guzman
This makes fun of the legal nightmare that is the Philippine judicial system. It’s a boring premise, but because the directors know very well not to take the topic too seriously, they veered away from the tendencies to preach about red tape and bureaucracy, The result? A courthouse comedy that is satirical and socially relevant.
10. Himpapawid (Manila Skies)
Director: Raymond Red (Anino)
Starring: Raul Arellano, John Arcilla, Soliman Cruz, Raul Morit, Karlo Altomonte
If you know the true-to-life story that inspired the screenplay, then you already know the fate of our deranged protagonist. But there’s more to the ending than knowing Raul’s fate, Red weaves an intricate story that comes in full circle at the end. Himpapawid does not make excuses for the wrongdoings of Raul. The film doesn’t even demand that we understand him. Because he is not a victim, he had a choice. And so, karma rears its ugly head and he is brought to his final destination.
9. Bakal Boys (Children Metal Divers)
Director: Ralston Jover (the writer behind Kubrador and Foster Child)
Starring: Gina Pareño, Jess Evardone, Cherry Malvar, Simon Ibarra
It comes as a surprise that a movie about Baseco children who scavenge scrap metals would end up in my Top 12. I’m not a fan of films that peddle the country’s poverty, but Bakal Boys has a quaint quality that is hard to resist. In its most glorious, the film finds joy in childhood as the murky waters of Manila Bay is transformed into their playground. This realistic docudrama does not make a fuss about child labor or poverty, instead it gives us a glimpse of the innocence of childhood set against a harsh and apathetic society.
8. Engkwentro (Clash)
Director: Pepe Diokno (debut)
Starring: Felix Roco, Daniel Medrana, Zyrus Desamparado, Eda Nolan
Engkwentro walks us through the labyrinth of dingy alleys and shanty houses overpopulated by slum dwellers. We pose as voyeurs as the camera individually follows the exploits of the characters in what seem like a single, continuous take. The inexorable conclusion, punctuated by searing brutality, will shock you. You won’t believe that what you just saw are events lifted from actual news headlines. It will leave you with a dreadful feeling that is difficult to shake off.
7. Wanted: Border
Director: Ray Gibraltar (When Timawa Meets Delgado)
Starring: Rosanna Roces
Gibraltar has a knack for non-linear storytelling (read: the narrative is not in chronological order), cutting to different time frames and segueing to different characters. Initially, it seems as if we are presented with random characters set in a hodgepodge of trivial and nonsensical circumstances. Although it isn’t easy to make sense of his message, it isn’t hard to appreciate the film’s dark fantasy. He confidently showcases his bravura in creating a grotesque world reeking of drabness and madness. Wanted: Border is an entertaining and thought-provoking experimental project that will keep you optimistic about Philippine alternative cinema.
6. Kimmy Dora
Director: Joyce Bernal (Booba, Don’t Give Up On Us)
Starring: Eugene Domingo, Dingdong Dantes, Zanjoe Marudo, Miriam Quiambao, Baron Geisler
In a time when good Pinoy comedies are of a dying breed, we are reminded that there is still hope. Trading in the bad habits of old school comedy with snappy witticisms and sheer outrageousness, here comes a comedy that’s actually funny. Thanks to Chris Martinez’s script and Eugene Domingo’s comedic rhythm. Eugene can switch from naïve Dora to fierce Kimmy in a bat of an eyelash, but she does it best when she fused these quirky characters together.
5. Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe)
Director: Alvin Yapan (Huling Pasada)
Starring: Irma Adlawan, Nonie Buencamino, TJ Trinidad
The film’s strongest tool in its arsenal is the screenplay. The well-researched story is rich in cultural authenticity and social relevance. Yapan mans the camera with an artistic vision manifested in every frame and every angle. His shots linger, but not to the point of static cinematography. His close-ups suggest subdued intimacy to his subjects whether living or inanimate. The use of repeated scenes and overlapping sequences coupled with the trance-like quality of the shots are effective in confusing viewers as to which scenes are imagined and which are real. This tale tackles domestic abuse and romanticizes Pinoy folklore. It is relevant, original, and stunning.
4. Kinatay (Butchered / The Execution of P)
Director: Brillante Mendoza (Foster Child, Serbis)
Starring: Coco Martin, Maria Isabelo Lopez, Jhong Hilario, John Regala, Julio Diaz
Kinatay treads the path of grayscale morality. At a time when horrendous crimes are staples in the news, the corruption of people’s mores is like a plague that offers a future of no redemption. It is a difficult film to watch not only because of the despicable subject matter but also because of the torturous signature style of Mendoza – the unsteady camerawork, the foreboding darkness, and the occasional lull. But this film is not just a film, but an experience in itself. He invites us to walk in his character’s shoes, face the horror, and make some incredibly tough choices. That makes Kinatay exceptional. It is an effective thriller that not only portrays societal realities, but imparts an unforgettable experience that will haunt you like a nightmare you can’t wake up from.
Director: Francis Xavier Pasion (debut)
Starring: Baron Geisler, Flor Salanga, Coco Martin
Jay is an interesting depiction of the way manipulative journalists distort the truth to ring in the ratings. Not only does Pasion mock the so-called reality TV, he also scoffs at the willing accomplices – reality TV ‘stars’ who would do anything for their 15 minutes of fame. Welcome to the Philippines, the nation of the showbiz-obsessed Filipino. Jay is sarcastic, humorous, and razor-sharp.
2. Dinig Sana Kita (If I Knew What You Said)
Director: Mike Sandejas (Tulad ng Dati)
Starring: Romalito Mallari, Zoe Sandejas
The last three films may hold more weight than this personal favorite of mine, both thematically and stylistically. No other Filipino film in 2009 touched me like Dinig Sana Kita did. In a little over 80 minutes, it made me cry, laugh hard, and cry harder. The film could have been easily turned into yet another cheesy love story. Sensible romantic films are a rarity in this country and I’m glad that Sandejas made this.
1. Yanggaw (Affliction)
Director: Richard Somes (debut)
Starring: Ronnie Lazaro, Tetchie Agbayani, Aleera Montalla, Joel Torre
The mainstream film industry produces only two kinds of movies – romance and horror. Both are formulaic and uninspired. The latter shamelessly copying the elements of J-Horror, while adapting the schlock of Hollywood’s slasher films. It’s a messy combination and I bet no one is amused. But when something as original as Yanggaw comes out, fans of the genre are left in awe by the masterwork behind it. Somes knows the fundamentals of horror. Cheap scare tactics will not get you far. Investing in characters that moviegoers care about spells the difference. More than a horror film, Yanggaw is a family drama about a father who would do everything to protect his kin.
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