2016 was a year for independent movies. At least for me. Last year, I watched more Filipino independent films than ever in my life and enjoyed all of them. I’m glad that local indie cinema has achieved leaps and bounds since that time in 2006, when the concept of indie movies was so new, that my friend and I practically had the theater to ourselves during a screening of Tulad Ng Dati.
Now, Filipino independent film festivals are done regularly, and people are actually flocking to cinemas to support them. Best proof of this is the recent 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival, which thankfully, put indie films in the spotlight.
I also had the joy of discovering Cinema 76, a small theater in San Juan that screens indies all year round.
My indie film fan girl’s heart is very happy.
Ma. Rosa — Brilliant and much-deserving of its Cannes Film Fest fame. The topic presented was a timely one — drugs and how it can cause people and families to spiral to their lowest. I loved how it was shot in real time (the first hour at least) and the rawness in which director Brillante Mendoza treated the material. Overall great performances from the cast but it’s Jaclyn Jose that really makes this a coup, especially with her now-popular fishball scene at the end. Intensity without going over the top — pang Cannes Best Actress talaga.
Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo — Enjoyed this immensely! It’s a film 90s kids like me should see, partly because the film is one big nostalgia trip. I don’t think kids these days play that much patintero anymore, and kids of my generation can rightfully claim that street games were our life back then. I loved how the lead character is flawed just as she is lovable, and how the script veered away from being too childlike and child-friendly. What stood out to me was the execution of the patintero games, which reminded me of the thrilling fight scenes in animes like Ghost Fighter.
Pamilya Ordinaryo — Gut-wrenching. Initially, we were laughing because of the love quarrels of Jane and Aries, which were rather amusing. But then it got serious. And it became a plight of two very young parents to find their lost son in the midst of the crazy city that is Manila. There were a lot of moments when I wanted to just scream in frustration at the stupidity and irresponsibility of Jane and Aries both, but then we go back to the film’s point exactly: how can you expect two teenagers to handle things adeptly when they don’t even know their place in the world yet? Both Ronwaldo Martin (yes, Coco Martin’s equally talented younger brother) and Hasmin Killip give superb performances as the young parents of baby Arjan. Don’t let the expletives turn you off. This is a must-watch.
Apocalypse Child — During the first 30 minutes of the film, I was only thinking about how this beautifully-shot film has the most gorgeous actors. They all photograph well on screen, with a material that is just the right mix of hip and intriguing set against beautiful Baler. But then in the middle of it, things plunged deeper and the waves were no more. Instead it became a film that made me feel uncomfortable (in a good way, somehow?) as it explored the complexities of the human heart, mind, and relationships. It features one of the best sex scenes I’ve seen cinema (haha) and the incredible confrontation scene alone, which happened between the film’s two former lovers towards the end, is worth the price of admission. To this day I’m thankful I got to catch this in the cinema, after putting off watching it for so long.
Die Beautiful — Best screenplay in this list. Saying this because the thing with making movies that feature our beloved bekis is that it can get ridden with cliche bekinese or an overdose of it. This film did not do that. Instead, it delivered a tale about an individual who loved herself and other people to a fault, but whose presence made a stellar difference in others’ lives. It’s a feat how this film was able to take its audience to the brightest and darkest corners of its protagonist’s life. Paolo Ballesteros (who plays lead character Trisha) more than proved his acting chops here, but it’s Christian Bables’ Barbs that took the narrative a notch higher and made the movie more unforgettable and endearing.
And so with that roundup, I hereby swear to watch more independent films (actually films in general) this 2017. Kicking it off with Sakaling Hindi Makarating which screens in cinemas on February 1! *excited*