pinoy decade 25

While at first it may seem like a typical pink film fodder, Auraeus Solito’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros) overcomes this fate and turns out to be one of the most endearing explorations of the life in the slums. Only twelve years-old, Maxi (an excellent Nathan Lopez) acts as the mother to his father and older hoodlum brothers. He cooks, cleans and runs errands for them. His blazing, colorful outfits might give away most of his character, but there is a silent insistence running deep within his mind, especially when he falls in love with a cop (JR Valentin) who happens to know his family’s dealings and schemings.

Maxi is a refreshing study on the slums of Manila. While it is always gritty, Maxi feels like an ode to the heart of life, with the characters’ desires and struggles portrayed through a bittersweet vitality. More than a coming of age film, Maxi reinstates the trappings of a Filipino melodrama by turning a low-key persistence. Maxi is more indiepop rather than an angsty rock outfit–lyrical, melodic, and charming. Don Jaucian

Philippine Cinema: A Decade of Favorite Films

“The abuse of the term is, quite frankly, the same as the abuse of any other catch-phrase or catch-term – like postmodernism, how it becomes a blanket term to equate something that isn’t always there and how some people might use it to up cred and how it tends to mold the output into something generic and safe and often predictable – remember how all the alternative music of the 90s started to get ubiquitous and sound the same and therefore was not alternative anymore? But then again, taste is relative. And it’s always been this way. People have a tendency for hivethink. It’s really less “indie = quality” and more “indie = different,” which isn’t absolutely true but it’s truer than the former and simpler to digest.”

Despite the pitfalls and shortcomings, Philippine cinema had much to celebrate during the past decade. “Indie” became a catchphrase during the early 00s and eventually became a standard fare in the Philippine cinema circuit. Early on, it was only used when films of directors such as Lav Diaz, Khavn and Raymond Red were mentioned. It meant an alternative to the usual commercial releases that huge moviehouses churned out just so we can resuscitate the dying film industry. But eventually, the term was bogged down and robbed of its meaning.

The 90s were mostly dominated by these small soft-core porn flicks which had titles like Talong, Itlog, and Tikim, until they were eventually swept out by their own ludicrousness. The noughties had the same fickle, only a different variant because they are labled as “arthouse flicks” or “indie."  It was fairly amusing at first but most of these bouts of exploitation did nothing but reinforce stereotypes.

Film festivals such as Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals, and Cinemanila stood as the respirators that survived the independent filmmaking industry during the decade. Seed money was granted to finalists who went on to make their feature films based solely on a script. These film festivals, however dubious their machineries may seem, have produced some of the most memorable films of the decade.

By the end of the decade, all hope for mainstream cinema has been eradicated by the Metro Manila Film Festival and other local commercial fare. With the exception of rare gems such as Kimmy Dora, it seems that commercial films are consigned to rapid combustion propelled by nothing but stellar power. Sure, these big moviehouses have commissioned brilliant filmmakers to direct their films but when there’s nothing to salvage, it’ll all crumble down (see First Day High, directed by the filmmakers of Big Time). Also, tragic news struck the Philippine film industry when its most ardent supporter, film critic Alexis Tioseco, was murdered, along with his girlfriend Nika Bohinc, also a film critic.

On the other side of the lens, however, Brillante Mendoza and young filmmakers such as Raya Martin and Pepe Diokno outweigh these predicted uncertainties. Putting Philippine Films in the international radar, we can only hope that these tidings would mean the long awaited reinvigoration of our beloved film industry.

Now that we’re done with the best films of the decade list, as promised, Pelikula presents some of the most memorable Filipino films of the past decade. This list is not meant to highlight the best films released during 00-09; these picks are personal favorites and were not voted by everyone in Pelikula for the list. The problems of availability and distribution of the films are some of the things that we considered while making this list. Most of these films were shown in film festivals which were held in Metro Manila only. Distance and budgetary constraints aside, there is no way that all of us could have attended these film fests. With this, we agreed to nominate some of our favorite Pinoy films and write about them.

We hope you enjoy the list as much as we did making it. Don Jaucian

Engkwentro is gritty, straightforward, and downright shocking. It tells the story of two brothers who are pinned against each other in a clash of rival gangs and at the same time are being hunted down by the city death squad. Controversial in nature, the movie reveals the government-sponsored killings happening in the Philippines–something that grimly depicts the country’s suppressed political atmosphere of the 00s. Twenty-two-year-old auteur Pepe Diokno makes use of unconventional techniques, such as the handheld long take, to preserve a sense of reality making the truth more appalling as the film’s last minutes flicker on screen. Jansen Musico

It comes as no surprise that Jim Libiran’s background in journalism and public affairs influenced his 2007 indie flick, Tribu, a feature revealing the hard knox trappings of Manila’s slums. Libiran’s camera becomes a conscious eye that goes in and out of an on-going gang war, telling the audience what’s going on and introducing them to Pinoy gang culture, one that’s filled with violence, cheap drugs, rough fucking, and the new wave of balagtasan, Pinoy rap. The film’s documentary feel (shot quality, not narrative) makes the experience realistic. What’s more interesting to note is the fact that apart from the select paid actors, most of the cast are comprised of real-life gang members acting out their everyday experiences on camera.

Honest, telling, and brutal. It’s somewhat unfortunate that Tribu has become one of the decade’s underrated movies. Jansen Musico

It’s easy to make a film these days: you take a camera, write a script for two days, ask your friends to star, shoot with crappy lighting, post it on YouTube, get a hundred views—you’re an instant budding filmmaker. What’s hard is to actually make a good film with what you have. Fortunately, the last decade ushered in filmmakers like Jerrold Tarog and his friends.

After their successful short film Carpool, Tarog, a composer with a few film scores under his belt, went on to direct his first full-length film, Confessional. Simply stated, it’s a film about a man (portrayed by Jerrold Tarog himself), his camera, and the truths that pass through it. While filming a documentary about a local festival, he stumbles upon a politician (brilliantly played by Publio Briones III) who’s willing to confess his sins while working in the government. Mixing black humor and political satire with the aesthetics of a mockumentary rarely works in Filipino films, but Confessional nails it to the core. No wonder this film won accolades everywhere. Shinji Manlangit