This year was all about rushing to the theaters, wishing I’d never miss even the trailers (or, for the UP screenings of Cinemalaya the endless loop of promotional videos), wishing I’d have more time & money to support my little vice to see more movies on the big screen, wishing I’d have more time & energy to stay up post-academic post-org stuff to score for a much-awaited torrent leak (down with piracy! — or not?), wishing I’d have more anything and everything just to get to see all the things I want to see.
It was a blast. And since I’m a sucker for lists, here’s what I’ve come up, films I have been privileged to see, been privileged to be exposed to, that both inspire and intimidate, I as a film student who wish for the same dreams to come true.
And before this introduction extends to a sappy, cheesy speech about my personal venture to cinema, here, ten I’ve loved and five more I’ve liked all the same.
I VERY MUCH LOVED:
Colossal, Whammy Alcazaren
There are never enough words, never enough stories, never enough means, never enough voices, never enough anything–and this is what strives and emanates from the loud gunfire of provocation of Whammy Alcazaren’s youth. Hence, Colossal, a film of massive proportions in its ambition, but also of power, also of skill, also of talent.
There is nothing like it I’ve seen, at least, so far: a dreary dreamscape of the universe, and of the elements that build it–the temperament sea, the stealthy jungles, the noisy city, and even the expanding galaxies. The world evolves and so does the myth of Colossal‘s Man, and so does its pain (and so, also of the world’s), and so does its grief (and so, also of the universe’s).
Here we welcome not only the rally of an inimitable soul, but also of hopes and what it may ever produce, but also of dreams and whatever it may lead to build.
Pascalina, Pam Miras
When most Pinoy indie flicks of the digital era is tiringly shot with the unattractive gloss of DSLR sheen, Pam Miras’ debut feature Pascalina works as a glorious interruption–a film that values its inner chunk over the perfection of the image. In the humdrum drag of everyday nuisances over your boring boyfriend, your stuck-up office-mates and “friends”, your odd train-wreck of a family and everything else in between, nothing more emphasises the palpable extraordinariness of the mundane but with Miras’ camera-eye, which in unexplainable charm, exhibits the exceptional dirt of the grain than entrap the image with the crisp-clear clarity made possible by expensive lenses. And in so doing does Miras, in Pascalina’s character, bring out the ugliness reality could ever bring forth to our lives, served on our dinner tables with the stench of a live, beating heart taken out fresh from the deadened gloat of the literally dead mistress of your boyfriend whom you, of course, so triumphantly, devilishly executed.
Ang Nawawala, Marie Jamora
It is difficult to correlate Ang Nawawala in this year’s Cinemalaya when you are armed with the presumption (or better yet, a silly superstition) of the ideal Pinoy indie anatomy–which, to add further, should not at all be shot point-blank, should it even be triggered. It has been a strong subject of intrigue, criticism, and endless discussions and arguments; and hey, aren’t we glad about that to some extent, at least?
To carry on further, it has survived, albeit weakly, a week-long war on commercial theaters against the behemoths’ regular serving of their usual stinking shit. It is enough, then, to pinpoint the many reasons why Marie Jamora’s debut feature triumphs, a charming coming-of-age tale about twin brothers and the inevitability of the first-love-first-heartbreak spell and the heavy gravity of loss and the mechanics of the bourgeois family that is harshly broken like unassembled jigsaw pieces, as they dizzyingly puzzle themselves back to their wholeness.
Diablo, Mes de Guzman
I wonder how many Filipino families which histories work terrifyingly as in Mes de Guzman’s portrait of a family in shambles, that to be transformed into the art of the cinema it works as a horror shrouded with unseeable demons and all that jazz.
Diablo mesmerizes in the immersion of its entire span, that to replace the tiring dribble of words and melodramatic shrieks in argument we witness only what is in the silent periphery of reality, always existing in the terrors of the night’s dark spaces. That what releases the shackles that hold emotions is not of one’s own son’s death, not of one own’s son’s overdue resolution–certainly not the intangible, only the physical.
Kalayaan, Adolf Alix Jr.
What some person in the internet has said encapsulates this film: “An Apichatpong Weerasethakul film not directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.” But slight departures from the strong comparison, Kalayaan deserves to also be a film of its own greatness, masterfully weaved.
Give Up Tomorrow, Michael Syjuco
A remarkable documentary of palpable passion and rage, that the viewing experience is like seeing the justice system taunting you face-front, picking on you until you crazily, willingly want to decide to get up to fight from your seat and you realize there is nothing to do but digest each scornful image and swallow each difficult truth, and that’s that, that’s that.
REquieme!, Loy Arcenas
Another exhibit of injustice that also never settles without a good fight, Loy Arcenas’s REquieme! weeps and grieves not only for the literal deaths inside its narrative, but also the death of good character and the death of morality.
In the end there is nothing to do but move on, wait for the right moment and decide to turn away and never look back, your feet doing all the work, until your heart and soul finally would overtake the dreaded race towards acceptance.
Bwakaw, Jun Lana
This equally heartwarming and heartbreaking tale of old age manifests its narrative with an apt quietness, prolonging it until it reaches its dark punchline–the arrival of death, the inevitability of the cycle of life.
Catnip, Kevin Dayrit
A work that screams style-over-substance, and in no way does it pretend to unlearn this basic fact, Kevin Dayrit’s Catnip is still, after-all, a beauty to marvel at, complete with Lauren Young’s deadly smirk and Maxine Magalona’s big boobs, and all those hypnotic slow-mos you once thought of doing, too, when you saw Lars von Trier and Xavier Dolan do it in their films.
Anak Araw, Gym Lumbera
Complain all you want when you think Philippine cinema is overpopulated with its formulaic bull, and wait ’til you see Gym Lumbera’s audacious work, Anak Araw, with all its littered probinsiyano kids crawling acting as goats, a Squidard-looking kid with snorkel equipment passive as ever even when a shark is within reach while, this happens simultaneously does other kids get thrown and dipped into the sea. But beyond the crackle of humour we are offered are the strong images of post-colonial accentuation, how our ABAKADA is never ABAKADA in those old cardboard-tutorials, how the rendition of the ultimate kundiman “Dahil Sa ‘Yo” is that of Nat King Cole, listened to by some old men on a seemingly long drive, and how no matter we struggle through the cracks just like those old men disassembled from their probinsiya orchestra still we falter and surrender, we falter and surrender. But never, ever give up.
I ALSO LIKED:
The Animals, Gino Santos
Jungle Love, Sherad Sanchez
Harana, Benito Bautista
Alagwa, Ian Lorenos
Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim, Arnel Mardoquio