Friday, January 22, 2010

Best Filipino films of the decade

This is a list of some of the best local films of the Noughties. I've limited my list to one film per director. If I make a list of the top 12 local films of the decade, then chances are more than 7 slots will be for films made by the revered trinity of Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza, and Raya Martin. There are other filmmakers out there worth fighting for.

I've also included a list of the best local films of 2009. View the lists as guide to some well-made films that should be seen by Filipinos. If a film moves you enough, then try to see other recommended films of the director.

Notable films of the 2000s

Altar (Rico Ilarde)
A well-crafted film that gave me the shivers after I've seen it in a movie theater. An early bird, I have to utter a prayer every time I walk through the dark hall of our house. It went on for weeks before I overcome my fear of seeing the evil creature from the film.

Andong (Rommel Tolentino)
The film is a rollicking take on a boy obsessed with television shows. It is a laughfest to the max. The award-winning script is not only entertaining but also deals with the value of hard-earned money. Ang kulit nito! Sobra!

Ang Daan Patungong Kalimugtong (Mes de Guzman)
An advocacy film that doesn’t feel like one. No agitprop. Just a nice mix of award-winning direction and a beautifully restraint story about two siblings determined to get an education.

Engkwentro (Pepe Diokno)
The omnipresent voice of Mayor Danilo Dularte Suarez creates an atmosphere of paranoia among young delinquents. A courageous film from a promising, deeply passionate filmmaker.

Heremias: Unang Aklat: Ang Alamat Ng Prinsesang Bayawak (Lav Diaz)
The nine-hour epic is my pick as best Filipino film of the decade. It has a great start (probably the best initial two hours of a Lav Diaz epic), and a great cliffhanger of an ending. In between are amazing images and captivating stories. Credit must also go to Ronnie Lazaro's excellent performance as a traveling handicrafts merchant tormented by his past.
Other notable films of Diaz: Ebolusyon Ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino, Melancholia, and Death in the Land of Encantos

Imburnal (Sherad Anthony Sanchez)
A brutal and unflinching statement against the death squad of Davao City, the film portrays a city plagued by killings and involuntary disappearances. In a ruthless bid to cleanse the city of crime, vigilantes exterminate juvenile delinquents and young criminals as if they were mere cockroaches.

Independencia (Raya Martin)
Independencia is Martin's latest masterpiece. The 77-minute film is the second in a trilogy of films depicting the Philippines under colonial powers. Martin uses dominant film formats and popular entertainment fare during each period to frame his stories.
Other notable films of Martin: Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional, Autohystoria, and Now Showing

Paalam Aking Bulalakaw (Khavn de la Cruz)
Hardcore mushy film about unrequited love. It is also an ode to the people, food, icons, and landmarks of the University of the Philippines.

Pangarap Ng Puso (Mario O’Hara)
Last year brought raves to a poetic time movie and a kapre film. While they’re good, I’m not a fan of them. I prefer the refreshing, lyrical film of Mario O’Hara. Poetry? The film utilized poems and poetry reading to great effect. Monster within? The tumultuous rebellion in Negros brings out the beast in every one. A fine adaptation of the short story Demons.
Other notable film of O’Hara: Babae Sa Breakwater

Riles (Ditsi Carolino)
Think of John Puruntong and Kevin Cosme, add some dash of Rico J Puno and you’ll get a picture of the male protagonist. He is super funny, witty, and a real urban poor guy who lived along the railway tracks.
Other notable documentary of Carolino: Lupang Hinarang

Tirador (Brillante Mendoza)
A roller coaster ride of a movie! From the roundup of petty criminals at the start of the film until the end when the ultimate criminals are presented, the film blitzes through the streets of Manila like a snatcher.
Other notable films of Mendoza: Serbis, Kinatay, Lola, Foster Child, and Manoro

Todo Todo Teros (John Torres)
This film captures perfectly the indie spirit and social zeitgeist in the Philippines under the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Paranoia over terrorists. Travel restrictions. Suppression of artistic endeavors. Local guerilla filmmakers conquering the world. Popularity of Reality TV. Unique charm of Pinoy indie films. Burning passion of Filipino artists.

Notable films of 2009

Bakal Boys
Ded Na Si Lolo
Lupang Hinarang


  1. I'm still waiting for the masterpiece of Solito although Tuli was part of the original shortlist of 21 notable films.

    I could have added it to the final list but then I will be tempted to include also Raymond Red's Anino, Jeffrey Jeturian's Kubrador, Mike de Leon's Bayaning 3rd World, Clodualdo del Mundo Jr's Pepot Artista...

  2. I need to see Batang West Side again. I fell asleep during my first and only encounter with the elusive film. It has become some sort of Holy Grail since then.

    I have been waiting for years for it to be re-screened! Maybe at the 12th Cinemanila??

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