The independent cinema of the Pangasinan province, Philippines

Archive for January, 2012

Indie Movies: More Fun in the Philippines by Nel Costales, published in 1505 Film Avenue

Indie Movies: More Fun in the Philippines by Nel Costales, published in 1505 Film Avenue on January 10, 2012.

Not only are indie movies more fun than mainstream ones, they are by far better and more colorful. My list of notable films of 2011 is made up mostly of independent film productions. And, they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of indie movies worth spending time and money on.

Here, then, in no particular order, are my most memorable film experiences:

Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (Alvin Yapan)

“A ballsy magnificent cotillion scene in Sayaw shows the two boys having an argument. Karen steps in to defuse the heated exchange. It sounds simple enough, but the amazing thing is the characters are ‘conversing’ using only their eyes! Bravo!”

Isda (Adolfo Alix Jr)

Like: The best birthing scene in local cinema in 2011. Upstaging the shockingly effortless childbirth moments of Bahay Bata and Tundong Magiliw, the brilliant scene at the stairs sets the tone for viewers to believe in the story of a mother who’ve had a fish for a child. Auraeus Solito and Jeffrey Jeturian may have had better Director’s Showcase entries but can they come up with that masterful shot of a fish jumping into the murky waters?

Dislike: I can’t find a major fault with this film except to say that maybe people see Busong and Bisperas as better films because both deal with socially relevant issues.

Ka Oryang (Sari Raissa Lluch Dalena)

“Right off the bat, Ka Oryang grabs the viewer’s attention with its lean, jugular black-and-white depiction of the Diliman Commune at the University of the Philippines (UP). The crisp powerful images (including that of a female Oblation) and chilling soundscape (e.g. piercing banshee wails of the students) send shivers to my bones. I’m moved and teary-eyed as I recall the heroism of students and the sacrifices of young martyrs during the seventies.”

Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story (?)

Like: Ever wondered why Asiong Salonga managed to escaped a couple of times from the national penitentiary? Or, why he reigned supreme for years in his turf in Tondo, Manila? The fleshed-out screenplay by Roy Iglesias and Rey Ventura finally answered those lingering questions of mine. The culprit, as always, is politics.

Dislike: The only mainstream movie in this list has a couple of headscratchers (e.g. Mad World song at the climax and the laughably bad ‘may gatas pa sa labi’ dialogue).
Otherwise, the film is surprisingly good and refreshing. As you might have guessed, I’ve not seen Ong Bak or those Hong Kong-styled actioners.

Niño (Loy Arcenas)

“I consider scriptwriter Vera’s contribution to be equal, if not greater, to that of Arcenas’. His script and dialogues are truly vivid and memorable. He has the ability to make the audience feel and smell the characters.”

Pahinga (Khavn de la Cruz)

“Pahinga is one of Khavn’s best films so far. It is deeply personal yet paradoxically accessible due to scenes of familial love.”

Rakenrol (Quark Henares)

“There’s a giddy fan in every one of us. Quark Henares and co-writer Diego Castillo imbue the film with the mentality of rabid, passionate, doe-eyed fans. Movies and songs that made a mark on their young minds decades ago get their fair share of screen time.”

Siglo ng Pagluluwal (Lav Diaz)

Like: The best birthing of a local film in 2011. Days before the opening of the .MOV film festival in September, I was drooling over the event’s slate of films. The teaser listed two films by Diaz, Siglo ng Pagluluwal and Babae sa Hangin. Unfortunately, both films didn’t make it to the fest. A weak, hastily-assembled Diaz film was shown instead.

Cinemanila came and all my disappointments vanished. Siglo ng Pagluluwal was finally screened. Wow! If a masterpiece such as this has to go through difficult birth pains, then we the viewers will patiently wait for months or years in order to savor sumptuous film offerings. Lav, take your time with the editing of the second book of Heremias.

I love the scene in Siglo ng Pagluluwal wherein Angel Aquino advises a filmmaker to let go of her project Babae sa Hangin, which had been causing editing problems for the director. Aquino must have been really wishing for Diaz to let go of Babae sa Hangin footages because she has some apprehension over delicate scenes from the project. What Aquino did in the project is in contrast to her angelic image.
Dislike: Crowd control during the shooting of a preaching scene at the sidewalks. Low budget and guerrilla filmmaking can’t overcome the uzisero and paparazzi behavior of Filipinos.

Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (Antoinette Jadaone)

“Jadaone’s film is a stunning meta-movie mind-fuck. It blurs the line between fiction and reality. All throughout the movie, one is left wondering what the truth is.”

Worth mentioning:

Lawas Kan Pinabli (Christopher Gozum)

Like: I’ve seen only a third of the film and I loved every moment of it. I will definitely view it again soon (probably in UP Diliman). If it lives up to my expectations then it will be my tenth notable film of 2011. Otherwise, a Cinemanila competitor Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa will be it.

Dislike: I have to leave early because of work. Why can’t Cinemanila screen local films at an early evening slot or better yet, a slot during Friday or Saturday?


Kawts Kamote Year-Ender 2011 by Epoy Deyto, published at Kawts Kamote on December 30, 2011

Kawts Kamote Year-Ender 2011 by Epoy Deyto, published at Kawts Kamote on December 30, 2011

Kawts Kamote Year-ender 2011

Andito na tayo sa panahong maraming gumagawa ng listahan. Syempre, trip ko rin naman maglista, lalo kapag naaalala ko ang mga magagandang ala-ala sa mga nabanggit ko sa listahan. Hindi ko alam kung papaano pumili yung iba sa paggawa ng listahan nila, pero, yung pagpili ko ay base lang sa pagmamahal ko sa mga pelikulang napili ko. Kung di man kayo matuwa, pasensya na kung di umabot sa ekspektasyon ninyo. Sa mga natuwa, maraming salamat! Pareho lang ang tingin ko sa short films at feature lengths kaya mapapansin ninyo na magkakahalo siya. 🙂

Paalala lang po bago po maglagay ng negative comment, hindi po ko critic, wala po kong alam sa mga teknikalidad ng kritisismo, kung anong tama o mali, ang sa akin lang po ay kung ano ang nagustuhan ko. hehe. Peace tayo ha. XD

Ang mga paborito ko ngayong taon:

20. OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let’s Go Kamen Riders (Osamu Kaneda)
19. Buenas Noches, España (Raya Martin)
18. Lawas Kan Pinabli (Christopher Gozum)
17. Winner Winner (Jaise Cappal)
16. The Turin Horse (Bela Tarr)
15. Isda (Adolfo Alix, Jr.)
14. Slow Action (Ben Rivers)
13. Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington (Jade Castro)
12. Working While in Class (Mai Calapardo)
11. Goodbye, Mister Christie (Phil Mulloy)
10. Siglo ng Pagluluwal (Lav Diaz)
09. The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (Tom Six)
08. Big Boy (Shireen Seno)
07. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
06. Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (Alvin Yapan)
05. Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa (Mes De Guzman)
04. Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (Antonette Jadaone)
03. Pina (Wim Wenders)
02. Children Who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below (Makoto Shinkai)
01. Brownout sa Neighborhood Namin That Day (Judd Figuerres)

Iba pang nagustuhan ko ngayong taon:

Hindi ko sure kung kelan ako makakagawa ng mga mumunting pagtingin ko sa mga sumusunod, o kung makakagawa pa ako, pero, isa lang ang masasabi ko, wala akong reklamo sa mga pelikulang nasa ibaba. Hehehehehe

A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)
Andong Agimat: Kanya ang Kalye (Arnold Arre)
Bawi (Jose Antonio de Rivera)
Bleak Night(Sung-Hyun Yoon)
Busong (Auraeus Solito)
Cartas de la Soledad (Teng Mangansakan)
Drive (Nicolas Refn)
Elehiya sa Dumalaw Mula sa Rebolusyon (Lav Diaz)
Elena (Andrei Zvyaginstev)
Ex-press (Jet Leyco)
Hindi Sa Atin ang Buwan (Jon Lazam)
Hobo With a Shotgun (Jason Eisener)
Kommander Kulas (Khavn)
Mapang-akit (John Torres)
Melancholia (Lars Von Trier)
Mga Anino sa Tanghaling Tapat (Ivy Universe Baldoza)
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen)
My Paranormal Romance (Victor Villanueva)
Paul (Greg Mottola)
Suck Seed (Chayanop Boonprakob)
Super 8 (J.J Abrams)
Taksikab (Archie Del Mundo)
The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi)
The Kid with a Bike (Jean-Pierre Dardenne|Luc Dardenne)
The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar)
The Sun-Beaten Path (Sonthar Gyal)
The Tree Of Life (Terrence Malick)
We Have a Pope (Nanni Moretti)
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsey)
Winnie The Pooh (Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall)

Mga pinagsisihan kong di mapanuod:

Nino (Loy Arcenas)
Amok (Lawrence Fajardo)
Pahinga (Khavn)
San Lazaro (Wincy Ong)
Rakenrol (Quark Henares)
Sakay sa Hangin (Regiben Romana)

Bacolod hosts NCCA’s “CinemaRehiyon” by Lester Babiera published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Bacolod hosts NCCA’s “CinemaRehiyon” by Lester Babiera published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 16, 2012

Filmmaking around the country is definitely alive and well as the fourth installment of CinemaRehiyon, a noncompetition film festival by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), will prove when it’s held in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, Feb. 8 to 11. To showcase at least 68 regional films, CinemaRehiyon is part of NCCA’s Philippine Arts Festival 2012 (National Arts Month). Most of the films will be shown at Robinsons Bacolod.

“We see an increase of participating films this year. From about 55 films last year, we will be showcasing 68 films this year,” said Miguel Rapatan, head of the NCCA National Committee on Cinema and festival director of CinemaRehiyon. He added that through the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of participating films in CinemaRehiyon. This year, participating filmmakers will come from Baguio, Cordillera and Pangasinan from Luzon, Antique and Samar from the Visayas, and Marawi and Zamboanga cities from Mindanao, among others, he said. “With CinemaRehiyon, one realizes that the Philippines is not a melting pot of different regions. Instead, it is a salad bowl of diverse cultures that have for so many centuries retained their distinct identities yet have managed to exist and thrive well with each other,” said Rapatan, also a professor from De la Salle University and a member of the respected film critics group, Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, which hands out the annual Gawad Urian.

CinemaRehiyon continues to be a noncompetition film festival promoting collaboration and seeking to deepen dialogue among film artists and audiences, reflecting different worldviews, ethics and practices.One of the main features of the festival is Cine de Barrio, an outreach component where different films will be shown in different barangay halls, public markets and fishing villages in Bacolod City. Video installations made by different filmmakers will also be a highlight. One notable installation is Martha Atienza’s three-screen projection about the lives of seamen that will be shown in fishing villages.Films by Atienza, Christopher Gozum and Arnel Mardoquio, which are all funded by NCCA, will be showcased in the festival.

“CinemaRehiyon will also be restaging ‘Brides of Sulu’ and a live electronic scoring will be done by musicians from Bacolod,” Rapatan said. On the last day of the festival, two movies by Bacolod filmmakers will be shown: Lawrence Fajardo’s award-winning 2011 Cinemalaya entry “Amok” and Jay Abella’s “Pureza.”

Aside from the films, the festival also offers film production and acting workshops.Joel Torre, another native of Bacolod, Iza Calzado and Epi Quizon have been invited to talk about the craft of acting, while Raymond Lee, writer-producer of “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” and “Zombadings,” and Ronald Arguelles of Cinema One, have been invited to share their experiences regarding film production.

This year, Bacolod was chosen to host CinemaRehiyon because of its active film industry, led by film icon Peque Gallaga. According to Rapatan, the city has its Bacollywood, a regional film festival that aims to appreciate and value filmmaking. It also has its annual theater and film workshop that teaches its students filmmaking, production design and editing, among others.

JOEL Torre

“Everyone will once again realize the craft and spirit of filmmaking is very much alive in the country despite what’s happening,” he said. “There is a wonderful diversity and people continue to make films about their culture. All of the screenings are free and all the films are subtitled.”

The Philippine Arts Festival is held every February in celebration of the National Arts Month, in accordance with Presidential Proclamation No. 683 signed in 1991. The month-long festival is spearheaded by the NCCA, led by its chair Felipe de Leon Jr. and OIC-executive director Adelina Suemith. This year’s theme is “Tradisyon at Inobasyon” (Tradition and Innovation).

The Year In Film 2011 by Philbert Ortiz Dy from

The Year In Film 2011 by Philbert Ortiz Dy posted on Friday, January 20, 2012 in Movies at

Looking back, 2011 was defined by a strong crop of arthouse films. There was no Inception in 2011, no wildly ambitious blockbuster to make the case for the mainstream. As commercial filmmaking stagnated under the weight of sequel syndrome and 3D conversion, smaller releases came out of ether to provide welcome respite. Here is the list of my favorite films from the last year.

10. CRAZY STUPID LOVE (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa)
In contrast to its title, the best moments of Crazy Stupid Love are neither crazy nor stupid. They’re incredibly mundane, documenting the awkwardness of getting to know someone for the first time, or the inherent drama in a couple struggling to forgive each other. The comedy gets a little broad, but its heart is always in the right place.

9. BIG BOY (Shireen Seno)
The more I think about this film, the more I love it. Shot in painfully intimate 8mm film, Big Boy mimics the evasiveness of memory as it depicts the violence inherent in the Filipino home. It presents a collection of images that eventually leaves a stain on the psyche.

8. WARRIOR (Gavin O’Connor)
I feel like I underrated this film in my review. Warrior does very little that’s new, but what it does, it does really well. It becomes brilliant once you realize that everyone in the film is an underdog, leaving the final result a mystery right up to the last painful blow. In a world where every story has been told, there’s something to be said about the sheer excitement of just not knowing.

7. THE TREE OF LIFE (Terence Malick)
There was no film nearly as ambitious as The Tree of Life. While most movies set out to tell the story of one person or a group of people, this film set out to tell the story of the universe. The final product is unwieldy and difficult, but worthy of serious consideration. It is a film I imagine I’m going to go back to over the years.

In a dire blockbuster landscape, the eighth Harry Potter movie proved to be the sole shining light. Conclusions are rarely satisfying, but Yates and his cast went out in the biggest way possible, providing both spectacle and drama in equal amounts.

Zombadings’ success is heartening. It plays with the tools of mainstream cinema, but sneaks in an incredibly subversive message about the treatment of homosexuals in Philippine society. Its longevity in cinemas offers the hope that quality can win out in the end.

4. NIÑO (Loy Arcenas)
Niño traverses interesting ground, telling the tale of an old-rich Filipino family that’s lost its shine. It breaks apart the myth of family and conflates it with the rituals of religion. And then it throws in a bit of incest for good measure. It is one of the most finely written Filipino films in recent memory, and I’m still hoping that more people get to see it.

3. LAWAS KAN PINABLI (Christopher Gozum)
There have been many attempts to capture the OFW experience in cinemas. Lawas Kan Pinabli has an edge up over all those films, because Christopher Gozum is an actual OFW. Part documentary, part arthouse narrative, the film presents the definitive picture of the lives of OFWs. It is unique in that it not only presents the difficulty of their plight, but their complicity in their suffering.

2. DRIVE (Nicholas Winding Refn)
Unfortunately and inexplicably, the local version of Drive was sanitized for theaters. Still, that doesn’t take away from how good the film actually is. The film is made of pure tension, every scene merely a reminder of just how wrong things can get. And when things do go wrong, the film explodes into stylish anarchy.

Lilia Cuntapay finally gets the attention she deserves in this little gem of a film. It finds something powerful in the heady mixture of truth and fiction, exhibiting a love of cinema so infectious and intoxicating it’s difficult not to be charmed. It should be a trifle, but it isn’t. The film’s easy melding of narrative and reality provides space for contemplation, and brings the humanity of its subject to the fore. It is a remarkable movie, and I’m hoping that it gets a proper release. People deserve to see this film.

Steven Spielberg gets his groove back in the make-believe landscapes of The Adventures of Tintin. Jerrold Tarog’s Parola might be one of the best Shake Rattle and Roll segments of all time. Regiben Romana’s Sakay sa Hangin is apparently incomplete, but it’s already in fine form. Alvin Yapan and Alemberg Ang offer fine literary and dramatic lessons in Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. And Winnie the Pooh served as a fine swan song for Disney’s traditionally animated films.


Where is it? What must we do to get it? RPG: Metanoia was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2010, but the public was deprived of a video release all of 2011.

Our DVDs tend to be sparse in the features department. Zombadings breaks the mold with its hilarious gayspeak subtitles.

I don’t know if I was actually expecting much, but the disparity between Aswang and Tarog’s two Shake Rattle and Roll entries is vast. Whatever Regal is doing with their anthology series, it might do them well to apply the same approach to their full features.

In it, he plays a police tech consultant who is also a dance instructor. The movie was obviously following the wrong characters. We really ought to know how Smokey Manoloto ended up as both these things.

Mart Escudero was great in Zombadings. As was Edgar Allan Guzman in Ligo na U, Lapit na Me. Ryan Gosling at this point seems to do no wrong. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton both killed it in Warrior. John Regala was amazing in Manila Kingpin, while Kathryn Bernardo shined in Shake Rattle and Roll 13. And then there’s Lilia Cuntapay.

Tree of Life had a great international poster. The local version kind of made it look like Brad Pitt was going to fight a dinosaur.

It’s amazing how a film can look so good but have a poster that looks so bad.

Hey, I liked it.

The facial hair in Manila Kingpin put up a decent fight, but in the end, none can live up to the precedent set by Phillip Salvador’s moustache in Rosario. Better luck next year.

“LAWAS KAN PINABLI” – 1st Film on OFW by an OFW by Max Bringula

“LAWAS KAN PINABLI” – 1st Film on OFW by an OFW by Max Bringula published in Abante Middle East edition (January 12, 2012)

Sa kauna-unahang pagkakataon, isang makabuluhan at makatotohanang pelikula patungkol sa buhay ng mga OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) na nagtratrabaho sa Middle East, particularly sa Saudi Arabia ang ginawa’t natapos at ipinalabas kamakailan lamang sa Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Ang nasabing pelikula na isang feature-length experimental/documentary movie ay may pamagat na “Lawas Kan Pinabli” o sa Ingles ay “Forever Loved”, na hango sa isang popular folk love song sa lalawigan ng Pangasinan na may ganito ring titulo. Ang pelikula ay idinirehe ng premyadong direktor na si Chris Gozum, na isang ring OFW na nagtratrabaho bilang Videographer and Editor sa isang kilalang medical institution sa Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Ang “Lawas Kan Pinabli” ay isang indie film na tumatalakay sa karanasan ng isang neophyte migrant Filipino worker mula sa lalawigan ng Pangasinan, na nagtungo sa Middle East di lamang upang magtrabaho kungdi hanapin ang kanyang nawawalang asawa na noo’y umalis patungong Gitnang Silangan upang magtrabaho tatlong taon na ang nakalipas. Sa kanyang paghahanap, nakatagpo niya’t nakausap ang ilang mga OFWs na tulad niya na may kanya-kanyang karanasang mailalahad sa pagtratrabaho sa ibayong lugar. Mga karanasang sumasalamin ng uri ng buhay mayroon ang isang OFW sa malayong lupain tulad ng Gitnang Silangan. Tulad ng mga OFW na pinagmamalupitan ng among pinagtratrabauhan, napagbibintangan at nakukulong, mga OFWs na nalulong sa masasamang bisyo at nasadlak sa mga maling relasyon, at marami pang ibang tulad nito. Walang takot na ipinakita sa pelikula ang totoong buhay na nararanasan at pinagdaraanan ng ilan sa ating mga OFWs.

Marami-rami na ring pelikula ang nagawa sa buhay ng mga OFWs tulad ng “Anak” ni Gov. Vilma Santos, “Dubai” ni Aga Muhlach at John Lloyd Cruz, “Milan” ni Piolo Pascual at Claudine Barretto, and lately ang “A Mother’s Story” ni Pokwang. Subalit ang mga ito’y ginawa para sa mainstream cinema o yung pang-komersiyalismo at idinirehe ng mga kilala’t batikang mga direktor, subalit ang “Lawas Kan Pinabli” ay maituturing na kauna-unahang pelikula tungkol sa totoong kuwento at kaso ng mga totoong OFWs na gawa’t idinirehe ng isang OFW rin. Kung kaya’t makatotohanan ang paglalahad, patas at may hustisya ang laman ng pelikula.

Ang bidang karakter ay epektibong ginampanan ni Mark Louie Rojas, isang OFW sa Riyadh, kasama ang ilan pang mga OFWs tulad nina Jo Paredes, Dindo Salinas, Sharon Manibpel, Joselito Alejo, Joseph Peruda, Inday Pongan Malik, Rovimar Vinzon, Rannie Tomalon, Vonnel Mirandilla, Rolando Blanco, Christopher Carvajal, at Joseph Espiritu. Ang direksiyon nama’y buong husay na pinamahalaan ni Direk Chris Gozum.

Si Gozum ay isang Master of Arts student sa University of the Philippines, at alumni ng 2006 Asian Film Academy Fellowship Program sa Pusan, South Korea. Siya’y recipient ng dalawang Palanca Awards for Literature noong taong 2001 at 2002, sa kaniyang full-length drama plays na may pamagat na “War Booty” (2001) at ang “The Pasyon of Pedro Calosa and the Tayug Colorum Uprising of 1931” (2002). Ilan sa award-winning films na ginawa ni Gozum ay ang mga sumusunod: “The Independence Mission” – 2004 Gawad CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video, “Lakaran” – featured in the 2006 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, at ang “The Calling” – produced by the Asian Film Academy in 2006 and premiered at the 13th Pusan International Film Festival. Ang “The Calling” ay nanalo rin na Best Short Film sa 9th Cinemanila International Film Festival noong 2007. Ang “Surreal Random MMS Texts para ed Ina, Agui tan Kaamong ya Makakailiw ed Sika: Gurgurlis ed Banua” (Surreal Random MMS Texts for a Mother, a Sister, and a Wife who longs for You: Landscape with Figures). Ang pelikulang ito ay nagkamit ng Ishmael Bernal Award for Most Outstanding Young Filipino Filmmaker sa 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival, at ang “Anacbanua” (The Child of the Sun) na nagkamit ng Digital Lokal Lino Brocka Grand Prize at Best Director Award sa 2009 Cinemanila International Film Festival.

Ang “Lawas Kan Pinabli” ay prinodyus ng Sine Caboloan Co. Ltd. sa pamamagitan ng cinema grant mula sa National Commission for Culture and Arts, isang government agency under the Office of the President of the Philippines. Isa rin sa layunin ng pelikulang ito ay ang i-promote ang lenguwahe ng Pangasinan na siyang ginamit sa karamihang bahagi ng pelikula at nilagyan na lamang ng sub-titles sa Ingles. Ang direktor na si Chris Gozum ay mula mismo sa Bayambang, Pangasinan.

Ayon kay Gozum, siya’y naalarma nang malamang halos lahat ng kabataan sa Pangasinan ay Tagalog ang salita at nalimot na ang sariling lenguwahe kahit mismo sa loob ng kanya-kanyang tahanan, at lalo na sa ibayong lupain kung saan tuluyan ng nakalimutan ang lenguwaheng ito ng mga Pangasinenses. Dahil dito, sinikap ni Gozum na muling buhayin ang pagggamit ng Pangasinan language at ang kamalayan dito sa pamamagitan ng mga pelikulang kanyang ginagawa.

Ang production at crew ng “Lawas Kan Pinabli” ay kinabibilangan nina: Direction & Editing: CHRISTOPHER GOZUM, Executive Producer: JANUS VICTORIA, Story & Scenario: CHRISTOPHER GOZUM, Cinematography: NOEL ALIPOYO, Sound Design: TENGAL, Music: JOHN SOBREPENA, RAN KIRLIAN, Poetry: KWANAMI KIYOTSUGU, ZEAMI MOTOKIYO, ZENCHIKU UJINOBU, EXODUS, SONGS OF SOLOMON, MELCHOR ORPILLA, Pangasinan Narration: MARIA TERESA BAUTISTA, CHRISTOPHER GOZUM, Bahasa Melayu Narration: SAZWATI SAAD, Pangasinan Translation: MELCHOR ORPILLA, ERWIN FERNANDEZ, SANTIAGO VILLAFANIA, Make-up: BRUNO SERAPION, Photos & Poster Design: TIMOTHY IGNACIO.

The Top Filipino Films of 2011 from Closely Watched Frames by Noli Manaig

The Top Filipino Films of 2011 from Closely Watched Frames by Noli Manaig (January 6, 2012)

Riches, an embarrassment of riches. It is a year liable to go down in local cinematic history as one of the most accomplished, one of the richest. The year 2011 will also likely serve a benchmark against which other years, past and future, will be measured. It was the year the steadfast patience of the Filipino film enthusiast was rewarded with a veritable cornucopia at the local art-houses. The vaunted indie film festivals – Cinemalaya, Cinema One and Cinemanila — delivered in spades. This troika of film venues constituted a vibrant independent circuit that kept everyone busy and buzzing for the duration of the festival season.

My shortlist of the previous year’s top films – an unimaginative decimal list, I admit – may look spick-and-span on this blogspace, but it doesn’t reflect my frantic and confounded efforts to shoehorn all my favorites in. It is painful to leave anything out, and it underscores how arbitrary a top-ten list can be. Another ten may have been possible, and arguably just as solid: Bahay Bata, Amok, Busong, Isda, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank, Mapang-Akit, Pahinga , and Bisperas would have been worthy candidates. That does not even include some putatively excellent films I neglected to see: Zombadings has been touted to be among the best comedies released last year, supposedly trumping even other more ballyhooed films. My almost complete ignorance of commercial-run fare also meant that some quality films may have fallen through the cracks.

Refreshingly surprising and startling is how the past year’s harvest of films came in a broad spectrum of approaches and aesthetics, in a wide variety of themes and subjects. There is a healthy demonstration that our cinema and our filmmakers are not cut from the same cloth. Formal experiment, for instance, stands just as worthily alongside more conventional methodology and techniques. That Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, a self-conscious mockumentary, and Buenas Noches Espana, an experimental, category-defying film, can make it alongside a serious neorealist tract like Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa, is a testament to the cinematic diversity on offer.

Experimentalism did not simply find expression in various forms and aesthetics, but in a petulance with straight spatio-temporal diegetics: it was imperative as opposed to decorative. With Buenas Noches Espana, Raya Martin served up an anti-narrative that meditates and hallucinates about colonial history. In Sakay Sa Hangin, the camera ostensibly records the everyday life of a tribe in a kind of ethnography, but simultaneously tells a timeless mythic story. Big Boy cinematicizes memory, so that cinema becomes almost gospel that second-guesses our own supposed human faculties. The realities of time and space are almost like suggestions to these films. What it says is not escapism but a tendency toward a summa, a rootedness to the past.

Like the aforementioned films, Lav Diaz’s A Century of Birthing is also a hybrid work, an allegory that meditates on the nature and progress of cinema, its many practical and quotidian anxieties that go uneasily hand-in-hand with a filmmaker’s personal vision. Diaz’s paean to cinema, it shows how he remains at the peak of his creative powers. Like Diaz’s film, Shireen Seno’s Big Boy is both concerned with the personal and the historical. It is quite uncanny how someone’s personal vision of the past can codify everyone else’s memory.

Discourse about more current and pressing issues is all but a given, a constant, when it comes to independent filmmaking. Films of this persuasion are probably the plinth that underpins the whole movement, and they sure enough made their mark in 2011. A film about sexual awakening like Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa can be seen in the context of wider gender and identity issues embedded in its subtle discourse. The demystification of the diaspora was the overarching theme of Lawas Kan Pinabli: it supplies an anti-heroic perspective so alien to the headlines and laudatory poetry. Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa lures us to one corner of Cagayan Valley to shed light on the tragic lives of waifs here and therefore elsewhere.

The heterogeneity spills over into other forms. Mga Anino sa Tanghaling Tapat mystifies adolescence into a Grimm fairy tale with unexpected, almost Grand Guignol underpinnings. Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay is that tongue-in-cheek, and unusual biopic noteworthy for its thinly veiled sympathy for its subject while foregrounding a mocking and mock irreverence on the surface. In Nino, we find a well-told and affecting tale of a clan’s decline, a tale that circumvents the conventions of distraught family dramas. There is a genre-bending awareness that informs all of these films, a sure sign of growing and continuing maturity for local independent cinema.

If some of these films have eluded you, fret not. It is almost certain that there will be opportunities to see these films in the new year. Their excellence almost guarantees it. But do catch up on this backlog sooner rather than later, as a new festival season opens at the middle of the year with the promise of still another bountiful harvest.

Here is my list of the top films of 2011 (Click on film title for full review):

1) Big Boy (Shireen Seno)

“Big Boy, the first feature film by Shireen Seno, is in many ways about the traumatization of childhood. Childhood is not always magic and idyll. True, to some extent, Seno’s film mirrors Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A Summer at Grandpa’s with its evocation of a happy childhood. Here with fondness are the wonder years: the parlor games, the outdoor adventures, the staunch playmates, the favorite songs, and the innocence.”

2) Century of Birthing (Lav Diaz)

3) Buenas Noches, Espana (Raya Martin)

“From Autohystoria (2007) to Maicling Pelicula Nang Ysang Indio Nacional (2005) to Independencia (2009), Martin has been engaged on a mission of dredging up and retrieving our colonial past. That has meant everything from reconstructing the lay of the land in 1896 to doing a diachronic depiction of Filipino culture circa American times. This time Buenas Noches reveals more about our present-day cultural relations with Spain than anything else, something that might seemingly involve more diplomatically palatable facets of geopolitics, but still puts into perspective how much – or how little – has changed between the two countries.”

4) Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (Alvin Yapan)

“The grand and not so grand narratives of sexual awakening are a dime a dozen. Each one of us has a story to tell – and how often a story to embellish – at an early juncture of adolescence. More relevantly, within the annals of cinema, the terrain is a well-trodden one, assuming a subgenre all its own. Many a tawdry youth-oriented film has singlemindedly sexualized love, and thus vulgarized and grossly irrigated this honorable ideal. An entry of a preeminent kind, Alvin Yapan’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa is a lyrical and poetic tale that brings back respectability to eros so often shortchanged.”

5) Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (Antoinette Jadaone)

6) Sa Kanto ng Ulap at Lupa (Mes De Guzman)

“Episodic in structure, neorealist in approach, De Guzman’s film shows these kids caught in the last gasp of innocence. Their naivety is best illustrated in a scene where they bring home a discarded vhs player found on a garbage heap. Believing it to be a gift, they have it tested on a neighbor’s television, only to realize that it is broken and beyond repair. Worse, it is technology as obsolete as their innocent worldview.”

7) Mga Anino Sa Tanghaling Tapat (Ivy Baldoza)

“These girls are the newly adolescent. Their flowering is headlong, and complacent. They embrace the latitude of their young age, but ignore the fine print that comes with it. They handle sex as an unfamiliar apparatus, in different stages of clumsiness and callowness. They are tempting fate, a fate that memorializes them in various stages of maturation. You can all but draw a schema. Thus there is a reason to read a symbolic subtext into their destinies.”

8) Lawas Kan Pinabli (Christopher Gozum)

“Forever Loved, in the end, may well be the most thorough, most textured, and most insightful study on the Filipino OCW. Perhaps such a saga of a people’s exodus is bound to unfold in many more unforeseen ways and might never see an immediate end. Gozum deserves to be commended for going against the grain, forwarding a perspective the rest of us aren’t prepared to entertain. He never loses sight of the human picture, the stories he has heard or knows first-hand. These stories, whether grounded on the real or the invented, must resonate with him, cut him to the quick, a heart that harbors the traumas of being so far from home.”

9) Sakay sa Hangin(Regiben Romana)

“Sakay Sa Hangin is a worthy ethnographic document of singular distinction. Few films — Murnau’s Tabu and the works of Flaherty perhaps — can be compared with it through cinematic history. Sakay Sa Hangin, without didacticism, also retrieves our lost connection and communion with nature. Framed in an open-ended structure, the film demonstrates the flow of life and how it ought to be held sacred: war should not enter into it. And once we latch on to its lyrical imagery, its fabulous structure and spare storytelling, it is a breeze to watch. A breath-taking ride on the wind.”

10) Nino (Loy Arcenas)

“Faded glory crumbles from the walls of the Villa Los Reyes Magos, the ancestral dwelling of the Lopez-Aranda family. This house used to be grand, laments one of the remaining members of this once-proud family in a resigned and regretful tone. And there is every reason for regret. From having born witness and played host to some moments and figures of historic importance, the house teeters on its last legs. The fate of its occupants seems inextricably linked with the fate of the very house.”

Postscript: The Best Non-Local Films

I was able to watch around 250 films last year. Ironically very little proportion came from 2011. What’s important, I guess, is discovering these films at all.

Here then, without regard for year of release, are the best non-local films I saw in the year just concluded:

Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
Tie Xi Qu: West of The Tracks 1,2,3 (Wang Bing, 2003)
The Circus Tent (Govindan Aravindan, 1978)
Hunting Scenes from Bavaria (Peter Fleischmann, 1969)
Nostalgia for the Light (Patricio Guzman, 2010)
A Simple Story (Marcel Hanoun, 1959)
The House of the Angel (Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, 1957)
Sao Paulo, Sociedade Anonima (Luis Sergio Person, 1965)
Oxhide (Liu Jiayin, 2005)
Kosmos (Reha Erdem, 2009)
Blockade (Sergei Loznitsa, 2006)
Anything Can Happen (Marcel Lozinski, 1995)

(tag: The Best Filipino Films of 2011

Celiar Structures: A break Space for isolationist soundworlds by Ran Kirlian

Anacbanua (The Child of the Sun)

 Anacbanua (The Child of the Sun) es un largometraje filipino de corte independiente dirigido porChristopher Q. Gozum que pretende reivindicar y promocionar la lengua indígena Pangasinan, actualmente en vías de extinción, mediante la narración de poemas recitados en dicha lengua a lo largo de la historia. Además incluye música mía en la banda sonora.

Filmada en Pangasinán, una provincia del norte de Filipinas, esta película hace un recorrido por la tradición cultural de la región en forma de cuento, para lo que se ayuda de los poemas de autores como Santiago Villafania, Mel Orpilla y Erwin Fernandez.

La historia, dividida en tres partes, nos narra las tribulaciones de Umaanlong (El Poeta), un cosmopolita intelectual que regresa a la tierra de sus antepasados afectado por una misteriosa enfermedad que le llevará a conocer a Musia (La Musa), quien le ayuda a recuperar su salud física, mental y espiritual mediante el uso de magia ancestral. Durante su recuperación el protagonista realizará un viaje iniciático que no sólo le sanará por completo si no que además le llevará a renunciar a su vida anterior y aceptar su destino como tumatagaumen (sanador y hechicero) y dedicará su vida a servir a su pueblo.

Para la creación del banda sonora Christopher, el director, me contactó directamente por correo electrónico pidiéndome incluir uno o dos temas en la película. Tras el intercambio de varios correos y mi más que entusiasta disposición a participar en el proyecto, la lista de temas se acabó ampliando hasta seis: Beuaty, Fade Out (live), In Aeternum (part III), Initial Flow I, Summoning Spell y Suria, todas ellas disponibles desde Jamendo. Dejo a continuación el trailer oficial (con subtítulos en inglés) que recomiendo ver a pantalla completa.

Anacbanua hará su debut en la decimoprimera edición del certamen Cinemanila International Film Festival en la ciudad de Taguig del 15 al 25 de octubre del 2009.

Publicado por Ran Kirlian en 6:29 PM