Hey everyone! How’s everyone doing?

Enough of the Brown Raise Movement for the moment. Let’s now take a peek at Philippine cinematic output of 2007. I am an avid movie fan and thank God for independent films and digital technology, Philippine Cinema is now coming out of its half-dead state. It’s a joy to finally see the quality outputs of younger and more daring filmmakers, who dare to challenge the formulaic tendencies of mainstream Philippine Cinema. It is just my fervent hope that these new auteurs, while already making their presence felt in numerous international film festivals (Cannes, Venice, Berlin, etc.), are accorded a wider patronage locally. It is still a sad reality that the Filipino audience in general still has an aversion for films with no prominent stars on the cast and they also tend to shun films that feature more innovative ways of storytelling aside from the usual linear method.

While these realities continue to limit the advances made by these new talented thespians, there is plenty of hope that Philippine Cinema will soon take its rightful place in world cinema. This, I firmly believe.

Below is my obviously subjective list of the most notable Filipino films of 2007. I know that we are already in the last 4 months of 2008 and this list is rather overdue. However, it still quite interesting to look at the landmark films of the paste year – a year wherein independent films completely outshone their mainstream counterparts.

The list will feature film synopses first. Detailed reviews of each film will be posted in my upcoming posts. Feel free to leave comments. Enjoy watching, er, reading!

1. Foster Child by Brillante Mendoza (screened at the Directors’ Fortnight of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival) –

Director Brillante Mendoza tells the affectionate tale of a poor family living in the Philippines that is hired by a local Foster Care Facility to provide temporary care and shelter for abandoned babies. Thelma and her husband Dado live in Manila with their two teenage sons Gerald and Yuri. Despite the fact that her family lives in abject poverty, Thelma receive a fair amount of fulfillment in life by serving as a surrogate mother to abandoned children who are awaiting adoption. A young three year-old named John-John is Thelma’s latest charge. Now, as the kind-hearted foster parent prepares to turn the child over to his adoptive American parents, every moment spent with the precious youngster becomes something to be cherished.

2. Tribu/Tribe by Jim Libiran (screened at the 2007 Pusan Film Festival)

The dangerous unlit streets and labyrinthine alleyways in the ghetto district of Tondo in Manila, serves as a claustrophobic backdrop to a random killing that triggers a wild and bloody gang war.
Through the eyes of a 10 year old boy, we are immersed into the normal, impoverished, tough life of Tondo. Through him, we encounter the juvenile yet murderous leaders and members of various gangsta tribes — adolescent thugs and petty criminals whose past time is sex, drugs and their eloquently poetic street rap, delivered in their own unique tongue-twisting machine gun-style.

3. Tirador/Slingshot by Brillante Mendoza (won at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival) –

A tribute to the real potential of digital cinema, Slingshot is a slum epic on steroids. It weaves stories left and right into a shocking tableau about life for the lowest of the low in the Philippine’s poorest and most crime-ridden districts.

National elections are coming up so in the usual attempt to appear “tough-on-crime”, The Big Boys have been sent in to crack down on the local squatters, thieves and miscreants who litter the film like broken bottles. And since no sweep is ever a clean sweep, the cops’ brutal shock-force tactics quickly ripple outwards with jagged repercussions. Starting from the film’s amazing night time raid and climaxing with a candle-lit vigil by those insulted by the empty words of the politicians, director Brillante Mendoza uses the camera’s apparent attention deficit disorder to maximum effect, investigating lives at every turn and blending their true fictions right onto the city streets of Manila for a rich and incredibly immersive feel.

4. Endo/End of Contract by Jade Francis Castro (screened at the Nantes Film Festival)

Graded “A” by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB), Endo is the story of Leo (Jason Abalos), a temp worker who is used to the temporary. Typical of many young Filipinos, he hops from one contractual job to the next in order to earn a living for himself and his family. His relationships are similarly fleeting. When he meets the spirited dreamer Tanya (Ina Feleo), he is suddenly faced by the promise of a better future, but he doesn’t seem equipped to handle it.

5. Confessional by Jerold Tarog (won at the Osian Film Festival)

Lies + Lies = Truth.

Ryan Pastor knows this by heart. As a small time filmmaker, he knows
how sound and images can be manipulated to say anything. And he’s
tired of the lies—the lies at work, in his relationships, the lies one
must keep in society just to exist. On a whim, he decides to go to
Cebu to document the Sinulog festival. There he stumbles upon a truth
he didn’t ask for and is reluctant to touch. One of his subjects, a
former politician who may or may not be dying, decides to confess his
sins—all the crimes he committed while in office—before Ryan’s camera.

What follows is a story of revelations and bitter truths, of buried
secrets and sweet lies. CONFESSIONAL takes you to the heart of a
criminal…or an honest man.

6. Death In The Land of the Poets by Lav Diaz (won at the Venice Film Festival)

The main character of Kagadanan is a Filipino poet named Benjamin Agusan (played by Roeder Camañag). He is the hapless native who returns to his hometown Padang to witness the aftermath of a super typhoon. Director Lav Diaz shot Kagadanan in Padang, Legazpi City, where a village was buried by landslides caused by super typhoon Reming that hit the Bicol region on November 30, 2006.

For the past seven years, Benjamin had been living in an old town called Kaluga in Russia. With his grant and residency, he taught and conducted workshops in a university. The poet published two books of sadness and longing in the process.

In Russia, Benjamin was able to shoot video collages, fell in love with a Slavic beauty, buried a son, and almost went mad. He came back home to bury his loved ones–father, mother, sister and a lover. He came back to face Mount Mayon, the raging beauty and muse of his youth. He came home to confront the country that he so loved and hated, the Philippines. He came back to die in the land of his birth. He wanders around the obliterated village meeting old friends and lovers.

7. Tambolista/Drumbeat by Adolfo Alix Jr. (screened at the Jecheon Film Festival)

Ever wanted something so bad that you would do anything just to get it?
Tambolista focuses on one boy’s simple dream of owning his very own drum set. Set in the different slums of Manila, the film is taken from the point of view of 14-year-old Jason. A boy on the verge of manhood whose biggest passion is playing drums.

When his older brother Billy (Coco Martin) impregnates his girlfriend, the brothers and their streetsmart friend Pablo (Sid Lucero) try to come up with any means possible to get money to pay for the abortion. These three men show how the struggle to survive amidst their lives of poverty can also be a struggle for keeping their humanity in this intimate portrait of two brothers living in deprivation. The movie also shows how life is similar to the beat of drums, both having high and low points.

Where every beat counts…

8. Selda/ The Inmate by Paolo Villanuna and Ellen Ramos (competed at the 2008 Montreal Wolrd Film Festival)

Set in two contrasting enivronments that undeline the same premise of imprisonment, Selda tells the story of Rommel, a young man who accidentally kills a boy, resulting in his incarceration. Inside the jail, he befriends another inmate, Esteban, who becomes his rock and protector. Seven years later, Rommel is living in the province as a farmer together with Sita his wife. Esteban tracks down Rommel in hopes of renewing a brewing love affair. Rommel and Sita welcome Esteban into their lives, until their intimacy crosses borderlines and results in the undeniable scourge of self-discovery.

Selda is a return to classiscist forms and delivers a stylish, deliberately-paced treatise on love. At moments strange, Selda is a sublime and disquieting portrait of a young man whose search for happiness, innocence and true love is laden with guilt and doubt.

9. Katas ng Saudi/ Toil From Saudi by Jose Javier Reyes

An overseas worker (Jinggoy Estrada) comes home from Saudi and finds that coming home is harder than he thought it would be. He has to reconnect with his children who have all grown without him, and readapt to a lifestyle that includes his family.

10. Maling Akala/Wrong Assumption by Veronica Paraiso and Pablo Biglang Awa

The bittersweet love story of JP and Teta gives us a glimpse of how a gay man/straight woman relationship works… or doesn’t. JP is a fugitive on the run, after having accidentally killed his lover. On the bus, he sits next to Teta, who is 9 months pregnant. When Teta gives birth, JP accompanies mother and child home to their fishpond in Sasmuan, Pampanga. Teta impulsively introduces JP as the father of her child surprising both JP and her parents. When JP and Teta agree to play-act husband and wife, their queer, dysfunctional tale begins.


 

 

 

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