Tag Archive: pelikula


Favorite Films From The 90’s

Hi everyone!

Apparently, it is my rundown of my favorite films of the 80’s that has garnered the most views in my blog. Thanks everyone for messaging and for commenting.

At some point, many are correct when they say that the 80’s (especially the first half) was indeed a landmark era for Philippine Cinema, both in quantity and quality. Ironically, the repression of the Marcos regime also ignited the blooming of a national cinema that discussed the pressing issues of the times. Veiled or outrightly exposed, the notable Filipino films of the 80’s truly depicted a turbulent era in Philippine history and reflected a much talked about social milieu for the movie audiences to see.

But soon enough, things started to nosedive.

The 1986 EDSA Revolution may have restored democratic rule in government but did very little in temrs of uplifting the social and economic conditions of many Filipinos. In the FIlipino film, the Aquino government accomplished ZERO when it comes to improving the quality and industrial conditions of a much-patronized artform. Hence, the golden age of the early 80’s would end sometime in 1986. It can be said that the unabated crass commercialism of Philippine Cinema and its stunted artistic growth would continue way into the decade that followed.

And that is the topic of this long overdue blog post.

The cinematic output of the 90’s would really pale in comparison to that of the preceding decade. For one, the 90’s saw the deaths of two very important pillars in Philippine Cinema—national artist Lino Brocka, who perished in a car accident in 1991, and fellow national artist Ishmael Bernal, who succumbed to a sudden heart attack in 1996. On the other hand, other luminous directors of the past decade such as Mike de Leon, Laurice Guillen, and Celso Ad Castillo, went on inactive status and only made films sporadically.

Another thing is the continued dominance of the Hollywood film when it comes to box office performance. We often see Filipino films unashamedly copying Hollywood plots, storylines, and for crying out loud—-even characters and whole titles for that matter! Producers also stuck woth tried and tested formula films that were sure to make money at the tills.

It is in this manner that most of the notable films appearing on this list have a few things in common. One, they are undoubtedly compromised works. Some films may ride on a popular genre (melodrama, action, love story, the youth film, sex film, etc.), while others capitalized on the so-called “star system” in order to recoup their capital. Few from the films on this list actually made money, but nevertheless, these films are fortunate because they were directed by gifted filmmakers who learned how to compromise between commercial appeal and artistic integrity. Save for the last film by Mike de Leon, none of the films from the 90’s that appear on this list is worthy to be called a “classic.” Nevertheless, they deserve mention because they are symbols of hope that a well made film could still be made amid a monolithic system of films made to dumb down the masses.

1. Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina by Gil Portes (1990)- This brave film was a box office nightmare. Nora Aunor essays another powerful performance as a mother who leaves her son to her bestfriend to become a political rebel. It is very interesting how the home, politics, motherhood, citizen, friendship, family, and the dichotomy of classes all come to play in this engaging and intriguing social melodrama. Aunor essays another powerful and affecting performance but actress Gina Alajar is also excellent. Gil Portes’ direction though is upstaged by the gravity of Ricky Lee’s script which is truly reasonant and relevant for the times.

2. May Minamahal by Jose Javier Reyes (1993)- Heavily attached to the romantic comedy formula, May Minamahal is gifted with topnotch scriptwriting from writer-director Jose Javier Reyes. A rehash of the rich boy poor girl format, the film rises above mediocrity thanks to convincing characterization, taut editing, and controlled acting. This film, which earned millions at the tills, shows how disciplined Jose Javier Reyes is as a director in the sense that he ner goes overboard. Aga Muhlach, Aiko Melendez, and Ronaldo Valdez turn in memorable performances.

3. Sana Maulit Muli by Olivia Lamasan (1995)- This is probably the forerunner of the OFW films that followed years after this intelligent melodrama came out (1995). The film tells the struggles of two Filipino young professionals in California, who also happen to be lovers, played excellently by Lea Salonga and Aga Muhlach. Everything seems to work in this commercial film. Intelligent scripting, assured direction, affecting performances especially of its lead actors, above average cinematography, astute editing and scoring, and competent sound. Olivia Lamasan is a good director in the sense that she uses the romantic movie foil to communicate relevant issues to her audience. Her 2004 film Milan, is another testament to her insightful storytelling.

4. Bakit May Kahapon Pa by Joel Lamangan (1996) – Another brave film done in a Brocka-ish manner, Bakit May Kahapon Pa is another story of a political rebel, a daughter of a peasant who goes to the city to seek revenge against a greedy and corrupt military man and his entire family. The images in this film seem to come out straight from the headlines —massacres, farmers losing lands, rural violence, corruption in the military, and the seeming apathy of the urban rich to the plight of the masses. Aunor gives a rather heavy handed but convincing performance.

5. Madrasta by Olivia Lamasan (1996) – This is the film that made Sharon Cuneta an actress. It is truly amazing how Cuneta discards the acting conventions and predictable roles that had prevented her growth to a truly competent actress. This controlled melodrama is the story of a woman who had to balance her roles as stepmom, wife, and career woman. A feminist film directed by a female director, the film made a killing at the box office, with the gamble paying off for Cuneta, who made this film outside her mother studio.

6. Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa by Chito RoÑo (1998) – Another feminist and melodramatic film, the film tells the story of Lea Bustamante, a social worker and a mother of two kids from two different men. This entertaining but important film examines the role of women in Philippine society. Hence, roles are questioned, prejudices are junked, and men are placed in the periphery. This film benefits from a keenly observant script by Lualhati Bautista, the excellent acting of its actors especially Vilam Santos, Carlo Aquino, and Serena Dalrymple, and the competent direction of Chito Rono.

7. Bayaning Third World by Mike de Leon (1999) – This film is perhaps the “Film of the Decade.” A deconstructionist and post modern film, the film received little patronage from the moviegoing public due to its “arty” structure and the very intellectual handling of the material. An investigation on the heroism of Jose Rizal, Bayaning Third World is the director’s answer to a centennial Rizal film that was full of factual errors and shallow historical research. Shot in black and white, the film boldy violates many conventions in filmmaking – temporal and spatial limitations, characters talking directly to the audience, film genres discarded altogether, and black and white photography at the close of the twentieth century. This film is probably the best film to come out of Philippine Cinema since Lino Brocka’s “Orapronobis.”

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Favorite Filipino Films from the 80’s

As I was ending one of my classes in Humanities I (Art Appreciation), I had a rather spirited conversation with some of my students regarding local films, particularly of the 80’s. Of course, this decade was embraced by a dose of really monumental works from the country’s acclaimed filmmakers. Yet, this was also a time of severe commercialism in film, so much so that in 1987, a notable group of film critics refused to give out the usual yearly citations and recognitions for the simple reason that there were no deserving nominees, much more winners.

Back to my class. I ended up recommending a few films from the 80’s to some students who looked really interested. Though I may not be as helpful in looking for the actual copies of these films, I believe that somehow, I was able to enhance their knowledge on Philippine Cinema especially its rich and checkered history. These kids practically grew up in a national cinema that featured dizzying close ups of matinee idols and Fil Ams who probably know nothing but wooden acting. Thank heavens for the indie revolution!

Let me share my personal list of notable films from the 80’s, and just a few reasons why I particularly liked each film.

1. Bona by Lino Brocka – This film is just shimmering with raw humanity. Actress Nora Aunor reveals yet another layer of her acting chops in this film about a slum girl who is obsessed with a movie bit player. Despite numerous technical flaws, the film features topnatch acting and restrained melodrama from the country’s most prominent director.

2. Manila by Night by Ishamel Bernal – This cyclical film from Ishmael Bernal features a cast of sleezy and weird characters from Manila’s underbelly. A film devoid of hope and clean cut morality, it is very interesting how the city of Manila becomes a character in itself, as it seduces, traps, confronts, and eats its own children. While the sex scenes can still be shortened, the real gift of this film is its director, who also happens to be the film’s writer. Bernal here dramatizes his personal tribute to a city so beautiful yet so horribe at the same time.

3. Kisapmata (In The Blink of An Eye) by Mike de Leon – This political film is probably Mike de Leon’s best. He gets everything right in this film – the mood, the acting, the cinematography, the music, everything! This shocking film is probably one of my favorites. It’s just timeless!

4. Salome by Laurice Guillen- The Filipino version of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, the film features a career crowning performance from Gina Alajar and a thespic zenith for its director. The film focuses on the subjectivity of truth, as a housewife is tried for the murder of a cityboy. Issues of rape,adultery,unfaithfulness all come to play in a town plagued by gossip mongers. Watch out for the ending as it truly is poetic and unforgettable.

5. Batch ’81 by Mike de Leon – Another political film from Mike de Leon. It uses the college fraternity as a microcosm of a society suffering under a fascist regime, where acts of violence and inhumanity are disguised amid the lofty ideals of order, unity, and brotherhoood. The fight scenes in this film are just unforgettable, not to mention the highly symbolic production numbers from the three fraternities towards the final third of the film.

6. Himala (Miracle) by ishmael Bernal – This rather philosophical film focuses on religion as the new opiate of the masses. It tells the story of how a woman manages to fool an entire provincial village plagued by drought on how the Virgin Mary appeared to her. Actress Nora Aunor is again at the top of her game and she is backed by an equally spectacular supporting cast. It is also impressive how Bernal uses the location to effectively communicate and enrich the audience’s viewing experience. Though slow and dead-serious in many parts, the film is truly one of Philippine Cinema’s best.

7. Oro, Plata, Mata by Peque Gallaga – This epic film tells the story of two families and how the Japanese occupation left scathing wounds of war and psychological turmoil in their lives. The production design in this film is just superb. Jose Javier Reyes’ screenplay is also keenly observant. Truly, all of Gallaga’s succeeding works seemed inferior to this masterpiece.

8. ‘Merika by Gil Portes – This melancholic film is truly one from the heart. It is an early indictment of the American Dream and how it has affected the lives of Filipinos who have dreamt all their lives to reach the United States. This quiet but moving film is gifted with notable performances from Nora Aunor as the lonely nurse and Bembol Roco as her opportunistic suitor. The cinematography and production design are also commendable. The music underscores feelings of loneliness, nostalgia,and  desperation.

9. Paradise Inn by Celso Ad Castillo – This film is another production that mirrors the nation’s sociopolitical climate during the turbulent 80’s. Despite lopsided scripting and overscoring, the film manages to succeed thanks to memorable performances from Lolita Rodriguez and Vivian Velez, who play mother and daughter who are managing a sleezy bar cum brothel in the midst of a politically charged provincial town. This film uses subtle yet powerful images that call for revolution against a repressive regime. This film came out in December of 1985 — 2 months before the EDSA Revolution that toppled the dictatorship.

10. Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (Lend Me One Morning) by ishmael Bernal – A tearjerker through and through, this melodrama, thankfully, is not devoid of great acting from Vilma Santos, who plays a dying working mom trying to make sense of her life that is about to come to an end. Apart from Santos’ noteworthy performance, the film also features powerful images of life and death, body and would-be-spirit, while at the same time channeling the commercialist workings of melodramas in the Philippines.

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.