The Independence Day long weekend is a time to reflect on the state of our country and what true freedom means to its people. While most will be packing their bags and heading out of town escape the noise of the city, many will hole-up at home with no idea how to keep themselves busy. FHM’s suggestion: pop in a local movie that will help reawaken your sense of national pride. From inspirational classics, to new cult favorites, there’s a flick on this list for just about anybody. Plus, when the credits start rolling, feel satisfied that you’ve done your part as a couch potato in serving our motherland.
1) Sister Stella L.
Director Mike de Leon’s powerful tale of a nun who finds herself fighting for the rights of laborers is a meditation on the PH’s messy sociopolitical state during the time of martial law. Vilma Santos’ turn as the titular nun is a quietly confident performance indicative of her talents as one of the greatest actresses of her generation. Don’t be surprised if you feel like calling out injustices you see in our current society right after your screening session.
2) Heneral Luna
This 2015 historical biopic can be best described as a pop culture phenomenon that conquered the consciousness of our nation. Using classic storytelling techniques mixed with modern sensibilities, director Jerrold Tarog fashioned a moving account of General Antonio Luna’s life. Played by John Arcilla with a stern demeanor yet full of heart, the character of Heneral Luna became a figure that spoke to the ennui-afflicted masses.
3) Lipad, Darna, Lipad!
This list wouldn’t be complete without the most iconic Filipino superheroine to ever exist. The Star for All Seasons starred in a box-office hit that not only solidified her reputation as one of the most bankable working thespians in the industry, but also gave young women an idol to look up to (and a fantasy for men to dream about at night).
4) Batch ’81
The brutal initiation rites of a college fraternity are seen through the eyes of Sid Lucero (Mark Gil), a neophyte struggling to find his place on campus. As the dares and tests start to pile up, each one becomes graver than the last, forcing Sid to question his own humanity. The disturbing practices and psychological terrors the students are put through in the movie have often been linked to the savage methods of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law. This is a film about power and how it corrupts, of the inherent evil that can take over when an individual loses his identity.
5) Jose Rizal
Backed by a stellar cast, Cesar Montano delivers a captivating performance as our country’s national hero in director Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s epic retelling of Rizal’s eventful life. Simultaneously inspiring and tragic, the period piece is a masterful display of Abaya’s technique and Montano’s magnetic appeal as a leading man. The movie serves as a reminder that we were once under the hold of an abusive regime, and how all it takes is one man to act as a catalyst for the rest of us to wake up and fight back.
6) Dekada ’70
The film adaptation of Lualhati Bautista’s acclaimed novel packages 1970s martial law into a heart-wrenching family drama. This tear-jerker follows a nuclear family headed by Julian and Amanda Bartolome (Christopher de Leon and Vilma Santos), whose lives are turned upside down when the political travesties that have befallen the nation start creeping into their home and tearing them apart. With five sons to look out for, the mettle of the Bartolomes is tested as they struggle to survive the decade’s turmoil.
Certified auteur Lino Brocka directs Phillip Salvador in this drama about the trappings of poverty. This adaptation of a popular Nick Joaquin essay elucidates the fact that, in a society that is corrupt to the core, a poor man will always have a harder time clawing his way out of the depths of despair.
8) Bayan: Kapit sa Patalim
Phillip Salvador acts as muse for another Brocka classic, where he plays Arturo, a printing press laborer stripped of his rights by a manipulative boss. When his wife Turing (Gina Alajar) becomes pregnant, their financial woes worsen, forcing Arturo to lose himself a life of crime in order to make ends meet.
9) Sunday Beauty Queen
This Metro Manila Film Festival 2016 favorite takes a look at the lives of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong. Joyous, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the documentary has carved out its place as both a crowd-pleaser and critical darling in a competition overflowing with fictional narratives.
10) On the Job
Genre filmmaker Erik Matti’s action-thriller about hired hands leaving the confines of prison to pursue political hits sparked interest in the Filipino moviegoing audience. A morbid tale of crime, deceit, and the hands that engineer it, OTJ singlehandedly breathed life into an industry saturated by bullshit rom-coms and studio fare. For that reason alone, it’s an oeuvre worth watching over and over again.
11) Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan
Former FHM cover girl LJ Reyes plays a refugee who, together with her husband, houses a soldier in the midst of a rebel-fueled crisis. This throws a kink into their relationship. And as dark secrets are revealed and demons of the past are unearthed, things take a turn for the melodramatic. But under director Jun Lana’s command, everything is controlled, a ballet of lies setting the stage for a satisfying conclusion. Deeply sensual and utterly poetic, it’s a film that allows audiences to question their own morals, to analyze what they would and wouldn’t do when shit starts to hit the fan.
12) Ma Rosa
Count on veteran actress Jaclyn Jose to bring home top honors from the Cannes Film Festival for her role as a troubled drug dealer and matriarch in Brillante Mendoza’s tightly wound thriller. By winning the best actress award, Jose brought pride to our country, showing the world that the Philippines is an artistic force to be reckoned with.
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