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2016 Was The Year That Filipino Cinema Was Reawakened

Pinoy filmmakers have taken steps towards creating both indie and mainstream films that are equal parts entertaining, engaging, and thought-provoking
by Anton D. Umali | Dec 29, 2016
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The lack of box-office blockbuster draws in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival lineup might have pissed off a couple of notable names. Mother Lily Monteverde wasn’t so happy about it. She was concerned for the poor. Vic and Vice were clearly upset, choosing their words wisely, the bitterness only escaping their lips like light wisps of cigarette smoke. It’s okay. Don’t feel too bad for them. They’ll get over it. 

Despite the initial vitriol from those who would not benefit from the diverse selection of movies, this year’s Magic 8 (Seklusyon, Saving Sally, Oro, Die Beautiful, Sunday Beauty Queen, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2:#ForeverIsNotEnough, Kabisera, Vince & Kath & James), as the selected films are being called, have reinvigorated a set of the population that demands more of local cinema—directors, producers, script writers, actors, and actresses, and moviegoers who want to tell and hear new stories.

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Stories that aren’t rushed or formulaic or made for the sole purpose of having a studio laugh its way to the bank. Stories that are hypnotic and spellbinding, but not stupefying in its attempt to entertain the masses. Stories hinged on a wide array of real emotions—like joy, horror, elation, loneliness, ecstasy, and mourning.

No more cheap thrills. No more cheap laughs. No more copouts. No more leaving the cinema feeling cheated and dirty, like you’d been bedded by a lover who promised more than they could actually offer. 

They might not have earned as much as their past counterparts, but at least these films were able to create a deep dent in pop culture—a dent noticeable enough for change to take place. We need to remember that, at the end of the day, it isn't always about the money.

As 2016 comes to a close, these movies act as a bookend to a year in which Filipino cinema was reawakened. Pinoy filmmakers were not only recognized abroad, but the steps towards creating both indie and mainstream films that are equal parts entertaining, engaging, and thought-provoking were taken—and taken seriously. So much so that each and every one of them deserves a pat on the back.

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Films like Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa, which took Cannes by storm, garnering Jaclyn Jose’s world-class performance as a woman on the verge the coveted Best Actress award. Indie flicks such as Apocalypse Child, Ang Kuwento Nating Dalawa, and Sakaling Hindi Makarating have found a cult following outside of the film festivals from which they were originally screened, proving that a sound script, a stellar cast, and clear direction are enough to captivate an audience.

Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan's experimental approach reminded everyone that risks in the name of creative expression do have a pay off, even if it's in the form of critical acclaim. Baka Bukas and Die Beautiful are two movies that gave the LGBT community a louder voice, never forgetting to be sensitive and sincere and poignant in their portrayals of an often-neglected minority.

Saving Sally, which fought for true love over the course of 12 years, never gave up, even when the dicks of this society deemed it too little, too unconventional, too far out for the common Filipino to understand. Then of course, there’s How To Be Yours, director Dan Villegas’ heartwarming tale of romantic turmoil, a rom-com that demonstrates the bible truth that studio-fueled, love team-driven projects need not compromise on artistic integrity.


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Then there are the outfits—the companies and production houses and businesses that continue to pilot our culture in the right direction. Without them marching forward, we’d all be left drowning in a swamp of superficial, escapist trash, trying our best to break through the muddy surface for some much-needed air.

Cinema ’76 has quickly gained popularity with arthouse aficionados for their screenings of independent films—a small-theater-turned-sanctuary for those in need of reprieve from the disorienting action, explosions, and caped-crusading of the popcorn movies that litter the malls. We need more places like this.

Erik Matti and Dondon Monteverde’s Reality Entertainment, which continues to push the envelope when it comes to genre filmmaking, is still capable of making jaws drop to the theater floor with their unabashed filmmaking sensibilities. Please, don’t stop making movies that can induce a cineaste hard-on. There are already too many soft, politically correct, flaccid, and safe films out there.

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Then there’s you, pinoy movie fan. Don’t stop rattling the filmmakers, the studios, and talent for superior work, for movies that intelligently mirror your reality, or transport you to a world far from it.

Ask for love stories that are heartbreaking and beautiful—romances that aren’t measured by the number of Instagram followers the lead tandem has collectively. Demand for horror and action and comedy whose scripts are just as sharp as their special effects, shootouts, and punchlines.

Respect the casual moviegoer. Listen to your tribe's certified movie geek. Give indie films your hard-earned cash and give the right kind of blockbusters a shot. Stop labelling movies as one or the other. In the end, when the credits start to roll, a good movie is just that—a good movie.

Tonight the MMFF 2016 will be holding their annual awards ceremony. This will be a momentous time in history, because people will remember this as the year that diversity was once again taken into consideration. And no matter who wins Best Film, no matter who claims the crown for Best Actress, we, the moviegoing audience, are all winners.

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