12 best Filipino films of 2018
Story is king.
That at least is what one of the very many local film festivals imagine what Philippine cinema should aspire for. However, as the market evolves with the proliferation of streaming platforms that would allow viewers to enjoy as much films as they want with just a monthly payment equivalent to around two movie tickets, studios and filmmakers find themselves scrambling to discover what will keep Filipinos watching in the theaters. Thus, 2018 thus gave the country films where stories are twisted, bent and remolded from tropes and stereotypes and beloved genres.
Story isn’t king. The audience is king, and it is one fickle-minded ruler.
While Cathy Garcia-Molina’s The Hows of Us, the year’s biggest earner, is a romance whose plot progression is far from novel, it exposes a studio slowly but surely allowing its once guarded characters to resemble everyone else - being affected by economic forces, living together, and being irresponsible. Another top earner, Dan Villegas’ Exes Baggage, is even blunter in its effort to merge its escapist endeavors with realistic and current moods and emotions. Producers are now experimenting, reviving long-dead genres by breathing in contemporary attitudes.
Action films, like Erik Matti’s Buy Bust and Richard Somes’ We Will Not Die Tonight, are now headlined by women. Political views are now capitalized and fused into familiar tropes, with Lav Diaz’s Ang Panahon ng Halimaw, Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake, Benedict Mique’s ML and Kip Oebanda’s Liway making use of personal beliefs to serve as cornerstones of visceral thrills and engaging discourses. Love is now less exclusive to heterosexual youngsters, with the remorseful elderly of Carlo Catu’s Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapithapon, the dying homosexuals of Joel Lamangan’s Rainbow’s Sunset and the curious lesbians of Samantha Lee’s Billie & Emma showing love stories that are beyond the box.
In a sense, this prolonged period of uncertainty is great for creativity. Financers, unconvinced that the formulaic story is still king, are becoming bolder. The comedies, like Miko Livelo’s Unli Life and Marius Talampas’ Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap, are more dynamic. The love stories, like Antoinette Jadaone’s Never Not Love You, Joel Ruiz’s Kung Paano Siya Nawala and Jason Paul Laxamana’s The Day After Valentine’s, are less focused on just love but as to how love interacts with other social forces.
Now, on to the list:
Erik Matti’s Buy Bust, Joseph Abello’s Double Twisting, Double Back, Keith Deligero’s A Short History of a Few Bad Things, Joel Ruiz’s Kung Paano Siya Nawala, Kip Oebanda’s Liway, Carlo Catu’s Mga Anak ng Kamote, Irene Villamor’s Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story, Matthew Victor Pastor’s Melodrama/Random/Melbourne! Jason Paul Laxamana’s Bakwit Boys, Carl Papa’s Paglisan, Rod Singh’s Mamu: And a Mother Too!, Chito Rono’s Signal Rock, and Kenneth Dagatan’s Ma.
1. Never Not Love You
Directed by Antoinette Jadaone
It is futile to resist the Filipino audience’s affinity for love stories and actors and actresses that best capture the most ideal of romances. Antoinette Jadaone’s film does not veer very far from that path, but the sidesteps it takes make up for its adamant allegiance to the rote and routine affairs of the heart. Never Not Love You is not just a love story, it is an involving snapshot of dreams and ambitions and how they collide with the economic realities and romantic fantasies.
2. Never Tear Us Apart
Directed by Whammy Alcazaren
Like Crisaldo Pablo’s Duda (2003) or Bathhouse (2005) which pioneered the digital medium to expose alternative lifestyles, Whammy Alcazaren’s third feature makes use of a visual format to depict secret moods, attitudes and personalities that the anonymity provided by the internet has allowed to thrive. The film however is more than just innovative. It is also gravely affecting, transforming visuals of lust, skin and sweat into overtures of love and hate in a world that exists far too long inside the closet.
3. Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes
Directed by Jun Lana
A film whose premise can easily be mismanaged with ghastly tropes and stereotypes, Jun Lana’s surprisingly enjoyable farcical comedy is a rare feat that combines the truly escapist pleasures of mining humor from the oddest of circumstances with Jun Lana’s advocacy to push all manners of love and loving towards more mainstream appreciation.
4. Ang Panahon ng Halimaw
Directed by Lav Diaz
A musical like no other in the sense that the music here isn’t subservient to the pleasure of the audience. The music here accompanies the stark and bleak visuals to depict the recurring aches and pains of oppression that stubbornly persist in a country that periodically falls under the spells of evil but hypnotic leaders.
5. Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus
Directed by Dwein Baltazar
Dwein Baltazar’s alluringly shot ode to the unusual charms of Avenida also serves as a credible indictment of the masculine gaze and how it obfuscates all notions of love and affection from all types of romances that can only exist in the imaginative minds of the loneliest of men.
6. Tanabata’s Wife
Directed by Lito Casaje, Charlson L. Ong, Choy Pangilinan,
The trio of Lito Casaje, Carlson L. Ong and Choy Pangilinan isn’t so much interested in updating Sinai Hamada’s 1930’s short story to suit more modern sensibilities as it is in shifting the perspective of the tale to grant not the local wife tasked to live with a stranger but the foreigner who is carving a home in a strange land most of the sympathies from a romance that was doomed to die.
7. Oda sa Wala
Directed by Dwein Baltazar
Perhaps the most technically composed film of the year, Dwein Baltazar’s second directorial work for 2018 mixes the macabre and the mundane to arrive at a portrayal of a hopelessly lonely woman’s grappling with the lingering grief that has turned her domestic life such a chore that she commits to the unlikeliest of relationships for escape.
Directed by Hubert Tibi
This debut feature by Hubert Tibi, more renowned for his delightful shorts, is a composed, picturesque and more importantly subtly provocative depiction of the important agrarian struggle that the ToFarm Film Festival, a film festival that promotes farming that is already on its third iteration, has intriguingly yet to fully explore.
9. Dog Days
Directed by Timmy Harn
Timmy Harn’s second feature is both a road and psychedelic trip following more the fractured identity than the thwarted basketball career of an orphaned half-Filipino whose life’s successes and tragedies are humorously comparable to an incredulously plotted soap opera.
10. Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral
Directed by Jerrold Tarog
Jerrold Tarog methodically stirs both debate and discourse on the nature of truth and history by stripping most myths and legends surrounding Gregorio del Pilar, a young general martyrdom under the hands of advancing American troops has become a standard for Filipino nationalism.
11. So Connected
Directed by Jason Paul Laxamana
This truly enjoyable and quietly affecting romance by Jason Paul Laxamana finally gets both the allure and dangers of this social media age right, without ever moralizing or treating it like a vice to be avoided.
12. Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap
Directed by Marius Talampas
Irreverent but never irresponsible, Marius Talampas’ indiscriminately hilarious comedy transforms the truly unsavory world ruled by thugs and thieves into a treasure trove of endless gags where not a single characters comes out unscathed.– Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.