The most anticipated of Philippine cinema this 2019
MANILA, Philippines – To loosely quote one of my favorite films last year, “let’s go back to the beginning, one more time.”
For those unaware, Philippine cinema is celebrating its centennial year this 2019. As one of the earliest countries in history to be introduced to movies — going as far back as the late 1890’s — it wasn’t long after that Filipinos began making films of their own, starting with Jose Nepomuceno’s Dalagang Bukid which premiered on September 12, 1919.
It’s quite fitting that a hundred years after, whether it’s a celebration intentional or not, the Philippine film industry is looking to have a booming year ahead of it. We are now seeing an upswing in terms of the number of new films being produced (In January alone, there is a Filipino film to be released every week). Studios are also either expanding or rebranding, with more new ones also being set up. And, in general, Philippine cinema is diversifying its genre palette to serve audience sensibilities of all sorts—from stoner comedies to dystopian sci-fi, to fantasy epics to arthouse horror.
Here are some of the projects, studios, and directors, we’re excited to see this year:
Black Sheep in your area!
Black Sheep is the newest brand of ABS-CBN Films. Having just been founded last 2018, the new studio delineates itself from the likes of its sister outfits Star Cinema and Cinema One Originals (which brand themselves as “family-oriented” and “edgier and arthouse,” respectively) by producing “fresh & fearless” films designed for the millennial market.
Last year, the studio hit the ground running with initial offerings like the much-awaited Carlo Aquino-Angelica Panganiban reunion rom-drama Exes Baggage, the critically-acclaimed magical realist corpse drama Oda sa Wala, and the Maja Salvador-Zanjoe Marudo vehicle To Love Some Buddy.
This 2019, Black Sheep is expanding their slate with an eclectic list of projects, such as:
Antoinette Jadaone’s Alone/Together. Rumored to be a spiritual sequel to the JaDine drama Never Not Love You, Jadaone is making it a habit of hers to take established cutesy love teams and wringing them through films with more nuanced and mature takes on love. This year, Jadaone has set her sights on hugely popular tandem of Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil (aka LizQuen). The film is set to be released this February 2019.
The period horror film Clarita starring Jodi Sta Maria. The film is reportedly based on the true story of the 1953 exorcism of Clarita Villanueva.
The coming-of-age sci-fi and Cinemalaya 2019 entry, ANI: The Harvest. Imagining the Philippines in the year 2050, the film tells the story of an orphaned boy, along with his malfunctioning robot, on a quest to save his ill grandfather’s life.
The Last Fool Show, directed by Eduardo Roy Jr. and starring Arci Munoz and JM de Guzman. The Last Fool Show is said to be about an arthouse director that gets recruited by a mainstream studio to do a rom-com. The film seems to be taking a meta-route as this will be director Eduardo Roy Jr.’s first studio romance, after Cinemalaya neorealist favorites Pamilyo Ordinaryo and Quick Change.
The internationally co-produced thriller, Motel Acacia, starring JC Santos and Agot Isidro.
Mikhail Red is having a field day this year!
Making his directorial debut back in 2013 with the Cinemalaya feature Rekorder, Red laid low for a bit before bursting onto the scene with back-to-back features in 2017: the Filipino “western” Birdshot—which became the Philippines’ entry to the Oscars that year—and the Manila-set neo-noir, Neomanila.
This March 2019, Neomanila will finally be having its wide theatrical release alongside the Philippine premiere of Red’s other film, the Catholic school horror-mystery Eerie.
Beyond that, Red’s other forthcoming projects include: Block Z, a zombie-thriller starring Julia Barreto and Joshua Garcia set for release this December 2019; Dead Kids, an abduction-thriller about “a group of high school misfits planning an elaborate kidnap-for-ransom plot targeting their school’s alpha jock who is also the son of a wealthy narco-politician”; an untitled mini-series in the works; and the Magic Temple remake for Star Cinema.
Now, we may not be sure if all these are to be released this year, but we’re surely going to hear more about Red’s projects in the months to come.
Mike de Leon’s 1981 psychological thriller Kisapmata has long been hailed as the reclusive director’s magnum opus.
Though long request by fans that the film be given the digital restoration treatment like what has been done on other Philippine cinema classics such as Himala; Oro, Plata, Mata; Batch ‘81; Ganito Kami Noon...Paano na Kaya Ngayon?, etc., problems with the film’s original negatives hindered any developments on its restoration... until recently.
Last November 2018, it was announced that Kisapmata is finally being remastered at the L'Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy, and will be distributed by Solar Pictures — the same teams that handled the topnotch restoration and re-release of De Leon’s other classic, Batch ‘81, last 2017.
ABS-CBN is pouring heavily into building its own streaming service through the newly-rebranded iWant.
iWant made sure to put itself on the map after the successes of its first batch of iWant Originals. There’s the patiently unnerving horror which tackles themes on femininity and motherhood, Ma, and the May-December viral hit that launched Tony Labrusca’s popularity amongst titas to the stratosphere, Glorious.
This year, some announced projects of iWant include: the Mork and Mindy-esque rom-com series starring Pepe Herrera and Arci Munoz called Jhon en Martian; the psycho-thriller Project Feb 14 starring JC Santos, Jane Oineza, and McCoy de Leon; Ang Babae sa Septic Tank 3, which features once more a fictionalized version of Eugene Domingo, this time trying to direct a film about Josephine Bracken; and more.
The streaming service will also be growing its library of Cinema One Originals films, ABS-CBN Film Restoration Project classics, and other films from studios like Star Cinema, Viva, Regal, and Seiko. Best of all, many of these offerings can be viewed for free.
Erik Matti might just be the most prolific Filipino director working this 2019.
With Star Cinema’s Darna out of the way, Matti via Reality Entertainment—the studio he co-owns with Dondon Monteverde—just announced that he will be helming four movies, all to be released in the coming months.
There’s the horror flick Kwaresma with Sharon Cuneta, The Passover with Judy Ann Santos, Keepers with Jennylyn Mercado, and the long-awaited sequel On The Job 2 with Dennis Trillo, John Arcilla, and Annicka Dolonius.
2018 saw a resurgence of Filipino comedies. Best of them were the world-building mockumentary satire Asuang, which showed deities openly living in the present-day as celebrities, and that one god of sin who seeks to rebrand himself as a social media influencer; as well as Ang Pangarap Kong Holdap, which raised the comical logistics of what it takes to pull off a heist in the Philippines.
Other comedies last year that evoked the Pinoy humor of yore (to varying degrees of success) include Miko Livelo’s Unli-Life, Victor Villanueva’s Kusina Kings, Rod Singh’s Mamu; and a Mother too, and Jay Abello’s Pinay Beauty.
This 2019, this trend shows no signs of stopping. Reality Entertainment has ‘Tol, with director Miko Livelo. ‘Tol is about a group of best friends (Joross Gamboa, Ketchup Eusebio, Arjo Atayde) who work as toll booth operators and the one woman who gets in between them (Jessy Mendiola).
There’s also Mina-Anud, Kerwin Go’s directorial debut which serves as another entry in the crime comedy genre. Mina-Anud stars Dennis Trillo, Anthony Falcon, and Jerald Napoles as surfers who become drug dealers after coming across three tons of cocaine on the shores of a beach town in Samar.
Lastly, also from Reality Entertainment, there’s an untitled comedy in development directed by Baka Siguro Yata’s Joel Ferrer.
If there’s any filmmaker who owned 2018, it’s Dwein Baltazar.
The two films she wrote and directed, the previously mentioned Oda sa Wala and the “There’s Something About Mary but surreal and set in Quiapo” Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus, were the cause of many cinephiles debates towards the end of the year. The question: which film was best and which was the second best of 2018? (Not an exaggeration, a simple Google search will lead you to multiple “best of 2018” lists citing the films, even Rappler film critic Oggs Cruz included both in his.)
This 2019, Dwein is setting her eyes elsewhere. Venturing into the world of online series, she’s got three planned on different streaming services. That, and possibly, another movie along the way.
UP Film Institute’s Pelikula Lektura
To celebrate Filipino film’s centennial, the UP Film Institute will be holding lectures every month of the year this 2019. Each session will zoom in on key events or phenomena that shaped the film industry in the last hundred years.
But wait there’s more! All lectures are free and will be lead by the foremost scholars, critics, and artists on the UPFI’s faculty roster.
Last year, Epicmedia brought out a slew of critical darlings with films like the aforementioned Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus and Oda sa Wala, Lav Diaz’s martial law rock opera Ang Panahon ng Halimaw, and the Kenneth Dagatan-directed horror Ma (which again, you could stream on iWant).
This 2019, Epicmedia's line-up includes:
The surfer crime comedy Mina-Anud;
Director Dodo Dayao’s sophomore feature, the still-untitled “Project: Midnight.” Dayao’s follow-up to 2013’s critically-acclaimed demonic horror Violator, the film stars Jasmine Curtis and Glaiza de Castro and is set in the almost-utopian Manila of the future, where mysterious blackouts begin occurring.
The internationally co-produced Motel Acacia, directed by Bradley Liew. With a diverse cast assembled from countries like Thailand, Belgium, Malaysia, and the Philippines, the film deals with immigrants being exterminated by the government via a motel's man-eating bed (Audrey III, is that you?). The film stars JC Santos and Agot Isidro.
Hopefully, 2019 will also see Epicmedia finally releasing the Filipino horror anthology series Doors locally. The show, which premiered on the Malaysian channel Astro Boo Originals last year, featured 13 episodes of terror directed by the likes of Dodo Dayao, Jade Castro, Pepe Diokno, Lawrence Fajardo, Bradley Liew, Victor Villanueva, and Sherad Sanchez.
Last year, VIVA surprised audiences by playing things outside their comfort zone with their series of romances that went beyond the cutesy narratives and the empty hugots—Irene Villamor’s Meet Me at St. Gallen and Sid & Aya, and Antoinette Jadaone’s Never Not Love You. VIVA also had the widely-successful local remake of Miss Granny starring Sarah Geronimo, and the frenetic action-thriller BuyBust.
Here’s hoping VIVA has more to it this year than the promising Irene Villamor-directed, Nadine Lustre and Carlo Aquino romance Ulan (which looks to be delving a bit into the realm of the supernatural).
Anticipating Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals Film Festival, and QCinema is pretty much expected every year. The growing number of smaller festivals in the country though have brought in some stellar films last 2018 like Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus in CineFilipino, Signal Rock during The Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, and Tanabata’s Wife from the ToFarm Festival.
At this point, it’s still way too early to know the specifics of most of the festivals’ selections (only Cinemalaya has released theirs), but rest assured, we’re keeping our eyes peeled! — Rappler.com