Filipino movies

DaangDokyu watchlist: Soul-searching in the time of quarantine

Paolo Bitanga
DaangDokyu watchlist: Soul-searching in the time of quarantine
To help guide you on your documentary soul-searching, we’ve curated a list of 10 titles to feed your quarter-life identity crisis

Have you ever looked at your “recently watched” on Netflix and asked yourself, “who is this person?” Between The Godfather Part II and Crash Landing On YouMindhunter and My Hero Academia, Netflix’s algorithm is going nuts trying to figure you out.

Luckily, October presents a break from Netflix and an opportunity to find ourselves within the vast spectrum of Philippine cinema. After much anticipation and delay, DaangDokyu is finally here to bring you a hundred years’ worth of exceptional Filipino documentaries. 

The festival runs online throughout the entire month, with a different set of titles playing each week. To help guide you on your documentary soul-searching, we’ve curated a list of 10 titles to feed your quarter-life identity crisis:

Pagbabalik Sa Tribo (1999)

Dir. Howie Severino
Streaming October 2-8

To know who we are, we must first know where we came from. That is the essence of journalist Howie Severino’s postmodern piece.

As he documents filmmaker Auraeus Solito’s rediscovery of his tribal Palawan roots, Severino, who grew up in America, must himself undergo his own journey into Filipino identity.

Yanan (2013)

Dir. Mae Caralde
Streaming October 9-15

On the same notion of legacy, this intriguing hour-long documentary explores the meaning of legacy itself. 

Following the death of Ka Yanan, a member of the revolutionary armed movement, filmmaker Mae Caralde documents Yanan’s young children as they dig into their late mother’s secret letters and recordings, and see a side to her that they had never before seen.

Queer Transnational Love in the Time of Social Media and Globalization (2017)

Dir. Adrian Alarilla
Streaming October 9-15

This almost experimental Filipino-American vignette is a meditation on modern sexuality. Using found footage and personal photos, director Adrian Alarilla interweaves sociology and autobiography as he recalls the pains and trials of ending a toxic relationship.

All Grown Up (2018)

Dir. Wena Sanchez
Streaming October 16-22

All Grown Up tackles the struggle of caring for a family member with special needs while also helping them grow into their own. 

Composed mainly of home videos, the profoundly personal documentary follows filmmaker Wena Sanchez. She helps her brother Justin – who has been diagnosed with ADHD and ODD – settle, having moved away from home for college. 

Feelings compound and anxieties come to the fore as Wena begins to question her ability to care for loved ones, not just with Justin but also her daughter – who, while shooting the film, she discovers is starting to exhibit symptoms similar to her brother.

Invisible (2019)

Streaming October 16-22

Mental illness is still a touchy subject in modern Filipino society. How is it possible that 3.3 million Filipinos afflicted with this “invisible” sickness are made to feel so alone in their struggles? 

This ABS-CBN documentary strives to shed light on the subject and destigmatize the topic so we may all progress towards resolving this long-standing issue.

Documented (2013)

Dir. Jose Antonio Vargas
Streaming October 16-19

We all know that in this highly politicized age, policy plays a huge role in adult identity-formation. Those who find themselves pondering the meaning of citizenship look no further than CNN Films’ groundbreaking autobiography on Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and undocumented American immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas.

Walang Rape sa Bontok (2014)

Dir. Mark Lester Valle, Carla Pulido Ocampo, Prod. GMA Network
Streaming October 23-29

Walang Rape sa Bontok begins with a conversation with writer Carla Ocampo and research assistant Andy Magas, both rape survivors. The film follows their journey as they verify studies about how the Bontok community of the Cordilleras has existed for eras without “a term, nor concept, nor incidence, of rape.” 

With regular debates on rape culture and its roots in the patriarchy and – at least in the Philippines – colonialism, this anthropological documentary dares to question “who is the true savage?”

For My Alien Friend (2019)

Dir. Jet Leyco
Streaming October 30-November 5

To be, or not to be? No quarter-life binge list is complete without existential philosophy. 

Dubbed as a “documentary of brief encounters,” Jet Leyco’s avant-garde feature uses the mundane – from home videos to more experimental imagery – as a backdrop ontological meditation. 

Its whole concept is to depict humanity with objectivity, via the narrative device of telling the titular “alien friend” our story.

We Still Have to Close Our Eyes (2019)

Dir. John Torres
Streaming October 30-November 5

As the festival itself suggests, the past century’s cinematic revolution has become integral to the formation of Filipino culture and identity.

This postmodern feat of editing takes behind-the-scenes footage from modern film sets (including those of Lav Diaz and Erik Matti). It interweaves them into a coherent narrative that symbolizes mankind’s subordination to technocratic fascism.

Retrochronological Transfer of Information (1994)

Dir. Tad Ermitaño
Streaming October 30-November 5

We end this colorful list by revisiting our history. This curious, experimental short film documents the attempts of a modern-day scientist trying to communicate with none other than national hero Jose P. Rizal. How’s that for soul-searching.

Within the documentary medium, we see a whole spectrum of perspectives on modern Filipino identity. From the emotional to the experimental, absurd to educational, these are the facets of Filipino cinematic culture, one hundred years in the making.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so ashamed, after all, to see where our Netflix queues have taken us. 

But now is as good a time as ever to step outside of Netflix and rediscover the films that made us who we are today.

With reports from Tristan Zinampan/