Pixelated Popcorn's Top 12 Filipino Films of 2009

12. Padyak

Director: Aloy Adlawan (Signos, Condo)

Starring: Jay Aquitania, Baron Geisler, Hazel Ann Mendoza, Rita Avila, Irma Adlawan

Padyak explores the mysteries of life and man’s interconnectedness with each other. It is an ode to the circle of life as it bursts with philosophical anecdotes and personal reflections. Aside from the compelling Palanca award-winning script and peculiar narrative structure, the tour-de-force performance from the excellent cast makes this an engrossing mantra to life.

Read the full review here.

11. Last Supper No. 3

Director: Veronica Velasco (Maling Akala, Inang Yaya)

Starring: Joey Paras, Jojit Lorenzo, Beverly Salviejo, JM De Guzman

This Cinemalaya Best Film makes fun of the legal nightmare that is the Philippine judicial system. It’s a boring premise, but because the directors know very well not to take the topic too seriously, they veered away from the tendencies to preach about red tape and bureaucracy, The result? A courthouse comedy that is satirical and socially relevant.

Read the full review here.

10. Himpapawid (Manila Skies)

Director: Raymond Red (Anino)

Starring: Raul Arellano, John Arcilla, Soliman Cruz, Raul Morit, Karlo Altomonte

If you know the true-to-life story that inspired the screenplay, then you already know the fate of our deranged protagonist. But there’s more to the ending than knowing Raul’s fate, Red weaves an intricate story that comes in full circle at the end. Himpapawid does not make excuses for the wrongdoings of Raul. The film doesn’t even demand that we understand him. Because he is not a victim, he had a choice. And so, karma rears its ugly head and he is brought to his final destination.

Read the full review here.

9. Bakal Boys (Children Metal Divers)

Director: Ralston Jover (the writer behind Kubrador and Foster Child)

Starring: Gina Pareño, Jess Evardone, Cherry Malvar, Simon Ibarra

It comes as a surprise that a movie about Baseco children who scavenge scrap metals would end up in my Top 12. I’m not a fan of films that peddle the country’s poverty, but Bakal Boys has a quaint quality that is hard to resist. In its most glorious, the film finds joy in childhood as the murky waters of Manila Bay is transformed into their playground. This realistic docudrama does not make a fuss about child labor or poverty, instead it gives us a glimpse of the innocence of childhood set against a harsh and apathetic society.

8. Engkwentro (Clash)

Director: Pepe Diokno (debut)

Starring: Felix Roco, Daniel Medrana, Zyrus Desamparado, Eda Nolan

Engkwentro walks us through the labyrinth of dingy alleys and shanty houses overpopulated by slum dwellers. We pose as voyeurs as the camera individually follows the exploits of the characters in what seem like a single, continuous take. The inexorable conclusion, punctuated by searing brutality, will shock you. You won’t believe that what you just saw are events lifted from actual news headlines. It will leave you with a dreadful feeling that is difficult to shake off.

Read the full review here.

7. Wanted: Border

Director: Ray Gibraltar (When Timawa Meets Delgado)

Starring: Rosanna Roces

Gibraltar has a knack for non-linear storytelling (read: the narrative is not in chronological order), cutting to different time frames and segueing to different characters. Initially, it seems as if we are presented with random characters set in a hodgepodge of trivial and nonsensical circumstances. Although it isn’t easy to make sense of his message, it isn’t hard to appreciate the film’s dark fantasy. He confidently showcases his bravura in creating a grotesque world reeking of drabness and madness. Wanted: Border is an entertaining and thought-provoking experimental project that will keep you optimistic about Philippine alternative cinema.

Read the full review here.

6. Kimmy Dora

Director: Joyce Bernal (Booba, Don’t Give Up On Us)

Starring: Eugene Domingo, Dingdong Dantes, Zanjoe Marudo, Miriam Quiambao, Baron Geisler

In a time when good Pinoy comedies are of a dying breed, we are reminded that there is still hope. Trading in the bad habits of TVJ and Dolphy movies with snappy witticisms and sheer outrageousness, here comes a comedy that’s actually funny. Thanks to Chris Martinez’s script and Eugene Domingo’s comedic rhythm. Eugene can switch from naïve Dora to fierce Kimmy in a bat of an eyelash, but she does it best when she fused these quirky characters together. Give her a follow-up movie, now na!

Read the full review here.

5. Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe (The Rapture of Fe)

Director: Alvin Yapan (Huling Pasada)

Starring: Irma Adlawan, Nonie Buencamino, TJ Trinidad

The film’s strongest tool in its arsenal is the screenplay. The well-researched story is rich in cultural authenticity and social relevance. Yapan mans the camera with an artistic vision manifested in every frame and every angle. His shots linger, but not to the point of static cinematography. His close-ups suggest subdued intimacy to his subjects whether living or inanimate. The use of repeated scenes and overlapping sequences coupled with the trance-like quality of the shots are effective in confusing viewers as to which scenes are imagined and which are real. This tale tackles domestic abuse and romanticizes Pinoy folklore. It is relevant, original, and stunning.

Read the full review here.

4. Kinatay (Butchered / The Execution of P)

Director: Brillante Mendoza (Foster Child, Serbis)

Starring: Coco Martin, Maria Isabelo Lopez, Jhong Hilario, John Regala, Julio Diaz

Kinatay treads the path of grayscale morality. At a time when horrendous crimes are staples in the news, the corruption of people’s mores is like a plague that offers a future of no redemption. It is a difficult film to watch not only because of the despicable subject matter but also because of the torturous signature style of Mendoza – the unsteady camerawork, the foreboding darkness, and the occasional lull. But this film is not just a film, but an experience in itself. He invites us to walk in his character’s shoes, face the horror, and make some incredibly tough choices. That makes Kinatay exceptional. It is an effective thriller that not only portrays societal realities, but imparts an unforgettable experience that will haunt you like a nightmare you can’t wake up from.

Read the full review here.

3. Jay

Director: Francis Xavier Pasion (debut)

Starring: Baron Geisler, Flor Salanga, Coco Martin

Jay is an interesting depiction of the way manipulative journalists distort the truth to ring in the ratings. Not only does Pasion mock the so-called reality TV, he also scoffs at the willing accomplices – reality TV ‘stars’ who would do anything for their 15 minutes of fame. Welcome to the Philippines, the nation of the showbiz-obsessed Juan dela Cruz. Jay is sarcastic, humorous, and razor-sharp.

2. Dinig Sana Kita (If I Knew What You Said)

Director: Mike Sandejas (Tulad ng Dati)

Starring: Romalito Mallari, Zoe Sandejas

The last three films may hold more weight than this Cinemalaya Audience Choice awardee – both thematically and stylistically, but a personal favorite will always be a personal favorite. No other Filipino film in 2009 touched me like Dinig Sana Kita did. In a little over 80 minutes, it made me cry, laugh hard, and cry harder. The film could have been easily turned into yet another cheesy love story, but we’re lucky that Star Cinema and GMA Films were not involved with the production. Sensible romantic films are a rarity in this country and I’m glad that Sandejas made this.

Read the full review here.

1. Yanggaw (Affliction)

Director: Richard Somes (debut)

Starring: Ronnie Lazaro, Tetchie Agbayani, Aleera Montalla, Joel Torre

The mainstream film industry produces only two kinds of movies – romance and horror. Both are formulaic and uninspired. The latter shamelessly copying the elements of J-Horror, while adapting the schlock of Shake, Rattle, and Roll. It’s a messy combination and I bet no one is amused. But when something as original as Yanggaw comes out, fans of the genre are left in awe by the masterwork behind it. Somes knows the fundamentals of horror. Cheap scare tactics will not get you far. Investing in characters that moviegoers care about spells the difference. More than a horror film, Yanggaw is a family drama about a father who would do everything to protect his kin. If Jason Ivler is an aswang, this would have been his story.


Victor Gregor said...

I think that, considering February is finally here, it is time for me to see Dinig Sana Kita. LOL.

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

I hope it comes out on DVD soon. It's a touching film that I can recommend to everyone.

Anonymous said...

Great reviews and nice taste for movies. I haven't seen all the movies on your list yet but looking forward to seeing all of them soon. I should say "Dinig Sana Kita" is also one of my favorite local films of last year. :)

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

Thank you. Cinemalaya keeps on producing the best Pinoy indie films. I can't wait for this year's festival. I'm curious about the Open Category. Seasoned directors like Mario O' Hara and Mark Meily will be given a financial grant to direct their own indie films.

Louie said...

This year was pretty awesome for Philippine cinema, I like your list. Engkwentro and Kinatay are personal favorites, despite being rather brutally honest portrayals. :)

I personally thought Mangantyanan and La Independencia were pretty solid and I'm surprised they didn't make your list. :P

Anonymous said...

great article. I would love to follow you on twitter.

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

@Louie 2009 is indeed a banner year for Philippine cinema. Mendoza won at Cannes. Cinemalaya produced a number of great films. And an indie film like Kimmy Dora broke box office records. The future looks bright for 2010. I saw both films. I like Independencia. You can read my review in this site, but I didn't like it as much as everyone else. It's a bit too arduous to sit through for me. Meanwhile, I found Mangatyanan a bit weak compared to the other films in Cinemalaya. To each his own. = )

@Anon Please do. It's www.twitter.com/fidel_antonio.

JonathanAquino said...

Sana dumami pa yung mga Filipino bloggers who celebrate their rich cultural heritage. Mabuhay u!

Fidel Antonio Medel said...

Hey Jonathan. Thanks for dropping by.


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