Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Philippine Cinema

John Torres' Ang Ninanais

2010: Highlights in Film

The year 2010, much more than anything, exposed the many faults of the so-called Philippine cinema that have gone unnoticed because of the deafening attention, whether good or bad, foreigners are giving individual films that showed prominently in major international film festivals like Cannes and Venice the year before. Given that there was hardly any Filipino-made film that made waves abroad this year; it certainly felt like the world has grown tired of the country’s poverty and other problems. Yet most filmmakers, starving for international attention which is not unexpected since that kind of attention is the only attention that will assure a lifetime of making films, adhere to formula: slums, social relevance, day-in-the-life, and guilt-ridding.

This year’s edition of Cinemalaya, perhaps the country’s most prominent producer of films targeted for international screening, is underwhelming not because of the poor quality of the films, but because only a few of the films showed any authorial voice. It seems that in its quest for films and filmmakers that could make it big in the international scene, it mutated into a manufacturing plant that produces films of the exact same feel and intent instead of a community that fosters independent creativity. In other words, this year’s edition of Cinemalaya, as compared to last year’s, felt like penance. The film’s that stood out are the ones that didn’t feel like they belonged to the selection: Mario O’Hara’s Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (The Trial of Andres Bonifacio), which features the veteran director struggling with the digital medium but nevertheless coming up with a masterpiece whose audaciousness cannot be belittled, Teng Mangansakan’s Limbunan (Bridal Quarter), a flawed yet gorgeous gem of a film that quietly observes a woman submit herself to tradition, Dennis Marasigan’s Vox Populi, a confidently helmed document of the birth of evil in politics.

CinemaOne, on the other hand, had films that were heavy on authorial voice but are either confused or lacked in technical proficiency. The clear masterpiece of the bunch is Remton Zuasola’s Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria (The Dream of Eleuteria), a very human portrait of a woman about to leave her home town and her dreams to fulfill the dreams of her family.

Thus, the Philippines’ best films mostly came from filmmakers who made their films independent of Cinemalaya or CinemaOne. Khavn dela Cruz, who finally finished the surprisingly exquisitely crafted Mondomanila, a project that has been brewing for more than a decade, also produced and directed Cameroon Love Letter (for Solo Piano) and Son of God, two films of different natures and intentions but reflected a filmmaker who is very certain of his voice. Monster Jimenez’s Kano: An American and his Harem, another project that has seen many years in production, is miraculous simply for portraying a pervert with such humanity. Jerrold Tarog’s Senior Year is entertaining, endearing, and utterly poignant for its reflection on how the promise of our youth seems so distant in our disappointing adulthood.

Perhaps the most surprising Filipino films of the year came from the unabashed churner of fragrant garbage, Star Cinema. My Amnesia Girl showed Cathy Garcia-Molina mastering the art (yes, art) of creating fluff. RPG Metanoia showed how Filipino animators, given proper attention and motivation, can create something that can be at par if not outdo their counterparts in Hollywood. Sa’yo Lamang showed Laurice Guillen creating a family melodrama that is pious but sinful, formulaic but refreshing.

If there’s anything that 2010 should remind us, it is that international appeal, while always welcome especially in the free promotion it gives locally-produced cinema to viewers in the Philippines, is not the only barometer of quality. It should never be the basis as to why one watches or makes films. Reality is becoming overrated, and filmmakers, much more than mere tellers of stories should start learning to become makers of stories, whether these stories are taken from real-life experiences or not. If one is to learn from David Fincher's The Social Network, arguably the most successful American film from 2010, truth is not the most cinematic element of true stories, it is usually what independent imagination can come up with that truth.

Now, to the list:

Top 15 Filipino Films of 2010

2) Ang Ninanais (Refrains Happen Like Revolutions in a Song, John Torres)
5) Mondomanila (Khavn dela Cruz)


Epoy Deyto said...

I only saw 5/15 of the list. 3 being a khavn' not-a-film. I'll do better next year. haha

Skilty said...

Hi Oggs, I made a compilation of lists of 2010 top Pinoy films and I included yours. I posted it in our blog here:

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks! Great compilation by the way!