2016 was indeed a very fruitful and exciting year for Filipino films. Bannering the harvest of thought provoking, genre-bending, audiovisually arresting, anger-inducing, and shooting without a warning collection of images that attempt their mighty to simulate a sort of real-life narratives, or at least an enveloping thematic discourse. We hope that we did not just make a sweeping description of the independent films. As we all have seen, having full control of your filmic material does not guarantee of turning up good work. As always, we are eagle eyed for the resurgence of mainstream fares the soonest time possible.
But what films do we consider best among the many features released last year? In some lazy yearender efforts – we see countless listmaking bonanzas of the best of local and international cinema splashed across social media platforms. This effort is no different to any of them. Subjective, and blatantly biased – yet there’s plenty of rooms to justify our choices with pride and candor.
Lem Lorca’s high octane gay comedy with a horror throwback demands emotions all too close to home
19. Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
Tight and solid storytelling coupled by splendid visuals and knockout performance by Ryza Cenon as an urban millennial who shifts to a folkloric monster when urged by anger and revenge.
18. Pamilya Ordinaryo
Edong Roy’s all familiar and ordinary peep-through to the lives of the marginalized and distraught juvenile couple looking for their stolen firstborn in the misfortune-frenzy open roads of Manila.
17. Ned’s Project
Lemuel Lorca’s idyllic dramedy about a lesbian tattoo artist who desires happiness and completion as a woman as she struggles desperately to become pregnant.
16. Manila Scream
Rox Lee, et. al’s brilliantly unswerving urban shoutout piece to social decay.
15. Simmer by Michael Manalastas
Intense, vivid, unapologetic piece on social injustices through the horrific images and sounds of extra-judicial killings.
14. Every Room is a Planet
Morose, but comically morose. Romantic, yet perfectly against the tides of genres, narrative limits, and conventions. Exemplary, even.
The most aurally-visual film of the year about the influx of evil incarnations under the guise a saviour. A very apt commentary on our current political state.
Keith Deligero deconstructs the legend of an urban monster with feminist ideals by placing the misogynist figure front and center of the narrative to challenge the myths of false dichotomies and gender politics.
Brilliantly executed short feature on extra judicial killings as a comedy of errors. Kelvin Vistan’s comedic sensibilities are prodigious.
Brillante Mendoza’s most solid and excruciatingly painful dramatic roundelay to date. Jaclyn Jose displayed one of the most memorable screen portrayals of her career.
9. Sunday Beauty Queen
A social realist documentary about the plight of our domestic workers in Hong Kong. More cinematic than most fictional features produced last year.
In less than 5 minutes, this animated feature tugs at your heartstrings with its completely rounded narrative and visual splendors about child abuse.
7. Pauwi Na
A perpetually entertaining but often painful feature about urban diaspora in reverse. Paolo Villaluna reclaims his royal indie seat. Powerful screenplay and heart-rending “dramedic” executions with European flair.
6. Ang Babaeng Humayo
Lav Diaz’s most accessible feature film to date. It is a point by point, fiber by fiber, with some tinges of melodrama and opera adaptation of Tolstoy’s most memorable literary piece.
5. People Power Bombshell
This documentary feature about an epic film gone kaput attempts to transfigure nonfictional filmmaking on its feet. God, did it succeed so splendidly! Crafted with meticulous eyes and heaps of passion and energy
4. Women of the Weeping River
What seems to be most powerful part of the film is how it open-ended the viciousness of tribal wars in the Mindanaoan forest with an agonizingly emotional stalemate, punctuating it further by revealing the much bigger picture: the endless horror of militarization and denudation. Laila Ulao is the next indie superstar!
3. Baboy Halas
Bagane Fiola’s almost entirely lyrical presentation of this chromatic masterpiece challenges our views and feelings on how we all should be concerned about the plight of our forests and the IPs.
Paolo Picones and Gym Lumbera’s hybrid docufiction (or observational fake fiction documentary) Piding is not named after what self-proclaimed crag experts would easily dismiss as one fictional highland. It is, after all, the local name given to the extremely rare species of birds initially found (and now believed to be extinct) on Calayan Islands situated between Batanes and Cagayan, which was the central subject/object of the Picones/Lumbera film. Naturally, the year’s most astonishing pageant of vivid images and thematic timeliness.
1. Singing in Graveyards
Often, we choose the film with the most original and refreshing take on the given subject as our Best Film. Directed and produced by one Malaysian Bradley Liew and co-written and produced by one Filipina Bianca Balbuena, SIG is a silent ode masterpiece about a music living legend who parodies his iconic self while portraying the semi-fictional role of an aging one-man cover band as he slowly and completely usurps the identity of the washed-up icon – likening the whole thing to a folkloric kapre.