Granted that Filipino indie films can now easily sneak into the mainstream, several films this year got recognition whether in the local box office or in the international arena. Still, that won’ an assurance to be our entry at the Academy Awards. As we get closer to the Oscars season, the country is under pressure to submit our official entry and just like Miss Universe the entire film society is throwing bets on which film will it be.
With the days passing, Film Academy of the Philippines accredited by the AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) authenticates 9 films that will undergo their screening process.
Hence, this is the perfect time to examine which film highlights most of our chances in finally bringing home that elusive golden statue. In the meantime, let’s see who is at top speed unlike anything else in this year’s competition.
Ma’Rosa (Brilliante Mendoza)
Thirsty for the Academy’s recognition, Mendoza is back with a bracing approach to poverty porn drama that takes the docu-film style. Fresh from Palm d’Or at 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Ma’ Rosa whisks the critics’ world when Best Actress Jaclyn Jose plays an impoverished mother detained by cops for selling illegal drugs. This may be an offbeat movie wrapped with so much drabness but it nevertheless gives me the exigency linked to the reality that our country faces. I won’t waste my time going into the extra details of how the film looks like because in the end, a stick of fish ball is enough to justify the isolation of the characters from the outside world and for the jurors to dig this film.
Honor Thy Father (Erik Matti)
Honor Thy Father sets one of the biggest scandals in the Metro Manila Film Festival – it got disqualified to compete for the Best Picture category several days before the awards night. This film leaves one of the most memorable memoirs in the entirety of Philippine Cinema just like the depth of characterization Edgar has – his ability to fight for his family speaks in a loud volume. There is no way to make this definition so exhilarating, but I swear the film is worth watching.
Pamilya Ordinaryo (Eduardo Roy Jr.)
Ordinaryo continues to dominate headlines as it moves to Venice Film Festival after its nationwide screening in the Philippines. Aside from being one of my favorites in Cinemalaya this year, this film portrays the life of teenage parents in the streets of Manila. It is so provocative and realistic that it is getting so much traction from the people as soon as Jane and Aries’ baby Arjan gets kidnapped. The baby is no longer to be found but there’s this gossip that ‘Arjan’ is just waiting at the Kodak Theater.
Tuos (Derick Cabrido)
With so much enchantment, Tuos excels at passing on the sense of death of ancient culture. As a fan of myths and epics, I would say that this majestic film is a standout. Set in the mountains of Panay, the film revolves around two village women; Pina-ilog a binukot and Dowokan her granddaughter who is set to take the responsibility to keep the pact going. If the Academy is looking for something new under this category then this film will bring it. Perfected in Cabrido’s ‘magic realism’ style of filmmaking and constructing a wordless finale in which understanding goes with the viewer, is a delight to see.
Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (Lav Diaz)
Hele is a stunning 485-minute black and white film that stretches from the missing chapters of Philippine History and Mythology. The film garnered praises from Berlin International Festival as it nabs the Silver Bear: Alfred Bauer Prize. Then again, this magnum opus truly passes the test of perseverance as you have to bear Diaz’ style of getting lost in its celestial secrecy. Aside from its historical plot, the Academy will surely be lost in time.
Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (Jun Lana)
Getting most of the affirmative feedback from the critics, Anino confirms that there’s nothing quite like this film from the previous’ years. Sweeping four major awards in Pacific Meridian International Film Festival, the film is almost clearing their way towards more international festivals. What is unforgettable is the merciless setting that provides a solid splendor to the whole plot which also works as a radio drama if you choose to close your eyes.
Felix Manalo (Joel Lamangan)
If we leave the decision to INC’s followers then Felix Manalo will earn our first Academy recognition but it won’t be simple as that. I give rightful credits to the whole production as it was able to deliver the sophistication yet the film still ends a bit blunt and half cooked. Looking at the Academy’s timeline, biopics rarely gets recognition under the foreign film category. Sending this film to school for literary or historical criticism is a good move, however, sending it to the Academy won’t get any chances at all.
Dukot (Paul Soriano)
Dukot is based on true events but it doesn’t look realistic at all or this is just a segue to ‘Ma’Rosa.’ Both films are almost playing on the same ground except the later is able to expand its story. There are brave tactics as to how ‘Dukot’ is made; one is the maturity of Paul Soriano, this I think is one of the best. But this is a little way too far in getting the coveted statue because they probably won’t be able to look for enough money to meet the ransom request.
Hermano Puli (Gil Portes)
This is the weakest film from Gil Portes! Looking at his filmography, Portes is the sole director to have three films submitted to the Academy for competition. Saranggola almost made it to the final cut while Mga Muntig Tinig and Gatas sa Dibdib ng Kaaway are both strong films readily made for battle but we lost. Who is Hermano Puli to a foreign jury? I think this will follow the tracks of Heneral Luna – it won’t survive the situation.
Which film has the movie-making spirit worthy of Academy acclaim? Are we sending something straightforward that mirrors the nation as whole or will they be clapping their hands to a biopic film? The flat-out mystery why we are still not getting any Academy nod bothers me.