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My All Filipino First Five: Philippine Cinema 2017

For this listing, I recruited my three sons to help me form our Filipino First Five. To be frank, there may be Filipino films of merit we may not have watched last year, and the ones below are very personal choices. For us, these were the ones that knew what they wanted to say, and said it well. No gimmicky casting, no 'had something good to say, but didn't quite say it well'; or conversely, 'didn't really have much to say, but said it very well', and no just relying on cinematography to carry the film. Our acid test was how wrapped up we were watching these films, how effective was the storytelling; and how even when there were moments of plodding pacing or exposition, the vision and intent of the filmmakers overrode this faltering. So in no particular order, save for #1:


1. Patay Na Si Hesus - Self-contained black comedy that didn't aspire to be grander than what it is. Loved how the Bisaya added to the humor and ambiance; and how constantly, there were surprises being sprung - best of which, is a nun going stark naked!



2. Ang Larawan - Ambitious, literary & musical; all in one package. Production values of a high order, and a stunning performance from the under-appreciated Joanna Ampil. Loved how the original Nick Joaquin material stands the test of time in showcasing the best and worst of the Filipino.



3. Birdshot - Here's one that's strong in terms of mood & tone. It's a small story aching to reflect a bigger picture and succeeding in a manner that belies the material. The moments fraught with foreboding and tension are wonderfully executed. While the violence may be muted, the intent and message is loud and clear.



4. Deadma Walking - A wonderfully layered screenplay that touches on Friendship, Family & Identity in a manner that's deceptively simple. There are twists and turns that are unexpected, and throwaway lines that reverberate. The cameos are an added feature to enjoy, but they never overshadow the main storyline.



5. Respeto - The late Tom Petty once said that 'Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life... It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.' Respeto is the film that show how true this can be. Enough said for this one.



And if you’re into World Cinema, Asian in particular, do watch The Handmaiden, an erotic psychological thriller about con men and seducing women. It’s Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith, transported from Victorian England to Korea during Japanese colonial rule - from the Director of Old Boy.


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