(The film is still by Sila Sila, kindly provided by Cinema One) 11. La Force-Sila (Equality)

Warden: Giancarlo Abrahan

There is something more than the proximity and veracity of Giancarlo Abrahan’s films that we cannot rely on. Maybe it’s the sincerity of the characters that draws us into their little worlds. Perhaps it is the created conflicts that seem natural and fair as the characters struggle to solve their problems, which at first glance seem petty and superficial, until they gradually fill themselves with meat. Maybe it’s the characters’ exuberant desire to find answers to their endless questions that everyone seems to get on all fours. Whatever it is, I’ll never know. What I know for sure is that Abraham knows the meaning of compassion. His understanding extends beyond all age groups, whether it be an old woman trying to find love and affection for her former lover, or an adult – perhaps 30 to 40 years old – whose love for his partner can no longer be as mutually beneficial as before the sparks of true love were extinguished somewhere along the way.

In Sila Sila (of which the English name is aptly translated by The Same People) we see documented fragments of reality in Gab’s life. He struggles to be the perfect friend, the perfect worker, the perfect lover and everything society expects of him. He makes mistakes and never forgets them. But what can he do? He was hurt, too. He was wounded and no matter how long he tried to erase the scars of his past, those scars will leave an indelible mark on his soul for the rest of his life. And the only option left is to continue. Sila-Sila tries to swim the waves of love and truth by immersing herself without warning in a relationship – whether with a partner, friends or Grindr. Like the characters, the film is raw, dirty and modest. After all, nothing has been decided yet, and that’s normal. Because that’s life, no matter how you look at it. Image from Viva movies

10. Ulan

Warden: Irene Emma Villamore

The Philippines consists of more than seven thousand islands (7,107 in detail). On each island, traditions, languages, behaviours, ideologies, etc. differ in their own way. This means that somehow someone can dig deep and find stories that are unknown even in other Asian countries. Magical realism is a literary style and a cinematic expression widely used in Filipino art because it has a bizarre effect on what is otherwise a glimmer of truth, on life. Irene Villamore, with her extensive cinematography, which depicts romance in various forms, is the ideal narrator to share the world of the Mayans – a woman who clings to the idea that rain is a curse and how she learned to love herself somewhere along the way.

The allegorical, ethereal and mystical story of Villamore, which has absorbed the myth of Tikbalang, the weight of forbidden love and the normality of superstition, is an avalanche of emotion and sincerity that speaks of the importance of literature, in whatever form, when it is done in self-love. History leaves indelible traces of knowledge, but gives the feeling of seeing a visualized version of the stories our grandparents told us as children, stories full of possibilities (which sometimes have no meaning), while our stories are drawn from the soul. The experience is strange, in the best sense of the word. Or maybe that’s a strange euphemism. It goes beyond the new level of strangeness that plunges you into the pain, tears and love that Maya has to carry on her shoulders. It is almost never noticed because Villamore treats his story and characters skilfully and subtly. We hurt and are hurt, we succeed and fail, we curse and accept, we build and destroy. And all out of love and free will. Without the love of fuel for our gas engines and the free will to create our own stories, we may have lost all humanity. And just like rain – a clear metaphor for hope and pain – we fall in many ways. Sometimes it drips. Sometimes there’s a storm. Instead of feeling indifferent, just kiss the rain. Photo of the QCinema International Film Festival

9. ICYMI: I can see myself.

Warden: Carlo Francisco Manatad

You should know that I am a fan of the music of MNL48. The Japanese influence since my childhood could be one of the reasons why I fell in love with the band. There’s something about the way they combine the bits and harmonies of J-Pop with Filipino lyrics, which makes you want to hear them over and over again. My knowledge of the group of Philippine idols is only limited by the fact that they are based on the Japanese group AKB48, that they were formed with the help of ABS-CBN It’s Showtime and that they are hated by many people without any concrete reason. Everything else is out of my hands. Without Carlo Francisco Manatada’s medium-length film – a socio-economic horror disguised as a women’s group documentary – I probably wouldn’t have known what the next man would be like until now. ICYMI: I See Me, beyond sharpness and motto, is a real survivor, where beyond her motto One Dream, One Tone, each girl is forced to compete with the others for a dose of the limelight, which is precisely contrary to the ideology that defines her group.

On a superficial level, the film allows us to observe the struggle and hard work that MNL48 has led to prove its worth to a society full of polarizing critics. Moreover, the film gives a clear picture of the group as formed by the producers: a product that will delight the new fandom idol. They obey a kind of caste system in which only those who stand out from the rest are allowed to taste the limelight, while those who work just as hard – but don’t look like the Japanese or the Patutisans – are pushed aside and replaced by a new generation of hopeless people who will also be subjected to this violence. It is clear that Manatad breaks the circle of fame and belongs to the women’s groups which ideally represent the fact that, despite the promise of a better life and a certain future, one has to endure the shame and the torment to which the women’s group committed itself from the beginning. And unlike the Battle Royale, this is their reality. Picture of Indian sales

8. Ang Hupa. (The Stop)

Warden: Dear Diaz

Wala nang kalululuwa ang ating bayan.

This is how Love Diaz created his modern final fantasy. Compared to last year in Berlin, this is the season of the devil. When you see a film by this slow-movie writer, nightmares come true. At the same time, the rhetoric behind the social and political madness with which Diaz shows the black-and-white image is whether the nightmarish future is a reflection of the same hellish present or not. At the time of President Rodrigo Duterte and the fictitious President Nirvano Navarra (Joel Lamangana), the country under the leadership of a psychopath is the embodiment of dystopia. Operation Black Rain is a war on drugs. The Dark Killer is a total murder. And the characters, ruled by fate, rely on survival as their only hope to escape the misfortune and terror that have struck our loved ones, from the rebellion to the innocent death.

Ang Hupa is the embodiment of what Dutherte avoids in all his calls to the nation. The film, which lasts almost five hours, reflects the future of the country with the present, in which the state is trapped in the cycle of bad politics. The rebellious rock star propaganda star manages to overthrow the president, but he is replaced by another tyrant. Whoever dares to refrain from politics in our society, remains silent and will remain silent. As with convulsions and crises, those who remain in conflict about which side they want to be on will forever be tormented by doubt and uncertainty. The victims will remain the prey of this world where dogs eat dogs. Death and war will remain. Storms and disasters continue. Tears and suffering will continue. The claws of darkness will remain. As for hope, it’s uncertain. Love remains true to his vision and will continue to make films with and for Filipinos. As long as no action is taken and no justice is done, his art will remain an endless and recurring series of unfortunate events. His voice will remain both strong and calm. His cinema will be long and tedious. It’s the sine of Diaz Love. Photo of the QCinema International Film Festival

7.  Cleaning company

Warden: Glenn Barite

There’s nothing new in the story of the cleaners. Nothing at all. We have seen how the property has been treated both locally and internationally, such as in Pisai Auraeus Solito and in the Year of Old Pupils Gerrold Tarog. They have managed to take their audience on a journey into the past. We see ourselves connected to one of the characters, because each of them conquers time in which hormones rage, in which identities are questioned, in which ideals are synthesized. And The Cleaners are no different from the movies mentioned. Everybody knows that. I’m sure Glenn Barit is. What Barit does is arouse nostalgia by playing with the uniform. Barit could just film the whole school experience through the director’s lens, showing each vignette as Pisay showed it, or a high school movie or any other school movie you can imagine.

But Barit-Sein, known for his ability to undermine viewers’ expectations when they watch the news and guide them in a playful way, uses over forty thousand photocopied frames that he colors with Stabilo markers (or any other marker he and his production team can buy in bookstores), and digitizes them, Then sew them together to create memories of young people portrayed by characters with obvious problems – from an obsession with demanding respect and love for the first time as a teacher in the classroom, to understanding corruption through the barrio politics that defined his final year in high school. Ode, evoked by the nostalgia of one of life’s most confusing but unforgettable moments: Cleaning is a miracle. And as long as there are miracles in this world, anything is possible. Photo by SHOWTIM

6. Creator of kings

Warden: Lauren Greenfield

In a time of false news and historical revisionism, the first thing Filipino society needs is to open its eyes, reveal the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In what appears to be the perfect complement to Ramone S. s 2003 documentary about the rise and fall of the Iron Butterfly in the Philippines, Lauren Greenfield, known for her award-winning documentary Queen of Versailles, paints a complex portrait of First Lady Imelda Marcos in The Creator of Kings, acknowledging the status she still has within the current government and Philippine society and never treating her like a woman eaten alive by illusion and deceit. The vanity and narcissism behind her words and behavior show her ability to give in to others in order to preserve the power she originally enjoyed through her husband.

She looked like one of Lorene Scafarias Hustlers’ wives, where she used her femininity to her advantage and the wealth and power she had left behind, with her children working as civil servants in the legislative branch of the national government, and how she had good relations with Rodrigo Duterte, especially during his presidential campaign in 2016. What sets her apart from the strippers who have drugged and cheated Wall Street dealers and CEOs to get as many credit cards as possible is that not only does she continue to flee the crimes she is accused of, but she also has a head start. Greenfield knows that as an unreliable narrator of the documentary, she has woven a web of lies, and that anyone who dares to listen to her whisper will surely fall into a trap she has sewn with difficulty. She uses these lies to investigate and verify the facts, using the testimonies of victims of martial law in the government apparatus and even of the Vice President of the Philippines herself, and comparing the perception with the truth. Eventually, you’re going to ask yourself the question: Why are we letting Imelda Marcos and her family escape punishment for their crimes? Because perception is real, but truth is not.


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