Philippine Cinema: A Decade of Favorite Films

“The abuse of the term is, quite frankly, the same as the abuse of any other catch-phrase or catch-term — like postmodernism, how it becomes a blanket term to equate something that isn’t always there and how some people might use it to up cred and how it tends to mold the output into something generic and safe and often predictable — remember how all the alternative music of the 90s started to get ubiquitous and sound the same and therefore was not alternative anymore? But then again, taste is relative. And it’s always been this way. People have a tendency for hivethink. It’s really less “indie = quality” and more “indie = different,” which isn’t absolutely true but it’s truer than the former and simpler to digest.”

Despite the pitfalls and shortcomings, Philippine cinema had much to celebrate during the past decade. “Indie” became a catchphrase during the early 00s and eventually became a standard fare in the Philippine cinema circuit. Early on, it was only used when films of directors such as Lav Diaz, Khavn and Raymond Red were mentioned. It meant an alternative to the usual commercial releases that huge moviehouses churned out just so we can resuscitate the dying film industry. But eventually, the term was bogged down and robbed of its meaning.

The 90s were mostly dominated by these small soft-core porn flicks which had titles like Talong, Itlog, and Tikim, until they were eventually swept out by their own ludicrousness. The noughties had the same fickle, only a different variant because they are labled as “arthouse flicks” or “indie.”  It was fairly amusing at first but most of these bouts of exploitation did nothing but reinforce stereotypes.

Film festivals such as Cinemalaya, Cinema One Originals, and Cinemanila stood as the respirators that survived the independent filmmaking industry during the decade. Seed money was granted to finalists who went on to make their feature films based solely on a script. These film festivals, however dubious their machineries may seem, have produced some of the most memorable films of the decade.

By the end of the decade, all hope for mainstream cinema has been eradicated by the Metro Manila Film Festival and other local commercial fare. With the exception of rare gems such as Kimmy Dora, it seems that commercial films are consigned to rapid combustion propelled by nothing but stellar power. Sure, these big moviehouses have commissioned brilliant filmmakers to direct their films but when there’s nothing to salvage, it’ll all crumble down (see First Day High, directed by the filmmakers of Big Time). Also, tragic news struck the Philippine film industry when its most ardent supporter, film critic Alexis Tioseco, was murdered, along with his girlfriend Nika Bohinc, also a film critic.

On the other side of the lens, however, Brillante Mendoza and young filmmakers such as Raya Martin and Pepe Diokno outweigh these predicted uncertainties. Putting Philippine Films in the international radar, we can only hope that these tidings would mean the long awaited reinvigoration of our beloved film industry.

Now that we’re done with the best films of the decade list, as promised, Pelikula presents some of the most memorable Filipino films of the past decade. This list is not meant to highlight the best films released during 00-09; these picks are personal favorites and were not voted by everyone in Pelikula for the list. The problems of availability and distribution of the films are some of the things that we considered while making this list. Most of these films were shown in film festivals which were held in Metro Manila only. Distance and budgetary constraints aside, there is no way that all of us could have attended these film fests. With this, we agreed to nominate some of our favorite Pinoy films and write about them.

We hope you enjoy the list as much as we did making it. Don Jaucian