5 Best Filipino Films of 2019

by Matthew Escosia
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Philippine cinema seems to not have the best time this 2019. Throughout the previous months, we were treated with departures of film icons (Eddie Garcia, Mona Lisa), halting of tax exemptions for local films by the government, and a slew of really questionable decisions surrounding the industry, all happening in the centennial anniversary celebration of Philippine cinema. Even with this, the films that came out this year still triumphs, offering a small glimpse of the promise to the future that Philippine cinema can still evoke great things despite its problematic foundations.

In this edition of High Five, I listed down (in order) the five Filipino films that truly made a mark in 2019.

5. “Sila-Sila” by Giancarlo Abrahan

Giancarlo Abrahan’s “Sila-Sila”. Photo courtesy of Cinema One Originals

In most parts, the third film by Giancarlo Abrahan (“Dagitab,” “Paki”) feels like a documentary than a fictional follow-through of its characters. It’s a movie that often doesn’t present the most sense than it should, but it is fine. There is something captivating in its unevenness, the moments that feels it could be tighter if these weren’t there, and the little flawed steps in every adventure. What makes the entire thing work is that it knows how to feel raw: a clear understanding of life’s invisible melodies.

4. “Alone/ Together” by Antoinette Jadaone

Antoinette Jadaone’s “Alone/ Together”. Photo courtesy of Black Sheep and ABS-CBN Films

I remember going in “Alone/ Together” expecting the movie as a love story, and instead got something that feels genuinely selfish.  But I was most impressed with Liza Soberano here, who I still think delivered one of the best performances of this year.

3. “Edward” by Thop Nazareno

Thop Nazareno’s “Edward”. Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

“Edward” was able to display its emotions effectively because it knows the boundaries of its genre well. Dramas tend to glorify its misery to elicit sadness out of its viewers, and although this film concluded on a note that could lead to bigger tragedies, it allows its titular lead Edward (a phenomenal Louise Abuel) to be stronger and be more mature in the adversities. Edward, both the character and the movie, are compelling creations.

2. “Cleaners” by Glenn Barit

Glenn Barit’s “Cleaners”. Photo courtesy of QCinema

It did not take long before “Cleaners” was able to sell its ambitious techniques, which had every frame photocopied and colored with highlighter pens. Throughout, you felt not only the craftsmanship but the sense that you are watching a memory unfold. It might not resonate with some, but the effect it wants deeply affected me.

1. “John Denver Trending” by Arden Rod Condez

Arden Rod Condez’s “John Denver Trending”. Photo courtesy of Cinemalaya

I often tell people that “John Denver Trending” is a horror film in disguise. It’s about how people can easily be morphed into monsters by being greater passive thinkers in the age of social media, as well as the repercussions that come along with it. Even as a social critique, the movie still finds a genuine story out of its lead young boy and his mother who had to inescapably live through a digital hellhole. This is an essential watch for those who want to explore more Filipino films.

 

Filipino films that didn’t make the cut: J.E. Tiglao’s “Metamorphosis,” Eduardo Roy, Jr.’s “F#*@BOIS,” Boy 2 Quizon’s “I’m Ellenya L.,” Cathy Garcia-Molina’s “Hello, Love, Goodbye,” Zig Dulay’s “Akin ang Korona,” and Joel Ferrer’s “Elise.”

 

Matthew Escosia is a writer for Film Geek Guy, one of Philippines’ leading movie blogs that aims to diversify and if not, spark meaningful discussions and healthy arguments on cinema, specifically for Filipino films. Through this, he hopes to convince Filipinos that film criticisms are a powerful tool for societal change, even if far-fetched.

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