2017 haven’t been the best year for Philippine cinema. We’ve gone back to the old Metro Manila Film Festival, some films had only been screened for a few days at few cinemas and there haven’t been that much groundbreaking films featured this year.
But there are also good things that happened for Philippine cinema. The Film Development Council of the Philippines have partnered with SM Cinemas for the CineLokal, there’s a new film festival that features all great films even from 2015, which is the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino and more digitally restored and remastered films thru the ABS-CBN Film Restoration Program.
Before we go to our 10 Best Filipino films of 2017, we’ve also listed notable movies released last year.
NEOMANILA (Mikhail Red, QCinema 2017). You don’t get to tackle war on drugs this stylish. Mikhail Red’s drama thriller operates with a small story but feels big because of how it explores its characters. It will leave you in awe with its ending.
KITA KITA (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, July 2017). The breakout film of the year. From a budget of around Php10 million, Kita Kita earned more than Php320 million. This proves that story is still king, that people will still flock the cinemas even if the leads are not your typical faces. Sigrid Bernardo, Alessandra de Rossi and Empoy Marquez made magic with Kita Kita.
I’M DRUNK, I LOVE YOU (JP Habac, February 2017). From the light romance movie Kita Kita, we’re also head over heels with the coming of age romance movie, I’m Drunk, I Love You. Carson (Maja Salvador) and Dio (Paulo Avelino) are too relatable characters to miss from 2017. The heartbreaking story also comes with fun, humor and just nostalgia for those who’ve already experienced school, love, beer and butterballs.
HIGH TIDE (Tara Illenberger, ToFarm 2017). Simple story, but sends a big message. Tara Illenberger’s family drama adventure tells the story of children who are experiencing the effects of global warming in the most inconvenient way as a poor. Everything here is just relevant.
INSTALADO (Jason Paul Laxamana, ToFarm 2017). Not the first Filipino science fiction film, but being independently produced, Instalado is a triumph in Philippine cinema. Jason Paul Laxamana offers something like an origin film of maybe a zombie apocalypse movie or a birth of something bigger.
Now, let’s list the best films of 2017, where words petmalu, lodi and werpa were born.
10. SMALLER AND SMALLER CIRCLES (Raya Martin, December 2017).
Raya Martin’s adaptation of F H Batacan’s crime thriller may flow slow but there is precision in the details, from characters to the visuals, everything here works. And everything here looks like it’s made by Hollywood filmmakers. The pacing, the cinematography, the actors, all are high caliber. It’s a film Filipinos should be proud of.
9. PAKI (Giancarlo Abrahan, Cinema One Originals 2017)
Movies revolving family issues is the most used story in Philippine mainstream cinema but Giancarlo Abrahan’s Paki focuses on something hardly tackled in cinema, can you leave everything behind and do something you want, you’re happy about even in your golden years? It’s a thought-provoking idea that the film handled well, touching themes such as LGBT and relationships heartwarmingly and in the most relatable way.
8. WHAT HOME FEELS LIKE (Joseph Abello, ToFarm 2017)
As a son of an OFW, Joseph Abello’s What Home Feels Like strikes close to my heart. Its portrayal of a family with an OFW father is spot on. How the distance and lack of communication affect the family and how fast change is for the overseas worker. To see his or her spouse and children having a decent life without his or her presence while being away providing, having the best interest for his or her family. Bembol Roco gave one of the most heartbreaking performance in Philippine cinema in his monologue in the film. (Sakit, bes).
7. THE CHANTERS (Joseph Mayo, QCinema 2017)
Bridging generation gap through music, Joseph Mayo’s The Chanters is charming and entertaining. The film is light, full of heart & fun. You get to see two generations collide through culture & familial bond. It’s a delight to watch Jally Nae Gabaliga and Romulo Caballero.
6. CHANGING PARTNERS (Dan Villegas, Cinema One Originals 2017)
“Masakit. Sobrang sakit.” That’s how you can put Dan Villegas musical drama Changing Partners. I may have issues on how the musical numbers look (not cinematic enough) but the film is clearly one of the most heart wrenching dramas in Philippine cinema. The film adaptation of Vincent de Jesus’ musical adaptation works most of all because of its cast – Agot Isidro, Sandino Martin, Jojit Lorenzo and Anna Luna.
5. ANG LARAWAN (Loy Arcenas, Metro Manila Film Festival 2017)
Say hello to probably the best Filipino musical of this generation. Loy Arcenas adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s play is emotionally captivating. Thanks to the performances of its stars especially Joanna Ampil (thanks to Ang Larawan for introducing me to her!), Ang Larawan is an engaging musical drama that is well-staged and for me, felt like the only “film festival entry” to the Metro Manila Film Festival.
4. BALANGIGA: HOWLING WILDERNESS (Khavn, QCinema 2017)
Have you seen Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu’s The Revenant? Well, replace Leonardo DiCaprio’s role into a kid, like a 6 year old kid. That’s how Balangiga: Howling Wilderness felt like, at least for me. It’s a grand adventure, a coming-of-age tale of a child who’s struggling to survive the American occupation. It’s quite graphic, actually. And was really bothered by its first MTRCB rating, which is G. For a film that has blood, and hardships for a child, even if the intentions are good, it’s really not for children.
3. LOVE YOU TO THE STARS AND BACK (Antoinette Jadaone, August 2017)
Pain, young love, family issues, cancer and aliens wrapped in one movie. Antoinette Jadaone’s heartwarming romance drama is one of the best of 2017 and probably like since hugot movies started. The film wouldn’t have been as great as it is because of the performances of Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto. It’s a Star Cinema film that compromises its formula for something small and yet emotionally huge. Love You to the Stars and Back may look like just another romance movie but how its characters were written are sincere and how the film ends is breathtaking.
2. KIKO BOKSINGERO (Thop Nazareno, Cinemalaya 2017)
Set in Baguio but Thop Nazareno’s coming of age film Kiko Boksingero is heartwarming and pleasant. The film is simple yet cute, light but has a lot of heart. A young boy’s search for a family is a heartfelt journey. It knows the innocence of a child and at the same time knows what it wants but goes where the heart needs to, the pain and the comfort.
You’ll experience Baguio in the eyes of a lonely boy desiring for someone who would understand him, who would take care of him, who would be there for him. Kiko Boksingero is a pleasant and heartwarming almost coming-of-age film that succeeds in offering a small story with a big heart.
1. RESPETO (Treb Monteras, Cinemalaya 2017)
The plot of Respeto is not new, bad boy meets an unusual person who becomes his mentor. But it still gets to feel fresh and exciting for giving a voice to the rapping industry today in the big screen. Abra who is at home with his character translates his portrayal into a believable performance from his pains, anger, joy and rapping skills. But the most memorable character in the film is Dido dela Paz’s Doc, where he fully embraced his role and you can see and feel every move and every word is from Doc.
For a person who doesn’t like cursing or hearing curses, I really enjoyed Respeto with all of my heart. It’s a perfect example of art meets reality. Treb Monteras’ Respeto surprises the audience by offering a story that has its own identity, its own voice, amplified by magnetic performances from Abra and Dido dela Paz.
So, to more great Filipino films this 2018!