A total of 114 new Filipino films were produced and released in 2019, both in theaters and online platforms like iWant and Netflix. A third of which, or 37 films, I was able to catch—so safe to say, without sounding condescending or anything, I’ve caught enough films to make some sort of a list of noteworthy films. I may have missed some more prominent ones, but I'm guessing I’ve caught most of the substantial films of the year in all arenas. Still, this is not a "best of" list since I have not seen all films of 2019—I wish I had the time to do so, though! The following is thus a shortlist of films that have made a lasting mark last year, making me scream "Mabuhay ang pelikulang Pilipino!" louder than ever!
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Hello, Love, Goodbye certainly deserves a spot since it is now the highest grossing Filipino movie of all time, unless one of this year’s MMFF entries topples it over its pedestal. Some may say it’s formulaic, but in that realm and genre, it is one of the most well-crafted signature Star Cinema movies to date. Thanks to Direk Cathy Garcia-Molina who has seem to have mastered the art of tugging on the Filipino movie-going audience’s heartstrings and of course, Kathryn Bernardo’s star power and acting chops, she stays on the Box-Office Queen Throne for a second consecutive year. (Kath's The Hows Of Us, meanwhile, is the highest grossing film of 2018.)
Watch Me Kill may not have won Best Picture during the PPP (Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino) Awards Night, but it did win the Best Director prize for Tyrone Acierto along with Best Cinematography and Editing. This would be the most arthouse in tone of all the titles on this list, but this Filipino Western shot on 35mm film transported me into it’s self-made, self-aware fictitious alternate universe of lawlessness and violence which I feel every cinephile should get to experience. Jean Garcia’s subdued yet powerful performance and action stunts deserves a standing ovation or at least an acting nom in the coming awards’ season.
Edward is the Cinemalaya Special Jury Prize winner directed by Thop Nazareno, and is my favorite at this particular festival. A coming-of-age film starring Louise Abuel who is a revelation in the title role, Edward is a smart play of words about an adolescent who has been practically living in a hospital ward. He didn’t get the plum acting prize, but Ella Cruz got the Best Supporting Actress award in a more mature offbeat role as a young, drugged up prostitute.
Sila Sila bagged the Cinema One Originals 2019 Best Picture prize and is the simplest film in this bunch. It revels in its simplicity as it gives us a glimpse into the slice of life of the mundane complications gay relationships. Under the tutelage of Giancarlo Abrahan and led by the most organic ensemble ever assembled, Sila Sila is just so well crafted in all aspects that it makes for really good cinema.
Sunod is my personal choice of Best Film in the recent MMFF, and the best Pinoy horror flick of 2019. Director, Carlo Ledesma craftily helmed this family drama slash horror film and has created an almost perfect balance between visual poetry and clever storytelling. Carmina Villaroel carries the film effortlessly with strong support from her possessed daughter in the movie Krystal Brimner and the rest of the ensemble.
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Banner image taken from Watch Me Kill's Facebook account