Much has been said about Filipino films. The harshest critics say the industry is stuck in a revolving door of cliches and terrible writing, left in the dust by their superior counterparts in South Korea.
Others, like myself, say hope springs eternal. There are darn good filmmakers who prove that, given the right amount of support and platforms, Filipinos can go toe-to-toe with their Asian neighbors.
Still, change doesn’t happen overnight. The local film industry must consistently produce stan-worthy content if it truly wants to see a cultural revolution. Below, we list five modern Filipino films that we need more of to challenge the boundaries of their genre. We picked one flick per category, and all entries were released post-2010.
On The Job (2013)
Director: Erik Matti
Cast: Piolo Pascual, Joel Torre, Gerald Anderson, Joey Marquez
Blueprint for: Action, crime-thrillers
While we acknowledge that the sequel won John Arcilla the Volpi Cup for Best Actor, we must pay tribute to the 2013 original that started it all.
Few Filipino films in the last 20 years are as intense and well-written as On The Job (OTJ). We’d say that OTJ is the greatest Filipino action film of all time. The story follows a duo of convicts who moonlight as hired guns and the dirty political system that makes everything run like clockwork.
OTJ trades invulnerable heroes and unlimited bullets for real stakes, flawed protagonists, and gut-wrenching twists. There are no Leon Guerrero’s splitting bullets in two or immortal Cardos here. Instead, OJT is gritty and depressing (“Maskara” by Juan De la Cruz still gives us chills), making it director Erik Matti’s magnum opus.
Kita Kita (2017)
Director: Sigrid Bernardo
Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, Empoy Marquez
Blueprint for: Rom-coms
It’s understandable to avoid Filipino romcoms like the plague. After all, who wouldn’t get tired of drawn-out crying scenes and forced love teams? But 2017’s Kita-Kita broke the mold with its unconventional leads and story, proving that drama can be adorable, subtle, and impactful.
Kita-Kita was such a hit that it spawned the Indonesian remake ‘Cinta Itu Buta” or “Love is Blind.” But I’d be surprised if it can surpass de Rossi and Empoy’s natural chemistry.
Never Not Love You (2018)
Director: Antoinette Jadaone
Cast: James Reid, Nadine Lustre
Blueprint for: Love teams
Look, we know it’s easy to shit on love teams – for a good reason. They are the epitome of creatively bankrupt tried-and-tested formulas whose sole purpose is to generate money. But the reality is that love teams aren’t going away anytime soon. They are as much part of our culture as teleseryes. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t evolve to be better.
Enter JaDine’s “Never Not Love You.” Before you roll your eyes, let me tell you that this broke my brain when I saw it for the first time. Not because it introduced anything new to the romance genre but because of its audacity.
Reid and Lustre portray the most authentic version of a modern couple put on local screens. They encounter real-world problems like career, finances, and existential crises. They have sex, live together, and argue like human beings. They feel real.
Director Antoinette Jadaone asked more from her characters, and clones soon followed with KathNiel’s “The Hows of Us” and LizQuen’s “Alone Together.” But “Never Not Love You” broke ground and stood by its convictions, and you can’t ask for a better finale from the pairing of Lustre and Reid.
Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral (2018)
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Cast: Paulo Avelino, Mon Confiado, Carlo Aquino
Blueprint for: Historical features
Many would prefer “Heneral Luna” over “Goyo.” I can’t blame them – John Arcilla is the man. But I salivate more over “Goyo’s” emphasis that our heroes are anything but flawed. Paolo Avelino’s Gregorio Del Pilar is a shitty human being for 99% of the film, except for a slight epiphany near the end, and that doesn’t even last.
“Goyo” realizes that our heroes are rarely what we think they are. It doesn’t gloss over their imperfections and paints the world in tones of grey instead of black and white. In today’s political climate, its messages of blind idolatry and the dangers of extremism are more relevant than ever.
Director: Mikhail Red
Cast: Nadine Lustre, Louise Delos Reyes, McCoy de Leon
Blueprint for: Horror
Contrary to popular sentiment, I am not a huge Shake, Rattle & Roll fan. Barring a few good entries (LRT was legit), it’s the poster child for bad effects and “Do’h” storylines. But filmmakers have upped their game in recent years, most recently Mikhail Red’s “Deleter.”
It’s far from a perfect film; the promising premise was squandered to hell. But again, the movies in this list are blueprints, which means they can be improved. And for all of the plot’s shortcomings, Red, who always excelled in cinematography, knows how to build tension without overindulging in predictable jumpscares.
Long-time horror fans may scoff at “Deleter’s” snail’s pace, but with a few tweaks in plot and writing, it’s arguably a decent template for future scares.