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Top 7 Pinoy Indie Films to Watch

Explore the Filipino indie film scene with these all-time favorites!
IMAGE Clare Magno

Independent films never fail to spark our interest—each one possesses some sort of uniqueness that goes beyond your regular local cinema schedule. They catch our attention, and make us appreciate various artistic approaches to certain scenarios, issues,and problems we encounter on a daily basis. You can always expect to be taken on a different and rather exciting adventure when watching these films, especially since you’re seeing it from a creative filmmaker’s vantage point. Truly, independent films, Filipino ones in particular, are worth the watch. With the recent launch of this year’s Cinemalaya season, we’ve run down some of our all-time favorite Pinoy indie films to revisit the extraordinary beauty of this often underrated scene.

  • Sakaling Hindi Makarating (2016)

Director and cinematographer Ice Idanan manages to put on screen the right blend of self-love and love for another. This film narrates the journey of a young woman named Cielo (Alessandra de Rossi), who, after receiving a series of postcards painted with the colorful travel scenes from around the Philippines, goes on to explore the destinations to find the unknown sender ‘M’. Following a recent heartbreak, her travels point not only to finding this mysterious admirer, but also leads to her finding herself. Though one may dub it as your typical “post-breakup reliever”, Sakaling Hindi Makarating stands out, mainly because of how de Rossi’s character, Cielo, welcomes the colorful people and places she encounters.

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  • Ang Babae sa Septic Tank (2011)

With its massive positive reception from the public, this film continues to be one of the best Filipino indie films ever made. Ang Babae sa Septic Tank takes us through the process of creating an award-winning film, quite satirically, with Eugene Domingo as the icing on top to play the key role of lead actress. Director Marlon Rivera features numerous discussions between his main characters, filmmakers Rainier (Kean Cipriano) and Bingbong (JM De Guzman), regarding decisions that will lead to their project’s would-be success, to highlight the many conventional conceptions in the Filipino independent film scene.

  • Star Na Si Van Damme Stallone (2016)

Breaking away from the stereotypical view towards intellectual disabilities, this film features the story of Van Damme Stallone—an individual with Down syndrome who dreams of living up to his name origin and become an action star. Director Randolph Longjas draws inspiration from his late cousin, and manages to create a charming flow throughout the entire movie.

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  • 1st Ko si 3rd (2014)

Expect to see a familiar quirky Nova Villa with this heartwarming romantic comedy. Her character, Cory, finds herself moving in a monotonous pace after having retired from her job. This dullness is immediately remedied when she unexpectedly comes across her first love, Third (Freddie Webb), whom she never got the chance to go out on a first date with. Cory’s life is filled with new happiness and excitement when she finally gets the opportunity to give confirmation to the popular saying that “first love never dies”, and goes out on her first date with Third.

  • Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (2011)

If you've seen a Filipino horror film, such as Shake, Rattle, and Roll, Lilia Cuntapay should be no stranger at all. Her name might not ring a bell, but her face certainly makes us think she's familiar. Often playing the roles of a witch, white lady, and sometimes, even a ghost, Lilia stars as herself in this independent mockumentary film by Antoinette Jadaone. Juxtaposing reality with fiction, Jadaone focuses the spotlight on this most famous extra in the industry, in the sarcastic hope that she will finally get the recognition she deserves.

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  • Sana Dati (2013)

This film refreshes the viewer from the typical Filipino love story we so often see in local cinemas, by featuring what happens after love’s downfall. Jerrold Tarog creates the link between Andrea (Lovi Poe), the bride-to-be, and Dennis (Paulo Avelino), the newbie wedding videographer, whom Andrea finds a familiarity with her former love, Andrew (Benjamin Alves). It is later revealed in the film that Dennis is Andrew’s brother. Sana Dati remains its beauty with its simplicity and genuineness, something that is so often misrepresented, if not taken away, from other popular romantic drama films.

  • Ang Nawawala (2012)

Gibson Bonifacio (Dominic Roco) plays the main character in this film—a 20-year old boy who hasn’t spoken in ten years, after being traumatized from seeing his twin brother die before his very eyes. Over these years, Gibson has managed to isolate himself from the world. When he comes home to the country for Christmas, he is given a cold greeting by his mother (Dawn Zulueta), with the addition of an overall dysfunctional family. Through his camera lens, Gibson emanates his silent yet striking appeal to the viewers.The film serves as a great avenue for talented local musical acts, when his character is introduced to the local music scene.

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Which ones have you watched already?

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Arra Bayan
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Your free-spirited #hugot animal. I am an adrenaline junkie who is always on the look-out for adventure. I live by the three Fs: Food, fitness, and fun!
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PRIMO.

First. Pixie dust and paper cuts – these are the first things Wendy knew about Peter Pan. Aurora first met Prince Philip when she was sixteen. Learning how to ride a bike was also a first while I was growing up, but you are probably the first of too many. The first collection of dust and stars; maybe Luna will try to ask, who was your first? I might answer and tell her that it was you.

The first of too many stars in the sky. You are the first of too many fallen leaves during fall – and you will be the most anticipated snowflake as winter comes. A dark path that you can’t see without any light, hence, you were once the moon and there are the stars that shine so bright at night. Are we too early? Or we just really want to be ahead of time? Even in a glimpse, I would like to see the two of us connect as if we can reach the sky. There are other parts of the heavens you have never saw and other oceans you haven’t laid your feet onto – but the constellations will always wait for you. Close your eyes, love, close your eyes. Start counting backward: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Count backward until you see the twinkling lights that will guide you to the right path. To the right satellite; to the right person. A first.

There are many firsts – first love, first heartbreak, first sport you played, the first thing you do in the morning, the first thing you remember about the person in front of you. There are a lot. It’s actually up to us how we will consider something as a first. So, Primo, you are already a first of too many.

Bea Alamis A day ago
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