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New Filipino Cinema 2015

Delicately sandwiched between DocFest and the upcoming Frameline LGBT Film Festival is the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ New Filipino Cinema festival. The 4th annual celebration of the best in new and independent Filipino cinema, the event is a local filmgoer’s chance to sample a cinematic industry that doesn’t get sufficient due even in the Bay Area. Repeat screenings of selected films will make it easier for filmgoers to juggle scheduling YBCA’s Filipino film events with those of DocFest’s documentaries and Frameline’s LGBTQI-themed films.

Here are some suggestions for promising Filipino cinema festival films:

The Coffin Maker–This highly praised film concerns a hard-working single father who’s ill-prepared for the task of raising his daughter alone in a rural portion of the Phillipines. Emotional without being sentimental, the father’s personal journey will lead him to face his guilt and remorse.

Dynamite Fishing–Normally mainstream Filipino cinema hit-making director Chito Rono goes low-budget for this gritty tale of street-level corruption. The venue is the world of local electoral politics, where henchmen will do whatever it takes to ensure any votes cast go to their particular candidate.

Esprit de Corps–The military drama gets given as much homoerotic subtext as viewers can handle and then some. A class of Marcos-era military cadets face final weeks of training guaranteed to have everything from war games to interrogations. The cadets hope to live up to the example set by the sharp and uber-macho Major Mac Favila. Kanakan-Balintagos, the listed director of the film, is actually Auraeus Solito (The Blossoming Of Maximo Oliveros).

From What Is Before–Internationally acclaimed director Lav Diaz’s follow-up to Norte, the End of History is set in 1972. Weird occurrences at a remote Philippine barrio include cows getting hacked to death and mysterious wails coming from the nearby forest. Around the same time, ruler Ferdinand E. Marcos imposes martial law on all of the Philippines. This film took home the Golden Leopard award at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival.

Lorna–Shamaine Buencamino gives a career-defining performance as the titular senior citizen who rediscovers both the joys of falling in love and the agonies of heartbreak. The film, directed by Sigrid Andrea P. Bernardo (Anita’s Last Cha Cha), also features filmmaker Lav Diaz playing a decidedly unforgettable character.

Reptilia In Suburbia–There are no suburbs in Metro Manila. Instead, as director Timmy Harn shows, there are affluent walled-off subdivisions plopped in the midst of Manilan squalor. Harns’ film captures life in one such subdivision as it follows a family struggling with love, in-fighting, and a continual invasion of snakes.

For the full list of films screening in the New Filipino Cinema Festival, go here.

Poster for “From What Is Before” copyright of either the film distributor, the film publisher, or the poster’s graphic artist.

About the Author

I'm a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film...but don't tell anyone.

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