Lav Diaz – Batang West Side AKA West Side Avenue (2001)

The first major epic in the oeuvre of Lav Diaz (b. 1958) is a powerful contemporary portrait of the Filipino diaspora in New York and New Jersey: A Filipino-born detective investigates the murder of Hanzel Harana, a Filipino teenager, and must plod along with tenacity to break through the wall of silence surrounding the boy’s death. The trail of the designer drug “shabu” runs through the film like a bloody trickle, but Diaz delegates the accounts of crime, domestic violence, and the discontent in the souls of his characters to the background for the most part, instead relying on the hypnotic portrait of a decaying life as a symbol of alienation from home. The more we learn about the protagonists, the more complex, intangible, and contradictory our image of them becomes. Read More »

Lav Diaz – Historya ni Ha (2021)

Jonathan Romney, Vienna IFF wrote:
A relatively concise example of Lav Diaz’s expansive essays on Filipino history and imagination, HISTORY OF HA is a period drama set in 1957, although Diaz is characteristically cavalier about authenticity, with modern wheelie suitcases visible and references to algorithms sprinkled across the dialogue. But the past is always visible in the present in his films, and vice versa. This is often expressed by the idea of living in the wake of something, in this case, the death of the Philippines’ then president Ramon Magsaysay in a plane crash. Read More »

Denise O’Hara – The Wife (2022)

A couple’s marriage gets tainted as the husband cheats. How can the wife take her husband’s dying plea to be with her and his mistress at the remaining days of his life? Read More »

Lino Brocka – Tubog sa Ginto AKA Dipped in Gold (1970)

Lino Brocka’s adaptation of Mars Ravelo’s “komiks” melodrama about a successful businessman trying to hide his homosexuality. Read More »

Ishmael Bernal – Pagdating sa dulo AKA At The Top (1971)

From Hong Kong International Film Festival:
Bernal’s impressive debut feature confirmed him as a prominent filmmaker who was not only capable of orchestrating a striking narrative, but also one that revealed the hypocrisy permeating the carnivalesque affairs of filmmaking. The story follows Ching, a stripper, who performs to the lustful stares of her patrons. Discovered by an idealistic film director, she rises to stardom and takes her lover Pinggoy, a taxi driver, into show business. Scrambling to the top, they reap fame and forture only to find tragedies awaiting. Bernal has made startlingly accurate observations of the dichotomies facing Philippine cinema and society, winning Best Film of the Decade in the country’s prestigious Gawad Urian Awards. Read More »

Mario O’Hara – Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? AKA Why is the Sky Blue? (1981)

The situation is ordinary enough: a woman (Nora Aunor) falls in love with a man (Dennis Roldan). To say that she “loves” him, however, is an oversimplication, because he is a retardate. What she feels is a mixture of pity, sympathy, maternal love, and -of course sexual love for him. On the other hand, though a mere child as far as his brain is concerned, he is physically grown-up, as portrayed in a clever drunken scene where he mimics raping the mistress of a neighbor. There’s no doubt about it: Mario O’Hara is a major director. In Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?, he tackles the same basic situation Lino Brocka deals with in Bona. In the comparison Brocka suffers. Where Bona fails, Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? succeeds.
– Isagani Cruz, Movie Times Read More »

Shireen Seno – Big Boy (2011)

In the Philippines of the 1950s, a young boy is growing, but not enough in his parents’ eyes: they subject him to daily stretching exercises and administer a homemade potion that they are trying to commercialise. Read More »