To say that it has been a big year for Philippine cinema would be something of an understatement.
Legendary filmmaker Lav Diaz nabbed two prestigious awards this year, including a Silver Bear in Berlin for A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery and Venice’s top honor, the Golden Lion for The Woman Who Left. Brillante Mendoza’s film Ma’ Rosa was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and its lead actress Jaclyn Jose took home the award for Best Actress.
While characterizing the nation’s very diverse cinema is a daunting task—given that the country is composed of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages and dialects, and several religions and ideologies—it is clear that the nation’s industry is brimming with talent.
In this exciting year for Philippine cinema, the Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) is turning its spotlight on the Philippines. Last year LPFF launched its Spotlight Program, with one day of the festival dedicated to discussions and screenings about Cambodia.
Francis “Oggs” Cruz, LPFF’s Motion Picture Ambassador for the Philippines, has curated a program of short and feature films. Hailing from Manila, Cruz works as a corporate and litigation lawyer, but is also an avid film buff and critic, maintaining a cinema blog called Lessons from the School of Inattention and contributing reviews to Philippine Star and Philippine Free Press.
“This year, LPFF’s Spotlight is on the Philippines, a nation where films are seen either as exposés of the very harsh reality of life, or as escape from it,” Cruz said. “The films I have selected display the vibrant and diverse forms and themes of a complex nation’s cinema, detailing the full range of the population’s experiences with delightful romance, corrupting poverty, and everything else in between.”
Cruz selected seven short films and four feature films from Filipino directors, in a showcase that, in his words, “attempts to grant a glimpse of the various landscapes, forms, contexts, and motivations that impassion Filipino artists to tell their stories through film.”
The Philippine feature films that will be showcased are:
Mario Cornejo’s Apocalypse Child tells the story of Ford, a surfing instructor in the Philippines who must confront the myth about himself that his mother has perpetuated his entire life, that he is the son of Francis Ford Coppola.
Directed by Ralson Jover, Haze follows a gang of plucky street kids—played by a set of vibrant young actors—who make a living stealing from motorists. After a heist goes horribly wrong, the kids face incredible difficulties.
Brillante Mendoza’s acclaimed Ma’ Rosa paints a gritty portrait of police corruption in Manila. Ma’ Rosa and her husband are arrested for selling narcotics, and their four children will do anything to buy their freedom from the police.
There’s No Forever is a charming and smart romantic comedy directed by Dan Villegas. A rom-com screenwriter is struggling to finish a screenplay, when suddenly her greatest past love comes back into her life.
Cruz says that his aim in this program is to provide an expansive glimpse of the eclectic cinematic culture of the Philippines, one that is very much a product of its past—its history, religion and traditions—as well as its present. All short and feature films will be screened at the festival’s Day Venue, Sofitel Luang Prabang.
Text by: Eliza Mott
Photos by: LPFF & the Wires