True to its vision of supporting the development and production of cinematic creations by local independent filmmakers that “boldly articulate and freely interpret the Filipino experience with fresh insight and artistic integrity,” the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival continues to deliver films that push the boundaries for Philippine cinema.
Now on its 14th year, we’ve seen over a hundred entries that unabashedly tackle sensitive and taboo issues typically censored or whitewashed in mainstream movies; some of them more controversial than others. As we prepare for this year’s entries to be shown on August 3 to 12 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, with the theme “Winged Vision,” we take a step back and recall some of the most controversial ones from the past:
The directorial debut of Francis Xavier Pasion, Jay dissects the dark side of media through two lives: Jay, a closeted homosexual and religion teacher who was mysteriously murdered, and Jay the TV producer who acts on the story, with the opportunity of raking in viewership numbers in mind. The film handled the issue of sensational journalism effectively, that the audience can’t help but develop a mistrust for media after watching the film. Here, we see media’s ability to bend or recreate truth, and the outrageous lengths people behind are willing to go to, all for the price of increased viewership.
Directed by then 21-year-old Pepe Diokno, Engkwentro centers around the story of two brothers, Richard and Raymond, caught in the middle of two warring gangs. Richard the leader of the Bagong Buwan gang who decided to flee town with his prostitute girlfriend when members of the Davao Death Squad, a group of vigilantes backed by the local government, goes after him. Meanwhile, Raymond gets inducted to a rival gang, Batang Dilim. The movie climaxes to an inevitable square off between the brothers when Batang Dilim’s leader orders Raymond to kill his brother. This film is distinct for Diokno’s auteur cinematography, and controversial for its themes of brutality, especially knowing it’s based on actual events.
Dubbed as her big comeback, Nora Aunor stars as the right hand of a big-time human trafficking agency in this political thriller-drama. She was initially responsible for the deliveries and payoffs for underage girls and boys who have been promised a future as domestic helpers but actually ends up being sold as sex workers to Japanese syndicates. As the story progresses we see her eventually assume the role of her boss after being framed for murder. Veteran director Joey Lamangan made sure to show gritty scenes of poverty, political rallies, and scenes of corruption among politicians and policemen, while occasionally employing a comedic approach. The scene where Nora throws a handful of money from the top of a city hall as a twisted sense of penance for her sins sticks most to the audience.
Based on actual events, Bagahe recalls the plight of an OFW who escaped from her boss, and was suspected of leaving a newborn baby in an airplane’s garbage bin so she can return to her family in the Philippines. Upon knowledge of the case, the enraged public called for her death as punishment. The film effectively invokes moral ambiguity as the OFW, ironically named Mercy, is portrayed as a kind and hard working mother who, like many OFWs, only pursued the hard life in the promise of a better life for her loved ones. In the end, the audience is left to judge the question of her innocence.
Do you agree with our list? Share with us the Cinemalaya film that shocked you the most.
Art by Marian Hukom
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