The 23 independent Filipino films you should watch

While certain movies go against the norm, mainstream Filipino blockbusters have a reputation for clichéd and formulaic plots, repetitive celebrity tandems, and standard happy endings, among other factors. But when you delve into the world of independent movies, you’d find that there are some quality films that help elevate the local industry into something world-class.

The Binisaya Film Festival 2016, running from September 17 to 24, aims to help promote these movies by bringing them to a wider audience. After years of small screenings in coffee shops and under the bridge communities, this year marks the first time the festival will take place in commercial theaters.

Here are some of the independent films worth checking out:

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2013

Eluna Cepeda
2013

A romantic misadventure leaves our protagonist struggling with depression. He finds himself in the care of a male nurse, who lives with his gay brother. Together, they dole out equal measures of care and taunts to their patient. But one day, the urge to take revenge is felt. Bodies are dismembered and mutilated. No guilty party is spared. Will history be easily outrun?

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ALUNCINA

Grace Marie Lopez
aluncina

One day in the life of a young woman in a burgeoning city.

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AMBIHAS

Jaylou Dari
ambihas

When Jaylou, a mechanic, discovers the code of conventional courtship, he decides to use that discovery to carve his name in history. What could possibly go wrong?

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COBRA

Marco Campos
cobra

A bet collector makes the gamble of his life.

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engkwentro

ENGKWENTRO

Pepe Diokno

“Engkwentro” follows two teenage brothers attempting to escape an unnamed city controlled by an iron-fisted mayor. They must first break away from the cycle of crime, while trying to run from rival gang leaders and the state’s murderous vigilantes.

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FAMILIAR STRANGERS

Eric Peter
familiar-strangers

There is a social transformation worldwide into a positive attitude that unites us instead of tears us apart. Familiar Strangers: Conversations on the Near Future explores this very shift through a series of performative dialogues from a personal and local viewpoint. As a small-scale gold miner, Henerose Lorono can often be found digging for gold in his tunnel. Whereas, this practice seems to affect nature negatively, people’s lives have improved in financial terms. Heneroso’s daughter is now able to study.

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GET CERTIFIED

Isaias Herrera Zantua
get-certified

Heaven or Hell? These are the paths that the resurrected lost souls have to choose in the afterlife. But for Angelica — it’s hell or nothing! Will her strong conviction to become a full-fledged demon be enough for her to get certified?

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gugma-ni-olivia

GUGMA NI OLIVIA

Christian Linaban

Olivia, who sells knives for a living, develops a romantic obsession with her next door neighbor, Jeffrey.

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HAPPY FIESTA

Joe Bacus
happy-fiesta

A Western man in black pays local hospitals nightly visits carrying an ice bucket. Later revealed as a member of an international organ-trading association, he seduces women into spending nights with him with his ulterior motive. This night, however, he meets a mysterious woman who proves to be his match.

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HINAGUNOY SA GURYON

Karl Derick Sia
hinagunoy-sa-goryon

It was in the humble and peaceful countryside where the clouds spread across the sky and the palm leaves sway to the fresh mountain breeze that a growing fledgling experiences the pain of loss, the loss of time, and the time unspent with the father he never met. We follow the life of this tree sparrow towards the end of his, and the start of another.

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INAHAN SA KANUNAYNG PANABANG

Chloe Veloso
inahan-sa-kanunayng-panabang

Three brothers quarrel over the rights of their ancestral home and the care of their mother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

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JUNILYN HAS

Carlo Francisco Manatad
junilyn-has

A dancer in a nightclub, Junilyn has to learn new moves to attract more customers during the Pope’s visit to the Philippines. But while she rehearses, she is also preparing her bold move to free herself.

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LOLA

Roberta Fuentes
lola

This is a portrait of my grandmother. Every day, she would sing her song while threading sorghum seeds that she sells in the market.

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LUNCHBOX

Remton Siega Zuasola
lunchbox

A mother works abroad leaving behind her sick husband and young son who couldn’t stand each other. Both boys suffer from intense longing of the same woman they loved and started drifting in a world of their own; Father drowns his sadness with his vices while son escapes through his drawings of imagined adventures, but an accident forces both boys to work together to become better men.

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MISS BULALACAO

Ara Chawdhury

BEHIND THE SCENE: Director Ara Chawdhury films one of the movie's pivotal scenes. (Photo credit: Panumduman Pictures)
BEHIND THE SCENE: Director Ara Chawdhury films one of the movie’s pivotal scenes. (Photo credit: Panumduman Pictures)

A young drag queen, Dodong, joins a barangay gay pageant to gain acceptance in his father’s community. He is instead met with hostility from his father, who chases him to a jungle, where he sobs to a lone bright star. What follows is the strangest night in his entire life, and an even stranger 9 months when he realises he is pregnant. With his only his stepmother, Lisa, as support, Dodong deals with ridicule from a barangay who does not believe him – until the rumours become a headline in a tabloid, “BAKLA, INA NG DIYOS”

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ONE DAY, ISANG DIWA

Nickle John Lim
one-day-isang-diwa

Two people facing the same fate and meeting the same end: sadness, darkness, fulfillment, and enlightenment. Will they find solace until they learn to accept life as it is?

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PAKIGBISOG

Steven Atenta
pakigbisog

A few days after a super typhoon ravages a small town in the Philippines, a lone survivor scavenges for food in an abandoned compound. He stumbles upon a large can of food which he takes for himself but also discovers another desperate and starving survivor willing to use violence.

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PROLOGO SA ANG DAKILANG DESAPARECIDO

Lav Diaz
prologo-lav-diaz

It had been 325 years that the Philippines was under Spanish rule when the Revolution, led by Andres Bonifacio, exploded on August 21, 1896. But on May 9, 1897, Bonifacio was charged with death sentence by rival revolutionaries led by Emilio Aguinaldo. Bonifacio’s body has never been found. His wife, Gregoria De Jesus, searched for his body in the mountains for thirty days, calling for Andres and even spirits to help her find her husband.

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saranghae-my-tutor

SARANGHAE MY TUTOR

Victor Villanueva

Benjamin teaches English to Koreans in an ESL centre. Despite his mundane and routinary life, he still believes that he will find his soul mate. One day, as if destiny intervened, he meets his new Korean student, Mi-Ok North Park…. it was love at first sight! Is this the soul mate that he’s been longing for? Will there be a happy ending between the shy Cebuano teacher and the beautiful Korean Angel despite their language barriers?

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STATIC

Jose Victor Bacsarpa
static

An inspector tries to get to the bottom of a local drug-related killing.

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SUPERPSYCHOCEBU

Christian Linaban
superpsychocebu

A young man is on a quest to find a mythical strain of cannabis called the SUPERPSYCHOCEBU. Along the way, he meets characters that appear to have lost their minds after trying it, one of them even possessed by the Devil, at which point he starts questioning whether he’s in for some good weed or just one hell of a bad trip.

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uwan-init-pista-sa-langit

UWAN INIT PISTA SA LANGIT

Keith Deligero, Remton Siega Zuasola

A story about heaven and hell.

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YES

Hanz Florentino
yes

Miguel gives a surprise wedding proposal to his girlfriend Jonah, when in the middle of the proposal Jonah secretly leaves and appears to have been cheating on him over a mysterious guy named Henry. Miguel retreats to a bar where he meets the temptress Melena. He now faces the dilemma of sulking on his fate with Jonah or accept the sweet invitation of Melena?

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BINISAYA 2016 SCHEDULE OF ACTIVITIES:

SATURDAY, September 17
SM Seaside City Cebu

6:30 – 7:00 p.m.
Lunchbox (Remton Siega Zuasola | PG)

7:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Q&A with the cast and crew

8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
ASIAN SHORTS:
Daughters of a Lesser God (Ammar Aziz | Pakistan | PG)
Fat Boy Never Slim (Sorayos Prapapan | Thailand | R13)
Lo Sum Choe Sum (Dechen Roder | Bhutan | R13)
Sepatu Baru (Aditya Ahmad | Indonesia | PG)
There Is No Poetry Here (Kalinga Deshapriya | Sri Lanka | R13)
Three Wheels (Kavich Neang | Cambodia | PG)

MONDAY, September 19
UP Cebu

6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
BINISAYA CLASSICS
Saranghae My Tutor (Victor Villanueva)
Gugma ni Olivia (Christian Linaban)
Uwan Init Pista Sa Langit (Keith Deligero, Remton Siega Zuasola)

7:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Q&A with directors

TUESDAY, September 20
CIT

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
BINISAYA CLASSICS

3:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Q&A with directors

WEDNESDAY, September 21
CNU

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
BINISAYA CLASSICS

3:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Q&A with directors

Robinsons Galleria

5:00 – 7:30 p.m.
Engkwentro (Pepe Diokno | R13)

8:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Miss Bulalacao (Ara Chawdhury | R13)

THURSDAY, September 22
USJR MassComm Studio

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
BINISAYA CLASSICS

3:30 – 4:00 p.m.
Q&A with directors

FRIDAY, September 23
USC SAFAD Theater

1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Filmmaker’s Forum with FDCP chair Liza Diño-Seguerra

4:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Prologo sa Ang Dakilang Desaprecido (Lav Diaz)

SATURDAY, September 24
USC SAFAD Theater

9:00 – 12:00 p.m.
The Film Business and Production with Cebuana producer Bianca Balbuena

SM Seaside City Cebu

1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
REGIONAL SHORTS IN EXHIBITION
Happy Fiesta (Joe Bacus | Cagayan de Oro)
2013 (Eluna Cepeda | Manila)
Cobra (Marco Campos | La Union)
Aluncina (Grace Marie Lopez | Cebu)
Familiar Strangers (Eric Peter | Compostela Valley/Surigao del Sur)
Pakigbisog (Steven Atenta | Cebu)
Junilyn Has (Carlo Francisco Manatad | Tacloban)
Lunchbox (Remton Siega Zuasola | Cebu)

3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
SHORTS IN COMPETITION
Lola (Roberta Fuentes | Bantayan | PG)
Hinagunoy Sa Goryon (Karl Derick Sia | Cebu | PG)
Inahan Sa Kanunayng Panabang (Chloe Veloso | Cebu | PG)
One Day, Isang Diwa (Nickle John Lim | Davao | R13)
Static (Jose Victor Bacsarpa | Cagayan de Oro | R13)
Get Certified (Isaias Herrera Zantua | Cebu | PG)
Ambihas (Jaylou Dari | Cebu | PG)
Yes (Hanz Florentino | Cebu | R13)

5:10 – 5:30
Q&A with Directors

6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
SUPERPSYCHOCEBU (Christian Linaban)

7:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Q&A with the cast and crew

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All plot synopses courtesy of Binisaya.

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