Global cinema observers have noted a “rapid emergence of genre films from the Philippines.” This was most recently pointed out on the website of South Korea’s Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival.
Half-way around the world, at the 12th New York Asian Film Festival ongoing until July 15 in the United States, Filipino genre movies are currently being celebrated.
The festival came up with a program dubbed “Manila Chronicles: The New Filipino Cinema,” which spotlights “a handful of the best” from the current local scene.
“Although overlooked by most film festivals, the Philippine movie industry has exploded like fireworks… in recent years, lighting up the local scene with some of the sexiest, most daring and raw movies,” the festival website points out.
Among the Pinoy feature films in the fest are Rico Maria Ilarde’s “Pridyider,” Gino M. Santos’ “The Animals,” Christian Linaban’s “Aberya,” Kevin Dayrit’s “Catnip” and Erik Matti’s “Rigodon” and short “Vesuvius.”
The filmmakers on the roster include both seasoned pros (Matti and Ilarde were both honorees in the first Inquirer Indie Bravo! Tribute) and promising newcomers.
“[The selection is] quite eclectic,” Ilarde said of the lineup. “If I were to pinpoint a theme, it might be a sense of nihilism and cynicism running through the characters.”
There’s a subversive streak in the films that are mostly powered by rebels against parents, society or the government, according to Ilarde. “[The attitude is] ‘We don’t believe you; so we’ll find out the truth on our own… even if we create a total mess.”
Ilarde, who is making his US debut in this festival, is heartened by the growing interest in Filipino genre films. “It’s about time the Philippines was recognized as a rich and viable source of ‘fantastique’ films,” he said.
Matti recalled a time when genre films were “looked down on as sellouts.”
With the success of local genre films abroad, particularly Matti’s “On the Job” (which secured P12-million distribution deals in France and the United States), the tide will hopefully turn.
Matti asserted: “Genre, if done well, can cross over. It doesn’t have to be stupid, mindless entertainment or crassly commercial.”
Ilarde echoed Matti’s contention that the business side of festivals should not be taken lightly. “The number of attendees will be the true gauge of success,” he said about his film’s screening.
Inclusion in the New York fest is a noteworthy first step for Ilarde. “[The festival] is growing every year… it has become a cinematic bellwether… predicting or anticipating trends and emerging talents from the Asian region, and introducing them to American audiences.”
He is optimistic about the Philippine participation. “New York is the media capital of the world and the spotlight on Asian cinema is a big boost to the region’s filmmakers and talents,” he stressed.
The Filipino films are currently showing at the Walter Reade and Francesca Beal Theaters in New York.