Filipino thrillers in Melbourne
Filipino thrillers are making their mark in Asian horror.
Two Filipino films have been included in the lineup of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival, to be held in Melbourne, Australia, from Nov. 10 to 13.
Film critic and scholar Andrew Leavold handpicked Rico Maria Ilarde’s “Altar” and Richard Somes’ “Yanggaw” to be part of the fest, alongside films from China, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.
Leavold, who has been writing extensively about Philippine cinema, considers Ilarde and Somes as “two of the most fascinating talents working in genre films at present.”
He pointed out that the two filmmakers are “two radically different personalities, representing divergent filmmaking styles.”
Rico, said Leavold, “is steeped in pop culture and has that formal film-school-training style.” Somes, on the other hand, “approaches film in a more intuitive fashion.”
Leavold regards “Altar” and “Yanggaw” as “arguably their best films to date… possessing a deep understanding of the genre, while remaining unmistakably Filipino.”
He described “Altar,” which top-bills Zanjoe Marudo and Dimples Romana, as a “slow-burner… allowing the intricately plotted script to build tension. It says so much about the chasm between city and countryside, civilization and the dark unknown.”
He chose “Yanggaw,” which features Ronnie Lazaro and Tetchie Agbayani, because “it’s a jarring modern take on the aswang legend, equating demonic possession with a kind of addiction.”
Leavold has always been drawn to horror flicks. “Dark fantasy is an important cathartic process in working out our inner demons. Experiencing those fears safely and vicariously via horror films is like jumping out of a plane with a parachute.”
He related that the horror festival is a brainchild of Monster Pictures, a distribution and production company based in Melbourne.
“The fest is the first of its kind in Australia,” he noted. “Hopefully, it’ll be the first of many that will showcase the DVD label’s Asian acquisitions.”
The fest aims to introduce Australian audiences to “new films, new industries, even new countries, they may not have had the opportunity to experience” previously.
In a bizarre twist, Leavold discovered Philippine cinema because of a pint-sized Pinoy James Bond.
“When I was younger, I saw Weng Weng in ‘For Your Height Only,’” he recalled. “I instantly fell in love with him. From that moment on, I wanted to know all I could about the cinema and culture from where Weng Weng had sprung.”
He conceded: “Obsession is a strange creature. Now, I get to teach film in the Philippines and consider Manila my second home. All thanks to Weng Weng.”
Leavold hopes to release his book on Filipino genre filmmaking, “Bamboo Gods and Bionic Boys,” next year.