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12 PH films in San Francisco

/ 05:08 AM July 17, 2017
Jaclyn Jose (right)  in “Patay na si Hesus”

Jaclyn Jose (right) in “Patay na si Hesus”

Twelve movies that “provide a broad look at the social and political life in the Philippines today” will be shown in San Francisco next month, as part of the annual retrospective on the “New Filipino Cinema.”

Now on its sixth year, the screenings will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in the heart of San Francisco, from Aug. 17 to Sept. 3.

Documentaries and feature films share stellar billing in the lineup that is described by organizers as “a response to the current political climate.” Organizers took note of the “reports of flagrant human rights abuses” under the term of President Duterte in an online essay.


Centerpiece of the retro is Brillante Ma Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa,” which focuses on the predicament of a small-time drug peddler arrested by crooked cops. The film won the best actress honor for Jaclyn Jose in last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The Yerba Buena Center website explained that Mendoza’s film “unfolds in what feels like real time, in a gritty social realist style.”

Ralston Jover’s “Hamog,” which won prizes in Moscow and Shanghai, likewise chronicles the travails of the disenfranchised on the mean streets of Manila. The Cinema One film is praised by organizers as “a unique blend of gritty drama and magical realism.”

Two documentaries in the program capture distinct and defining chapters of the Filipino story.

Baby Ruth Villarama’s much-heralded “Sunday Beauty Queen” follows Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong who break the monotony of their lives and “reclaim their dignity” by joining a pageant.

Gutierrez Mangansakan II’s “Forbidden Memory,” on the other hand, is a “sharp, painful” look at a little-known massacre that occurred in Malisbong in Mindanao during martial law.

Three horror movies seemingly mirror our turbulent, trying times.

Erik Matti’s “Seklusyon” subverts religious iconography in order to “explore how corruption clings to even the most repentant souls.”

Jerrold Tarog’s movie-within-a-movie, “Bliss,” “blurs the boundaries between dream and reality, using genre elements” to zoom in on “the monstrous nature of people in an image-obsessed society.”


Keith Deligero’s “Lily” tackles a Cebuano urban legend and reimagines the origin of a shape-shifting witch as a woman scorned. This Cinema One movie is summed up as “strange and haunting…[speaking] with an authentic, confident voice.”

There is light-hearted fare in the selection, too.

Victor Villanueva’s “Patay Na si Hesus” takes a beleaguered family on a “wacky” road trip, en route to the patriarch’s funeral. The QCinema movie is commended for its “Visayan sense of humor… [and] uniquely off-kilter comedic rhythm.”

Another “regional” story is recounted in Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Mercury is Mine,” set at the foot of Mount Arayat in Pampanga. This Cinemalaya dramedy is hailed as “a touching, offbeat…not-so-veiled commentary on American colonialism.”

In the same vein, Mario Cornejo’s surfing movie “Apocalypse Child,” QCinema best picture winner, is included in the program for “[revealing] a people still living with their colonial legacies, stuck riding the waves into the rocky shores of a traumatic past.”

“Sunday Beauty Queen”

“Sunday Beauty Queen”

For a bit of history and nostalgia, two films made it on the list.

The “restored version” of Ishmael Bernal’s 1971 movie, “Pagdating sa Dulo,” allows viewers to rediscover “the toxicity of show business,” while the filmmaker “reveals the greater tyrannies of a society on the verge of martial law.”

Lastly, Lav Diaz’s monumental, Berlin-winning, eight-hour epic, “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis,” “seamlessly blends real history with seminal tales and legends.” Organizers envision it as “a mournful wail for the state of the republic, and a defiant cry of hope for future generations.”

Also in the program is an uncommon presentation. On Aug. 20, former Inquirer photographer Raffy Lerma, whose frontpage photo of a victim of extrajudicial killing went viral, will present a slide show of his works documenting the raging “war on drugs.”

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