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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 4, 2012

Yearender 2011 Part 7: The Best Films Of 2011

AT THE OUTSET, let us say this is not a complete list as there were so many indie films shown in small venues to which we were not invited so we didn’t get to see them. This list is just our personal choice. The best films shown for us last year were five entries in Cinemalaya last July and one mainstream feature.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” – Debuting director Marlon Rivera’s rollicking satire on young indie filmmakers who romanticize poverty and have all sorts of ideas about filmmaking, ranging from relevant to weird and outrageous. It really deserves to win best film in Cinemalaya’s New Breed Category. It also has great commercial appeal as a laugh out loud comedy so it’s not surprising it’s a hit in its regular theatrical run, making it an artistic and commercial success. Brilliantly conceived by Chris Martinez (“Here Comes the Bride”) and well executed by debuting director Marlon Rivera, it’s also splendidly acted by Eugene Domingo in the title role, and JM De Guzman and Kean Cipriano as the idealistic filmmakers with the lofty idea of doing the first Filipino film that will make it to the Oscars.

Patikul” – Directed by Joel Lamangan, this is based on the true story of coffee farmers in Patikul, Sulu, who fight for the right of their kids to get a good education. When their school principal (Marvin Agustin) was kidnapped and beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf, teachers got scared to go to their school. The farmers, led by Allen Dizon, then decide to take arms to personally protect the teachers from the bad guys. It shows how even the lives of innocent children are adversely affected by the strife in Mindano, with one of them even recruited to join the Abu Sayyaf.

NIÑO” -The directorial debut of Loy Arcenas who also wrote it, it has echoes of Lino Brocka’s “Ina Kapatid Anak” about a balikbayan from the U.S. who returns to their decaying ancestral home and also Nick Joaquin’s “Portrait of the Artist as Filipino” especially the final scene involving a “tertulia”. But Arcenas succeeded to make it his own nostalgic version of a riveting family drama of a once illustrious family now living in oblivion and poverty, well acted by Fides Asencio, Art Acuna, Raquel Villavicencio and Shamaine Buencamino.

Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa” - A film that surpassed all our expectations, this is from writer-director Alvin Yapan whose first work, “Panggagahasa Kay Fe”, failed to impress us. He now has a better grip on his material and succeeds in realizing it artfully on screen with much more taste and finesse. Even the technical credits are more polished this time. The first local film that succeeds in combining dance and poetry, it’s a rare love triangle story with gay overtones that is beautifully understated and handled with much subtlety. Superbly acted by Jean Garcia as the literature and dance teacher who brings together two of her students, Paolo Avelino and Rocco Nacino. The undercurrent of Rocco’s sentiments for Paolo is very palpable but never articulated. You can feel the electricity between them when they dance and even Jean herself observes this, but it is never fully defined.

Ligo na U, Lapit na Me” – This is originally a novel written by Eros Atalia that is so verbose and certainly more literary than cinematic in its aimless stream of consciousness musings on the part of the author-narrator who shares his views on corruption, floods, the Chinese presence in the country, etc. We wondered how it’d be transferred on the big screen, but in all fairness to screenwriter Gerry Gracio, he succeeded in capturing the book’s core and essence and adapt it well as a movie. Debuting director Erick Salud also did a fine job in his deft handling of the material, making it a sure crowd pleaser for today’s young audiences with its numerous hip and hilarious scenes. Edgar Allan Guzman is splendid as the college student who’s befriended by a free-spirited, liberated, English-speaking classmate (Mercedes Cabral), who takes him to bed without any commitment whatsoever. He falls in love with her then she goes missing one day, never to be seen again, just like real life where nothing is certain.

“Ikaw ang Pag-big” – Directed by Marilou Diaz Abaya, this is the only mainstream film in our list. It’s about a dysfunctional family whose members confront a big crisis when the priest son (Marvin Agustin) is stricken with cancer. It shows how faith can bring a family together again. It’s a loving tribute to the Virgin of Penafrancia in Naga but this is done not in a hard sell but a very quiet and touching manner. The acting standouts here are Shamaine Buencamino as the worried mom and Jomari Yllana as the very supportive doctor-son in law.

The Year in Review 2011

Part 1: The Ugly, Messy Break Ups
Part 2: Weddings, Couplings In 2011
Part 3: The Controversies, Scandals And Feuds Of 2011
Part 4: In Memoriam, New Moms New Babies
Part 5: The Tv Shows Of 2011
Part 6: Local Films Shown In 2011
Part 7a: The Best Films Of 2011
Part 7b: Honor Roll Of 2011's Best Actors And Actresses
Part 7c: Honor Roll Of Best Supporting Performances In 2011