In 2022, the Philippines was on quite a roll on the international cinematic arena with local films gaining critical acclaim and Filipino talents getting representation worldwide. There’s Martika Ramirez Escobar’s absurdist tale Leonor Will Never Die which made history with a Special Jury Award Prize win at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival which was also the premiere lieu for the Grand Jury Prize winning short “The Headhunter’s Daughter” by Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan. Erik Matti’s Venice winner On The Job: The Missing 8 also got a nod at the 50th International Emmy Awards in the best TV movie or miniseries category. Award-winning auteur Lav Diaz premiered two feature films last year with the moral epic A Tale of Filipino Violence, which was part of FIDMarseille’s official selection, and When The Waves Are Gone, which was presented in the out of competition section of the 79th Venice International Film Festival. Meanwhile, homegrown Filipino actors also proudly bannered the Philippine flag in some notable international projects. Cebuano actress Chai Fonacier joins Eva Green and Mark Strong as the leads of Lorcan Finnegan’s psychological horror, Nocebo. Character actors Soliman Cruz and Bart Guingona were part of Mihai Mincan’s maritime thriller To the North, which competed at La Biennale’s Orizzonti section. And of course, there’s Dolly de Leon who just made a couple of historic feats with a Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) win, a Golden Globe nomination, and recently, a British Film Academy Awards (BAFTA) nomination as best supporting actress with her role as the feisty Abigail in Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or winner Triangle of Sadness. In 2023, Philippine cinema is once again looking to have a vibrant year with Filipino movies taking on international film festivals and with history-making co-productions and projects to boot. Here are some of them that we’re most excited about.
In My Mother’s Skin
Having just premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is Kenneth Dagatan’s sophomore effort In My Mother’s Skin which is the sole Filipino feature film at the prestigious event. The only non-English title in the competitive Midnight section, this is a magical realist story set in postwar Philippines and follows a young girl who tries to protect her dying mother from a beguiling, flesh-eating fairy. The film also marks the first co-production between the Philippines (Epicmedia), Singapore (Zhao Wei Films and Clover Films), and Taiwan (Volos Films). Recently, it was announced that Prime Video would be taking the global rights for the Sundance-bound film, making it the first acquisition at fest by a streamer. The film had its premiere on the 20th of January.
This year, Prime Video Philippines will also release its first-ever original Filipino film, the mystery comedy “Sampung Mga Kerida” (Ten Little Mistresses). At the helm is Jun Robles Lana, an award-winning veteran Filipino director and co-founder of the local production outfit The IdeaFirst Company. Lana won the Best Critics’ Picks award at the 26th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival for his feature film About Us But Not About Us and nabbed the best director trophy in the same festival last 2019 for Kalel, 15. This tells the story of a widowed billionaire and his ten mistresses fighting tooth and nail to be his legal wife. But when the patriarch suddenly turns up dead, his paramours become the prime suspects who must defend themselves and find the real killer. Its star-studded ensemble boasts of Filipino entertainment heavyweights including comediennes Eugene Domingo, Carmi Martin, and the Volpi Cup-winning actor John Arcilla. Sampung Mga Kerida streams on February 15, 2023 in the Philippines and more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.
Iti Mapukpukaw (The Missing)
Golden Globe and BAFTA nominee Dolly de Leon stars in Carl Joseph Papa’s animated feature Iti Mapukpukaw (The Missing). It centers on a mouthless young man whose life gets upended when an alien comes back to take him. Produced by Project 8 Projects, the rotoscope animation movie wrapped filming last December and is currently in post-production. Iti Mapukpukaw is Papa’s third animation following the award-winning Paglisan (The Leaving”) and Manang Biring. It is slated to premiere at the 19th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival in August, the country’s largest event for independent cinema.
The Gospel of the Beast
Filipino director and producer Sheron Dayoc returns with a new feature film, The Gospel of the Beast. The coming-of-age story is about a teenage boy who, while searching for his father and accidentally killing his best friend, gets his life turned upside down and learns the destructive realities about life, death, and beasthood. Co-produced by Philippines’ Southern Lantern Studios, Tinkerbulb Productions, and Singapore’s E & W Films, the project was developed in Full Circle Lab Philippines and received a grant from the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP) International Co-production Fund in 2021. In 2017, it’s among the selected projects at the Busan Film Festival’s Asian Project Market. The Gospel of the Beast marks the comeback of Dayoc whose last feature film effort was “The Women of the Weeping River,” which won big awards from the Cinemalaya, the QCinema International Film Festival, and the Gawad Urian Awards in 2017. For his debut narrative feature Halaw (Ways of the Sea), Dayoc, who is a Sundance Institute and Asian Film Academy alumnus, won NETPAC awards at the Berlinale and Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2011. The Gospel of the Beast’ is currently in post-production and is set to be released this year.
After releasing two opuses last year, Golden Lion-winning director Lav Diaz is expected to return on the international cinematic stage with a new film titled, Bihinang. According to award-winning Filipino actress and Diaz’s assistant director Hazel Orencio, Bihinang will be an environmentalist fiction feature that is connected to the story of Louisa Francis Bihinang, an Aeta native who’s one of the casualties of the St. Louis World Fair in 1904 and is believed to be the first American-born Filipino. The film stars Orencio and mostly features a non-professional acting ensemble from the indigenous Aeta community. The film wrapped production last year and will likely be premiering this 2023.