Films have always been something we have clung to, perhaps even more so in a time of such uncertainty. Since the onset of community quarantine, many directors and production companies have released titles online. A group of filmmakers led by Carl Chavez even initiated a Lockdown Cinema Club, where film lovers can watch short films in exchange for donations to healthcare workers and frontliners. With this new abundance of movies (and time), we rounded up nine films you can stream while self-isolating.
- Bliss (2017, dir. Jerrold Tarog)
As a disturbing depiction of abuse as a cycle, Bliss dwells on themes of obsession, media, and exploitation. While one can easily identify the Hollywood influences, especially in Tarog’s playing with time, logic, and dreams, the film’s tackling of local salient issues contextualized it and made it relevant. What is most notable is its attempt to root the cycle of abuse to the continuous repression of the victims; the film knows it should prioritize the narrative of Jane (Iza Calzado), a victim of various forms of exploitation. Yet, we can’t help but raise questions on the film’s explicit depiction of abuse: Is it relevant? Or is it just another fetishistic and exploitative portrayal of female abuse? — JT Trinidad
Watch Bliss for free on TBA Studios’ YouTube Channel here.
- Budots: The Craze (2019, dir. Mark Limbaga and Jay Rosas)
Thanks to the Lockdown Cinema Club, this Binisaya-winning short documentary has been made available to a wider audience. Filmmakers Mark Limbaga and Jay Rosas investigate the ethnographic history and cultural impact of budots as a music genre that arose from specific material conditions. It attempts to reclaim this Visayan narrative that, for the most part, has been appropriated—even ridiculed—by the Tagalogs and Manileños. Much like budots, Limbaga and Rosas’ direction is playful and innovative, exuding an energetic desire for informative storytelling and genuine celebration of regional artistry. The film also gives a much-deserved spotlight to DJ Sherwin Calumpang Tuna, the musician behind the infamous budots genre. This short is also part of our list of essential Filipino films last year, which you can read here. — Gerald Cajayon
Watch Budots: The Craze on Lockdown Cinema Club Vol. 2 here.
- Edward (2019, dir. Thop Nazareno)
Winning the Jury Prize Award in last year’s Cinemalaya, Thop Nazareno’s Edward is timely during this COVID-19 pandemic. Centered on a young boy named Edward whose father is admitted in a public hospital, it is a coming-of-age film that subtly critiques the country’s healthcare system and government’s failure to provide accessible and efficient health services for the marginalized. It closes on Edward to humanize the victims of this systemic shortcoming, shedding light on stories often unheard. The film being a drama made it easier to empathize with Edward’s struggle as a boy who is expected to fill the shoes of the adults around him; a story that is well-immersed and well-represented. Read our full review of this Cinemalaya entry here. — JT
Watch Edward for free on iflix here.
- Elise (2019, dir. Joel Ferrer)
Romcoms were my first foray into movies, and as Elise so beautifully told, first love never dies. I will never mistrust a genre that feels safe, but despite this film’s penchant for familiarity, it never feels repetitive or worn out. It is brimming with charm, thanks primarily to Enchong Dee’s tender depiction of the lovestruck Bert—you can’t help but root for him in his tireless pursuit of his childhood crush even years later. The story, perhaps because it was framed through flashbacks, feels like a memory: it appeals more to the heart than the mind, prioritizing feeling over fact. That said, Elise is in no way a fairytale. It presents love in all its mythicism and the dangers that come with such myths; where there is love, there is loss, and then some. — Andrea Panaligan
- Four Sisters and a Wedding (2013, dir. Cathy Garcia-Molina)
This star-studded family dramedy brings together Toni Gonzaga, Bea Alonzo, Angel Locsin, Shaina Magdayao as four sisters desperate to save their youngest brother CJ (Enchong Dee) from the perils of an early marriage. Their plans are flawed, but each shortcoming strips a bit of the sisters’ walls. One of the best things about the film, after all, is how it doesn’t shy away from insecurities and shame that come between siblings. Whatever differences they have, it’s their love and bond that binds them back together—a common testament to the strength of sisterhood. And while there’s a lot of holes in the narrative, the actors’ chemistry makes it easy to forgive. Sometimes all we need is a good family drama with its heart on its sleeve. — CJ Tabigo-on
- & 7. Sinipi Kay Boni (2019) and Salimbayan (2020)
Sine Sanyata was only launched last year, but they have already proven themselves to be one of the most important political film collectives currently working in the country. Their signature agitprop filmmaking style is evident in these two shorts they have made, unapologetic with their leftist politics and critiques of the Duterte administration. Sinipi Kay Boni uses Bonifacio Ilagan as an entry point in its inspection of the intricacies of art and activism, calling on cultural workers to create art that serves the people. On the other hand, Salimbayan curates news clippings surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak to show how the working class have been affected by the health crisis. Both films exhibit distinct film techniques that aim to rouse the viewers’ political consciousness and encourage them to take part in an organized resistance against state repression. In a time when social contradictions between the rich and poor are heightened, Sine Sanyata’s shorts serve as reminders to hold on to the collective anger that the Filipino masses have been bottling up, until the crisis ceases and the nation’s streets call onto its people once more. — GC
- Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay (2012, dir. Antoinette Jadaone
Jadaone’s directorial debut stars veteran actress and horror icon, the late Lilia Cuntapay, playing a version of herself with half-truths from her 30-year career as a showbiz extra. The film is rich with wit and heart, with Cuntapay exuding so much life and humor. She proves that she’s more than what she has been typecast as she shows us the ropes of her everyday life: the life of someone who loves to tell stories, but also a constant struggle to reach recognition in the industry. — CT
Watch Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay for free on Cinema One’s YouTube Channel here.
- 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten (2016, dir. Petersen Vargas)
If you haven’t heard of 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, were you even alive in 2017? With its story of gay longing and its heavily indie soundtrack (thank you for existing, Ourselves the Elves), it very quickly enamored the internet. While it was marketed as a story of first love (its tagline, “How do you forget your first friend if he’s your first love,” still stings), it worked better as a quiet snapshot of protagonist Felix (Khalil Ramos)’s coming-of-age. Director Petersen Vargas gave the characters the care and attention that Jason Paul Laxamana’s screenplay lacked; the direction evoking a sentimentality without the romanticization of hindsight. Rewatching this during quarantine made me long for the feeling of seeing it for the first time, when a friend and I scoured five malls in three cities and lied about our age just to see it on the big screen—stories of longing just hit closer to home in self-isolation. — AP
Watch 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten on HOOQ.