Local movies were spotlighted at the end of 2016 as the lineup of accepted entries of the Metro Manila Film Festival was arguably its most diverse in years. It traded commercially viable franchise entries for eight movies showcasing the diversity of Filipino film, which included live action-animation hybrid Saving Sally, documentary Sunday Beauty Queen and a potentially star-making mainstream entry in Vince & Kath & James. It didn’t gross as much as previous years, but it was buzzed-about throughout its run with a mobilization to cinemas not seen since Heneral Luna became a surprise hit in 2015.
The festival brought newfound awareness and appreciation for local cinema and its potentials. With the new year comes trying out new things, so here are 12 local mainstream and independent movies that you should watch out for in 2017.
12 Local Movies to Watch Out for in 2017
Ilawod (January 18)
Directed by Dan Villegas, written by Yvette Tan
Starring Ian Veneracion, Epi Quizon, Xyriel Manabat, Therese Malvar, Harvey Bautista and Iza Calzado
Cinematographer and director Dan Villegas may be known for his commercially and critically successful rom-coms such as English Only, Please, Walang Forever and Always Be My Maybe, but for his next film, he’s venturing into new territory: horror. Ilawod follows the family of a reporter (Ian Veneracion) who accidentally invites a water spirit that latches on to his son (Harvey Bautista, in his film debut) and threatens to tear his family apart. It may sound like the Filipino Insidious, but possession has rarely been done in local movies until now. With the recent success of Erik Matti’s Seklusyon in last year’s MMFF, it’s an exciting time for local horror.
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ilawodthewaterspirit
Darkroom (January 18)
Directed by Pedring A. Lopez, screenplay by Dennis Empalmado, story by Pedring A. Lopez and Dennis Empalmado
Starring Ella Cruz, Bret Jackson, AJ Muhlach, Donnalyn Bartolome, Andrew Muhlach, Rose Van Ginkel, Caleb Santos, Samantha Capulong, and Jack Reid
Another horror entry opening in the same day is Darkroom, from Nilalang and Binhi director Pedring A. Lopez. While Binhi dealt with the haunted house and Nilalang featured Cesar Montano and Maria Ozawa fighting an evil entity, Darkroom is a full-on found footage horror movie. The film follows a group of teenagers who venture into a house where an exorcism took place to film possible paranormal activity for a documentary. What could go wrong? You know what’s gonna happen, but we’ll wait and see if the scares are truly terrifying.
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/darkroom.movie2017
Across the Crescent Moon (January 25)
Written and directed by Baby R. Nebrida
Starring Matteo Guidicelli, Christopher de Leon, Gabby Concepcion, Dinna Bonnevie, Sandy Andolong, Joem Bascon, Ivan Carapiet, Jerico Estregan and Alex Godinez
Judging by the trailer, there’s a lot going on in Across the Crescent Moon. Matteo Guidicelli can add “action star” to his long list of movie roles as he takes on the role of Abbas, an exemplary Muslim SAF soldier. Theater actress Alex Godinez plays Abbas’ wife, Emma, who’s torn between her husband’s Islamic faith and her family’s strict Christian upbringing. And then there’s Abbas’ high-stakes mission to go after the local human trafficking ring. Add A-listers such as Christopher de Leon, Gabby Concepcion and Dinna Bonnevie into the mix, and you’ve got the grand vision from director-writer-producer Baby R. Nebrida, who blends the typical action thriller with themes of family, spirituality and injustice.
Is it too ambitious? We won’t know until we’ve seen the movie, but Nebrida’s bold message on unity in the midst of our differences is relevant and timely in a country more divided than ever.
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CrescentMoonMovie
Foolish Love (January 25)
Directed by Joel Lamangan, written by Jerry B. Gracio and Jaymar S. Castro
Starring Angeline Quinto, Jake Cuenca, Miho Nishida, Tommy Esguerra, Cai Cortez and Arlene Muhlach
Regal Entertainment is on a roll. They churned out Mano Po 7: Chinoy, the latest film in the long-running Tsinoy franchise, and their 2016 MMFF entry, Die Beautiful, is the second-highest grossing movie of the festival. Now, they’re prepping their pre-Valentine’s Day entry Foolish Love, a romantic comedy that pairs Angeline Quinto and Jake Cuenca for the first time, as well as the film debut of Pinoy Big Brother 737 loveteam Miho Nishida and Tommy Esguerra, or “ToMiho” as the duo is called. Will this deliver the kilig factor that previous romcoms have pulled off?
Sakaling Hindi Makarating (February 1)
Directed by Ice Idanan, written by Ice Idanan and Petersen Vargas
Starring Alessandra de Rossi, Pepe Herrera, JC Santos, Teri Malvar, Elijah Canlas and Karen Delos Reyes
After a devastating breakup with her longtime boyfriend, Cielo (Alessandra de Rossi) suddenly receives anonymous letters with hand-illustrated artworks representing each place it was written from. With encouragement from her neighbor Paul (Ang Probinsyano’s Pepe Herrera) and her postcards as a guide, she decides to embark on a trip around the country not only in search for the mysterious writer, but for self-discovery as she is immersed into the different cultures around the Philippines.
Sakaling Hindi Makarating won seven awards at last year’s CineFilipino Film Festival, with directing and cinematography awards going to first-time director Ice Idanan. And it’s easy to see why: Idanan frames Cielo’s journey with gorgeous scenery, from the festivals in Zamboanga and Marinduque, to the pristine beaches of Ilocos Norte and the rolling hills of Batanes, showing newfound appreciation for the Philippines’ sprawling nature.
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/SakalingHindiMakarating
Swipe (February 1)
Directed by Ed Lejano, screenplay by Ed Lejano, John Bedia, story by Ed Lejano, Paolo Fernandez and John Bedia
Starring Meg Imperial, Luis Alandy, Maria Isabel Lopez, Gabby Eigenmann, Alex Medina and Mercedes Cabral
The rising trend of online dating is explored in Swipe, a sexy drama where things are not what they seem. Several tenants in an apartment complex actively use a dating app, Swipe, but recently installed CCTV cameras reveal their discreet activities. Things get complicated when the residents pursue their romances beyond their screens, where truths and relationships unravel. As it navigates the good and bad effects of modern ways on how people pursue relationships, Swipe perfectly arrives in a Valentine’s season in an age of technology, trysts and Tinder. (Also: check out When In Manila’s interview with star Meg Imperial on Swipe and online dating.)
Check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/swipethemovie
Check out their official website (with a design mirroring an online dating webpage): https://swipe.ph/