18 Filipino Films Are Screening at the New York Museum of Modern Art!

We all know our local filmmakers are talented. Many of them have been recognized in some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals. Now, Filipino films are being recognized again, this time at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where 18 films from 13 directors are being exhibited in A New Golden Age: Contemporary Philippine Cinema.

According to MoMA, the exhibit “presents a survey of Philippine film from around 2000 to the present, a period known as the Third Golden Age of Philippine cinema (following the first golden age, in the 1950s, and the second, from the 1970s to the early 1980s).”

It also noted the “exceptionally unique, vibrant movement” of Philippine cinema, citing the 13 directors as promoting the “dizzying array of distinct cinematic statements” from audacious formal experimentation to the multiplicity of personal, social, and political perspectives.

The exhibit will run until June 25, and is organized by Frances Hui, the associate curator of the Department of Film.

Check out the 18 films being exhibited below:

Serbis by Brillante Mendoza

Filipino MOMA

Bedmates, Frolic in the Water, and Young Screw Pine are some of the pornographic titles screened in a dilapidated Art Deco movie theater incongruously named “Family.” Family-friendly it most certainly is not, but it is family run. Members of the extended Pineda family operate the concession stand, sell tickets, project films, and paint old-fashioned movie billboards. Art imitates life and vice versa; there’s no shortage of lust, sex, flirt, and adultery both on and off screen. It’s the first Cannes competition entry from Brillante Mendoza, who has since become a regular at the festival.

Thy Womb by Brillante Mendoza

Filipino MOMA 2

What can be more punishing for a midwife, who greets countless babies to life, than to face her own infertility? Such is the story of Shaleha, a Muslim woman in the Tawi-Tawi island community in southwest Philippines. Grande dame of Philippine cinema Nora Aunor gives a spontaneous, heartfelt performance as the quiet heroine of this award-winning picture.

Motherland by Ramona S. Diaz

Filipino MOMA 3

Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, in Metro Manila, is called the busiest maternity hospital in the world. Overcrowded, noisy, frenetic, and fast-paced, the hospital offers a rare safety net for poor women, where they can give birth under the care of professionals. This vérité-style documentary provides an immersive, revealing look into an active ecosystem and a complex society.

Transit by Hannah Espia

Filipino MOMA 4

Janet and Moises are siblings and Filipino migrant workers in Tel Aviv. Both single parents, they provide support for one another as they raise their Israeli-born and Hebrew-fluent children Yael, a teenage girl with a Jewish boyfriend, and Joshua, a bubbly four-year-old who takes an interest in the Torah. A deportation law requires Joshua, under the age of five, to be sent to the Philippines, a country he has never visited.

Ma’ Rosa by Brillante Mendoza

Filipino MOMA 5

Rosa and Nestor run a small convenience store in a shantytown in Metro Manila, where they deal drugs on the side to help make ends meet. Arrested during a police raid, they face corrupt cops who attempt to extort money from them, setting off a nightmarish chain of frenzied efforts by the couple’s children to raise funds. Ma’ Rosa was Mendoza’s third film to enter the competition at Cannes and Jaclyn Jose nabbed the festival’s Best Actress award, a first for a Southeast Asian, for her powerful performance as the resourceful matriarch.

How to Disappear Completely by Raya Martin

Filipino MOMA 6

A teenage girl lives in a dysfunctional family with her joyless mother and alcoholic father, and abuse is just a matter of time. Then a spirit, in the form of an old lady with long white hair, visits the girl at night—but what are her intentions? Raya Martin’s film deftly combines horror and experimentalism to critique Philippine society and uncover its subconscious.

Manila by Raya Martin and Adolfo Alix, Jr.

Filipino MOMA 7

In Martin’s first half, a young man grapples with drug addiction and his mother’s disappointment. In Alix’s section, a bodyguard who kills someone while protecting his boss is abandoned to fend for himself. Manila is a multigenerational dialogue on film, Philippine cinema, and Manila.

On the Job by Erik Matti

Filipino MOMA 8

A pair of hitmen, veteran Tatang and young apprentice Daniel murder a man execution-style in broad daylight in a busy market. No ordinary gangsters, they are in fact prison inmates who are regularly let out of jail to perform dirty jobs. An instant success when it premiered at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, this high-octane, propulsive crime thriller established Erik Matti as one of the most exciting genre directors in recent years.

Gemini by Ato Bautista

Filipino MOMA 9

Julia is tormented by old demons. When she looks into the mirror, she sees not herself but her identical twin, Judith. Speaking to a detective, she recounts memories of interdependence, twin rivalry, and a gruesome murder. Switching between black-and-white and color imagery awash in a chilling bluish tone, director Ato Bautista takes us on a hallucinatory ride through a mindscape filled with mysteries and trauma.

BalikBayan #1: Memories of Overdevelopment Redux VI. 1979–2017 by Kidlat Tahimik

Filipino MOMA 10

BalikBayan, which means “returnee” in Filipino, is partly about the homecoming of the historical figure Enrique of Malacca, a Malay who Tahimik first played and brought to the screen in 1979. As the slave of the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan he circumnavigated the Earth, before returning home as a free man. Old footage of Enrique, played by the young Tahimik, is mixed with the fictional story of a mysterious old man, played by the present-day Tahimik, and documentary footage of a contemporary artist community in Baguio, in northern Philippines.

Ang Babae sa Septic Tank by Marlon Rivera

Filipino MOMA 11

A three-person indie filmmaking team—all middle-class, English-speaking, young, and ambitious—has grand plans to make it big in the film world. Philippine films have been well-received at glamorous international film festivals, and they have just the right story to satisfy the appetite of the global film elites: a desperate mother of seven kids in an urban slum who has no choice but to pimp out one of her kids—initially a girl, but later switched to a boy for sure-win dramatic effect. On top of exploiting the “poverty porn” formula, the filmmakers experiment with every possible stylistic cliché, from heart-wrenching docudrama to campy musical, to maximize the emotional response.

Independencia by Raya Martin

Filipino MOMA 12

Set in the early 20th century, Independencia tells the story of a family living a life of seclusion in the forest after fleeing American forces. Here, life returns to the basics, and traditional Filipino folklore, myth, and witchcraft re-enter consciousness.

Aparisyon by Isabel Sandoval

Filipino MOMA 13

Tucked away in a remote forest, the convent of Adoration is inhabited by a group of nuns seeking a peaceful life of devotion and discipline, filling their days with nothing but mundane chores and prayers. But the wish for a life in isolation is threatened when President Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law, and political protests and chaos begin to infiltrate every corner of the archipelago. Suddenly, the nuns find themselves engulfed in violence and unrest that will eventually put their faith and conscience to the test.

Expressway by Ato Bautista

Filipino MOMA 14

Silent night is no holy night as Ben, a quiet, reserved middle-aged hitman, sits in the dark, lit only by blinking lights from a Christmas tree, awaiting his next target. Fed up with this unredeemable life, Ben promises his boss one final assignment. He is paired with the most unlikely partner, the young, reckless, overly chatty, Morris, who seems more like a threat than an accomplice during a road trip that proves to be anything but a peaceful exit.

Bunso by Ditsi Carolino

Filipino MOMA 16

If life behind bars in an overcrowded, unsanitary prison is hellish, imagine what it’s like for children in mixed confinement with adult criminals. Three boys, aged 11 to 13, guide documentarian Ditsi Carolino through their prison complex to reveal horrendous living conditions and speak openly about their lives behind bars and back at home, including stories of poverty, domestic abuse, drug use, petty crime, and abandonment.

Engkwentro by Pepe Diokno

Filipino MOMA 15

City mayor Danilo Dularte Suarez is shown on television in the opening sequence posing as a tough leader of law and order. Though invisible later, is omnipresent throughout the film as his voice, as if on a broadcast, is heard pledging to fight crime. Richard, a young gangster, is plotting to flee town to avoid being killed by the city’s crime-fighting death squad, but before he runs away he must dodge the attack of a rival gang.

From What is Before by Lav Diaz

Filipino MOMA 17

Strange happenings in a remote seaside community—huts are mysteriously set on fire, cows are hacked to death, a man with a bite on his neck dies at a crossroads, wailing is heard in the forest—leads someone to declare, “These are cursed times.” The villagers are devout Catholics, but they also turn to shamans, supernatural healers, tree spirits, and mystical objects for protection. Yet of all the things to fear, it is the arrival of the military and the proclamation of martial law that bring true horror to the land, and ultimately there is no protection.

Norte, the End of History by Lav Diaz

Filipino MOMA 18

Inspired by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Norte is an equally epic and engrossing tale about the moral degradation of Fabian, a young, radical ideologue who proclaims, “If we really want to clean up society, the solution is simple: kill all the bad elements.” It is because of this conviction that a wealthy, heartless woman is murdered and an impoverished family is condemned to enormous suffering.

Have you seen these movies? Share your thoughts below!

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