More Than Just A Love Story: 8 Local Romantic Indie Films that Tackle Social Issues

Words by Cathlyn Mae Botor

When we talk about rom-coms or romantic comedy films, we often think of films focused on fate and how two lovers were a match made in heaven despite all the odds. But aside from the kilig, many new films these days are also taking on the challenge of tackling socially relevant issues. There’s a new breed of romantic films that aren’t based on cliches nor are cheesy.

Here are 10 local romantic indie films that are more than just love stories, and dwell mostly on socially relevant issues:

8. Baka Bukas (2016)

Starring Jasmine Curtis-Smith and Louise Delos Reyes, Baka Bukas is a film tackling homosexuality, struggle with one’s identity, and unconventional romantic choices. The plot of the story revolves around Alex (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) who falls in love with her best friend Jess (Louise delos Reyes), who is of the same sex. The movie depicts a different kind of love story between two females who don’t fall under the conventional heterosexual relationship, but instills that love shouldn’t be measured by what is considered “normal” relationships in society. The film also destroys the misconceptions and stereotypes put on the members of the LGBTQ+ and thus, encourages openness and acceptance that we are all human beings who have flaws and all deserve respect.

7. Manananggal sa Unit 23b (2016)

Released in 2016, Manananggal sa Unit 23b is greatly inspired by Philippine mythology where a human-devouring creature or manananggal falls in love with a human who lives next to her apartment. In a Filipino setup, part of growing up are superstitions including stories of elemental spirits and mythical creatures. Jewel or the manananggal, played by Ryza Cenon, hungers for human flesh. When she met Nico (Martin del Rosario), Jewel encountered a personal struggle where she had to choose between her physical and romantic desires. This film has themes encompassing fantasy, thriller, drama, and romance.

But, what makes it more complex is its attempt to touch upon the pressing issues our society is facing today. Unknown corpses were found by the police later on in the film’s plot. This film also makes a superstitious yet realistic depiction of the bloody war on drugs and series of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

6. Sleepless (2015)

Set in a city that never sleeps, Sleepless is a film about two call center agents, Gem (Glaiza de Castro) and Barry (Dominic Roco), both insomniacs who agreed to spend the night by doing just anything mundane and random–even finding solace in a 24/7 convenience store. Both are stuck in a rut of their graveyard shift jobs but found a companion in one another. Despite mirroring a love story, the movie’s plot much portrayed loneliness and brokenness of laborers who are mostly consumed in their jobs. This film presents a deep underlying depiction of the vigorous state of the country’s labor force resulting into corporate slaves who still hunts at night just to make a living.

5. Paglipay (2016)

Among the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino entries in 2016, Paglipay is a film about the journey of an Aeta–a crossing stage, as the title implies. Atan, a 19-year old Aeta boy is about to marry his childhood friend, Ani, and strives to earn money for the bride price or dowry. He meets Rain (Anna Luna), a UP Manila student who wants to interview Aetas for her undergrad thesis. The movie presents a glimpse of the Aeta community’s tradition such as their ways of pamamanhikan and Pilaok, or the term coined for intermarriages between Aetas and lowlanders. The film’s plot centered on Rain’s developing feelings for Atan and how she always ends up getting hurt. More than the love triangle and unrequited love story, the film also showed the problems faced by indigenous groups like the Aetas. They continue to face livelihood problems because of the mining industries that dominate and occupy their lands.

More films on the next page!