Philippine New Wave

Philippine New Wave


A closer look at the spirited, ambitious and brilliantly diverse films emerging from the Philippines

The largest of several new sections introduced into the EIFF programme this year by new artistic director Chris Fujiwara, Philippine New Wave also looks like being by far the most exciting. Aside from their country of origin, what the 11 features (and several of the three-decade-spanning shorts programme) in the section have in common is they were made by young(ish) independent filmmakers, an unaffiliated group described by one of their own, Khavn De La Cruz (who guest-programmed the section), as the originators of his nation’s third golden age of cinema.

The films they have made are extraordinarily diverse, ranging from the poetic minimalism of Lav Diaz’s Florentina Hubaldo, CTE to the chaotic montage of Lawrence Fajardo’s Amok and from the avant-garde storytelling of Christopher Gozum’s Forever Loved to the technical craftsmanship of Loy ArcenasNiño. With these filmmakers, there is a sense that anything goes – and it does, frequently – and it is this that makes the Philippine New Wave an electrifying prospect.

If it’s difficult, if not impossible, to identify any other common traits existing in these films and between their makers, then it is possible to recognise a certain shared sensibility, an anarchic punk attitude (perhaps what the Filipino’s call their ‘sariling dwende’ or inner spirit) that’s evident across the board to a great or a greater degree. De La Cruz’s own film, Mondomanila, or: How I Fixed My Hair After A Rather Long Journey, is probably the most extreme example of this punk spirit. Based on Norman Wilwayco’s cult novel, Mondomanila is, as its title suggests, a sensational pseudo-documentary exploitation film about the bad and the beautiful of the Filipino capital’s underclass and subculture. It is here that you will be introduced to Mutya, the too-cool-for-school breakdancing amputee midget who earns a living by selling children to paedophiles.

Elsewhere in the programme, the punk spirit makes itself felt in less in-your-face ways, as is the case in Emerson ReyesMNL 143, which nonchalantly throws plotting out of the window and instead looses itself in a series of taxi cab rides, or Jewel Maranan’s Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born?, which treats the ugly subject of poverty in Manila (a high-rise city/shanty town where 80-90% of the population live below the poverty line) in a way that bestows dignity and beauty on the poor.

The punk attitude shared by the Philippine New Wave filmmakers is, of course, a product of place, time and circumstance. De La Cruz and his contemporaries grew up in the Philippines in the post-colonial era, and they have come of age as filmmakers after a decade of silence following the last golden age of cinema in their country. Back then, during the 1970s and 80s, up to 160 films were released each year, and instant classics, Lino Brocka’s Jaguar, for one example, were given international recognition by being invited to international film festivals such as Cannes. (Incidentally, if you want to see a Philippine film from the first golden age get along to The Brockas in Film-Concert event. At it, the avant-garde rock band The Brockas, named after Lino (and take a close look at the bass player), will improvise a live soundtrack to Manuel Conde and Lou Salvador’s 1950 film, Genghis Khan, which previously played at EIFF way back in 1952.)

In recent years, the mainstream film industry in the Philippines has remained stagnant, artistically speaking, and has done nothing to help independent filmmakers get their films made (although it has attempted to curtail their creative freedoms and profit from their output). With the arrival of affordable digital technology, however, new and established independent filmmakers have had the means of production handed back to them, which, in a large way, accounts for the new-found vibrancy, this third golden age, of Philippine filmmaking.

Getting their films seen in cinemas is still a problem for these filmmakers, however. In the Philippines, as in North America and Europe, big business continues to control distribution and exhibition. But in place of national cinema chains, the international film festival circuit is beginning to celebrate Philippine films with retrospectives and, as is the case at EIFF this year, showcases of the latest, cutting edge films. The Philippine New Wave is gaining international recognition. And you can say you saw it here, in Edinburgh, first.

Edinburgh International Film Festival takes place Wed 20 June - Sun 1 July.

The Brockas in Film-Concert

Live gig from Filipino avant-rock improvisers The Brockas, accompanying Genghis Khan, a 1950 film from their homeland that screened at EIFF in 1952. Part of Edinburgh International Film Festival.


  • 2011
  • Philippines
  • 1h 23min
  • Directed by: Lawrence Anthony Fajardo
  • Cast: Mark Gil, Dido de la Paz, Garry Lim, Nonie Buencamino, John Arceo

One sweltering day on the mean streets of Manila, various lives intersect and come into conflict as an act of random violence escalates into a brutal struggle for survival. 'Fajardo's technical exercise is a showcase of his talent for skewering disparate lives momentarily trapped in an urban labyrinth through a random act…

Florentina Hubaldo, CTE

  • 2012
  • Philippines
  • 5h
  • Directed by: Lav Diaz
  • Cast: Hazel Orencio, Kristine Kintana, Noel Sto. Domingo, Willy Fernandez, Joel Ferrer, Brigido Tapales, Dante Perez, Erica Nava, Ana Arienda

In a rural area of the Philippines, a father forces his daughter into prostitution. Somewhere else, two men are embarked on a quest for a buried treasure. 'As no other filmmaker, Lav Diaz is involved with the suffering of the people of the Philippines, with its history of colonialism, corruption and poverty. A…

Forever Loved (Lawas Kan Pinabli)

  • 2012
  • Philippines
  • 3h 15min
  • Directed by: Christopher Gozum
  • Cast: Louie Rojas, Jo Paredes, Dindo Salinas, Sharon Manibpel, Joselito Alejo, Joseph Peruda, Inday Pongan Malik, Rolando Blanco, Christopher Carvajal, Joseph Espiritu

There are an estimated six million documented and one million undocumented migrant Philippine workers scattered throughout 200 countries all over the world. Every day, some 4000 more join their ranks. Weaving recollections and letters from various migrant workers around the story of a Philippine man searching for his…

MNL 143

  • 2012
  • Philippines
  • 1h 30min
  • Directed by: Emerson Reyes
  • Cast: Allan Paule, Joy Viado

On a commuter's trip from Manila's business district to the suburbs, the director finds a myriad of possibilities, ranging from miniature ironic situations to a love story that is finally finding its unexpected closing. An emotional rollercoaster ride of despair, dreams and desire, MNL 143 is also a black comedy about…

Mondomanila, or: How I Fixed My Hair after a Rather Long Journey

  • 2012
  • Philippines, Germany
  • 1h 15min
  • Directed by: Khavn de la Cruz
  • Cast: Tim Mabalot, Marife Necesito, Palito, Alex Tiglao, Stefan Punongbayan, Jonathan Reyes, Whitney Tyson, Tony Hunt, Pango, Jim Rocky Tangco, Rodney Aquino

All-stops-out splatter-punk cinema from one of the most prolific and versatile talents of the Philippines. Based on an acclaimed novel by Norman Wilwayco, Mondomanila is a messy, grotesque, high-energy tour of a criminal demimonde. 'Khavn … exaggerates poverty, turning it into a carnival, a spectacle, an extravaganza. By…


  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • Philippines
  • 1h 40min
  • Directed by: Loy Arcenas
  • Cast: Fides Cuyugan Asensio, Arthur Acuña, Shamaine Centenera Buencamino, Jhiz Deocareza, Raquel Villavicencio, Tony Mabesa, Diana Malahay, Joaquin Valdes

When Gaspar, the elderly patriarch of an aristocratic Philippene family, is hospitalised following a heart attack, his only daughter Raquel returns from self-imposed exile in America and announces she intends to sell the ancestral home. Dramatically impressive, Niño combines graceful cinematography with a minimalist score…

Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born? (Tundong Magiliw: Pasaan isinisilang siyang mahirap?)

  • 2012
  • Philippines
  • 1h 14min
  • Directed by: Jewel Maranan
  • Cast: Virgie Simpron

Documentarist Jewel Maranan turns her camera on one of the oldest and most densely populated districts of Manila. 'The beauty of it is that it does not try to impress. On the contrary, the aesthetic force of Tondo, Beloved is effortlessly persuasive. Maranan is able to express the collapse of what separates life from…

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