2022 was yet another landmark year for the Philippine film industry. Internationally, the accolades just kept coming to and from the hands of the Filipinos. From Martika Escobar’s Sundance Special Jury for Leonor Will Never Die up to Dolly de Leon’s acting trophies for Triangle of Sadness, the impressive roster of films exceeds one’s expectations.
In our local cinemas, the colors and cultures are just as lively. Quality films continue to thrive despite coming out from the slump that we *endearingly* called the COVID-19 pandemic. Cinemalaya and QCinema offered a palette of conscious and sublime reflections with quality indie films. Meanwhile, Metro Manila Film Festival and theatrical releases gave us a dose of mainstream hits.
With that said, here are eight local films from 2022 that proved the Philippine cinema thrived and went beyond:
Leonor Will Never Die
Director Martika Escobar has crafted a glorious nod to 80s macho-formula action movies with Leonor Will Never Die. Telling the story of a retired screenwriter being trapped inside her own screenplay, the film perfectly encapsulates the beauty of Filipino movies. It conjures the sensibilities of a Charlie Kaufman-Esque trapped inside a fiction I created concept, added with a mixture of Fernando Poe, Jr.
Leonor struck the hearts of Sundance viewers, running away with the Special Jury Award for the World Cinema Competition. The film also served as the opener of this 2022’s Cinemalaya. So funny, amazing, emotional, and original! And, to think that this is only Escobar’s first feature-length makes it even more impressive.
Anna Isabelle Matutina’s 12 Weeks is this Cinemalaya 2022’s gentler but more powerful revelation. It simultaneously details a 40-year-old’s pregnancy, workplace situation, and relationship with a toxic boyfriend and her estranged mother. Gathering all these elements form an outlook of a modern Filipino woman. Anchored by Max Eigenmann’s compelling acting, the movie took home the Best Actress Award and NETPAC Full-Length Award of Cinemalaya 2022.
On the other hand, Ma-an L. Asuncion-Dagnalan’s Blue Room became one of Cinemalaya’s bigger releases this 2022. It’s easy to identify it as such with its stapled A-list casts like Elijah Canlas and Juan Karlos Labajo, and its millennial-magnet story. The film follows the story of a progressive rock band composed of privileged teenagers trying to understand the politics of the police system after getting arrested. Blue Room won big, taking home the Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Special Jury Award for Cinemalaya 2022.
Ngayon Kaya became Prime Cruz’s follow-up to the iconic Isa Pa, with Feelings. The movie is a more tender and subdued romantic film, but still at hugot-core’s best side. The film also became responsible for the resurgence of Mayonnaise’s Jopay. The film protagonists’ anthem is now immortalized through the concept of pondering about our greatest ‘what if’. Whether one is just watching for Paolo Avelino or just fishing for a hugot quote, this one undeniably caught a huge audience after it was put on Netflix.
Viva Films rarely release horror-thriller films. However, 2022 became the year when they not only gave viewers one but two quality films under the said genre. Percy Intalan’s LiveScream is one of those two. Released for the streaming site Viva Max, it’s a creative and thrilling gore movie that can be compared to the enigma of James Wan’s Saw. Elijah Canlas portrays a good-for-nothing prankster that is finally taught a lesson through a torture wall.
No other celebrity death has shocked the country this 2022 than the death of the iconic Cherie Gil. Director Loy Arcena’s Elehiya features the Primera Contravida’s swan song, her last project before passing. She plays the role of a grieving widow, returning to her estranged husband’s family island estate to scatter his ashes. Elehiya is one of the only two local films in QCinema’s Asian Next Wave Competition in 2022—the other one being 12 Weeks.
An Inconvenient Love
As one of Star Cinema’s few theatrical releases this 2022, Director Petersen Vargas’ An Inconvenient Love can be viewed as a successful outing of romance. Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano continue to prove that they are a love team that could offer so much more. The film restores faith in the love team genre, with a perfect touch of the social message as the film’s Ayef and Manny navigate through the concept of love, dreams, and contractualism. It’s confident, celebratory, and woke!
What else can be said about Deleter that is not yet known by everyone else until now? I think, nothing else! A prolific and sought-after director, Mikhail Red, paired with a prolific and sought-after actress, Nadine Lustre. The product truly speaks for itself. Deleter is this 2022’s MMFF darling, bagging Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, and many other technical awards. It’s also one of the highest-grossing films in the Philippines this 2022. A redefinition of found-footage horror, it truly is one of the best and most spine-chilling products of Philippine cinema in recent history.
These crafts stand in the dignity of their accolades, acclaim, and commercial support. These movies prove once again that every year could and would certainly be a good year for the Philippine film industry.
Xian Oquendo is a free-spirited writer and camera-person from Manila. His passion connects facets of poetry and visuals. Whether inside the cinema or in the groove of the city's streets, he is always in the pursuit of the transcendental.