5 Filipino Indie Films That Made It Big In the International Scene

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Indie films in the Philippines are once considered underdogs of entertainment. Now it’s dominating the mainstream media, both here and abroad. These films have a unique take on storytelling, often featuring deep but relatable characters, and offer a fresh perspective in contrast to cookie-cutter, run of the mill and predictable movies.

These new breed of films produced by smaller productions are not widely distributed by the famous movie houses in the country and neither features big Pinoy celebrities yet it has dramatically removed the barriers of cultural differences to become an avenue for the Philippine film industry to connect with international audiences.

As proof to that,  there are Filipino indie films that made it big in the international scene. And in this article, we pay tribute to 5 of the indie movies that earned international acclaim:

1. Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (2013)

Norte is a Lav Diaz film set in the northern province of Ilocos Norte. It follows the intersected story of the accused and imprisoned for murder, Joaquin (Archie Alemania), his wife, Eliza (Agnes Bayani) and the guilty who roams free, Fabian (Sid Lucero). The first hour of the four-hour film illustrates the crime committed and how their lives went down into a flurry. The remaining hours show what happens to the characters following that heinous day.

International Awards:

  • 2013 Cinemanila International Film Festival - Best Director Award (Lav Diaz)

  • 2013 International Cinephile Society Awards - Best Picture not released in 2013

  • 2013 Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Award

2. Shift (2013)

Shift is a film that centers on the unconventional relationship of Estela (Yeng Constantino), a lesbian call center agent with his gay co-worker Trevor (Felix Roco). Directed by Siege Ledesma, the story tackles a complex love story caught between gender orientation and preferences.

International Award:

  • 2014 Osaka Film Festival - Grand Prix (Best Picture Award)

3. Anino sa Likod ng Buwan (2015)

Anino sa Likod ng Buwan is an indie film set during the armed conflict between the Philippine military and the communist resistance during the early 1990s. It is a one-shot, two-hour political drama based on director Jun Lana’s experience in Marag Valley, featuring actors LJ Reyes and Luis Alandy. The area back then was declared No Man’s Land during the peak of the government’s anti-insurgency campaign and was heavily bombed in counter to the rebel forces.

International Award:

4. Ma’Rosa (2016)

Ma’Rosa is a Brillante Mendoza indie film that focuses on poverty and corruption. It tells the story of Rosa (Jaclyn Jose), who runs a small convenience store and sells illegal drugs in attempt to make ends meet. The police arrests Rosa and her husband and extort money from them in exchange for freedom while their children are left to collect money for them as well.  

International Award:

  • 2016 Cannes Film Festival – Best Actress (Jaclyn Jose)

TRIVIA: What makes this win memorable is the fact that this is the first best actress award at Cannes for the Philippines.

5. Iadya Mo Kami (2016)

Iadya Mo Kami is an indie film that follows Father Greg (Allen Dizon), a priest, to his reassignment in a parish up in the mountains. He finds himself in a crime scene and embarks on a mission to help solve the crime – a mission which leads him to the discovery of his own personal salvation. It intertwines three important elements in the society – religion, moral and power that will make you question your own beliefs and ethics.

International Award:

  • 4th Silk Road Film Festival  - Best Actor (Allen Dizon)

The reason why these independent films are so relatable even to international audiences, they contain the living voice and authentic image of the people and often reflect social and political realities. With the international recognitions that these films are getting, more Filipino moviegoers are starting to develop a taste for this kind of storytelling.

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