Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Understanding Pinoy Films and Why Many of them are Unwatchable

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Filipino films, like every other national cinema, have a distinct identity shaped by their own culture, history, and social environment.

Although it gives us pride to watch Filipino films that relate to our personal experiences, we also notice many of them lack deeper creative storytelling and poor film production and casting, which makes them less appealing to watch.

Overarching themes of Filipino films

While there is no single formula for categorizing Filipino films due to their great range in genre and style, certain features and similar themes can be found in many of them:

Strong family and relationships

Filipino culture places a significant emphasis on family and community ties, and this theme is prevalent in Filipino films. Many movies explore the complexities of family dynamics, the importance of filial piety, and the sacrifices individuals make for their loved ones.

  • Four Sisters and a Wedding (2013) is a comedy-drama about four sisters who reunite to stop their younger brother’s wedding.
  • Anak (2000) is a poignant drama about a domestic worker returning to the Philippines and reconnecting with her estranged family.

Love and romance

Romance is a recurring theme in Filipino films. The genre of romantic dramas (rom-coms) is prevalent, often featuring stories of love overcoming various obstacles.

  • One More Chance (2007) is a romantic drama that follows a couple as they navigate the challenges of their long-term relationship.
  • Hello, Love, Goodbye (2019) is a romantic drama about two Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong who fall in love despite their struggles.

Social realism and social issues

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Filipino cinema has a tradition of social realism, which seeks to portray the realities of Filipino society, often shedding light on social issues such as poverty, corruption, inequality, and political unrest. These films aim to create awareness and spark discussions about the challenges faced by the Filipino people.

  • Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980) is a satirical film reflecting the martial law era, subtly criticizing the oppressive regime.
  • Honor Thy Father (2015) is a crime drama that exposes the dark side of religious scams and corruption.

Cultural identity

Many Filipino films celebrate Filipino culture, traditions, and heritage. They often incorporate elements of folklore, regional customs, and religious practices, helping to preserve and promote the Filipino identity.

  • Lola (2009) is a film exploring the impact of a crime on two grandmothers from different generations, highlighting Filipino values and customs.
  • K’na, The Dreamweaver (2014), a historical drama set in a T’boli community,

Historical and political themes

Some Filipino films delve into the country’s history, including colonial periods, the struggle for independence, and significant historical events. They may also explore political themes and comment on the state of governance and politics in the country.

  • Jose Rizal (1998): A biographical drama chronicling the life and death of the Philippine national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
  • Heneral Luna (2015) is a historical epic about the life and leadership of General Antonio Luna during the Philippine-American War.

Religion and spirituality

The Philippines is predominantly Catholic, and religious themes frequently appear in films. These themes may include faith, miracles, religious festivals, and moral dilemmas.

  • Simbang Gabi (2019)  A romantic comedy revolving around the Filipino Christmas tradition of attending Simbang Gabi (nine-day Mass).
  • Magnifico (2003) – A heartwarming drama about a young boy who aims to perform a miracle for his family.


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Filipino cinema has a rich tradition of comedy, and comedy films have been popular since the early days of Philippine cinema. They often employ slapstick humor, witty banter, and situational comedy.

  • Sisterakas (2012) is a comedy film about two siblings who become rivals in their cosmetics business.
  • Ang Tanging Ina (2003) is a family comedy following a single mother who juggles her responsibilities as a parent and a breadwinner.

Resilience and optimism

Despite the characters’ challenges in Filipino films, there is often a sense of resilience and optimism. The “bayanihan” spirit, which refers to the Filipino tradition of communal unity and cooperation, is frequently depicted in these films.

  • Anak (2000): As mentioned earlier, this film explores the strength and resilience of a mother working abroad to provide a better life for her family.
  • Himala (1982): A classic drama centered around faith, hope, and the miraculous in a small rural town.

Award-winning Filipino films

Some award-winning Filipino films have gained recognition both domestically and internationally.

  • “Himala” (1982): Directed by Ishmael Bernal, this film is considered a classic in Philippine cinema and has won numerous awards, including the Best Film at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival and the 1983 Gawad Urian Awards. Nora Aunor, who played the lead role, won the Best Actress award at the 1983 FAMAS Awards.
  • “Oro, Plata, Mata” (1982): Directed by Peque Gallaga, this historical drama won several awards at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Cinematography (Rody Lacap). It also received critical acclaim at international film festivals.
  • “Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag” (1975): Directed by Lino Brocka, this film is a powerful social commentary on urban poverty and corruption. It won the Best Picture award at the 1976 Gawad Urian Awards and was critically acclaimed internationally.
  • “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” (2005) – Auraeus Solito received numerous honors for directing this coming-of-age movie, including the Crystal Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Best Picture trophy at the 2006 Gawad Urian awards.
  • “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” (2013) – This epic drama film, which Lav Diaz directed, screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and received widespread praise. It won several awards, including Best Picture at the 2014 Gawad Urian Awards.
  • “On the Job” (2013) directed by Erik Matti, won the Best Director award at the 2013 Golden Screen Awards and was well-received by both audiences and critics.
  • “Metro Manila” (2013) directed by Sean Ellis, is a British-Filipino crime thriller won the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Award for Best Foreign Independent Film.

Why many Filipino films are unwatchable

Although Filipino films receive recognition overseas, there are also horrible ones that can be categorized as unwatchable. We should note that film preferences vary greatly among individuals, and what one person might find unwatchable, another might thoroughly enjoy.

Many people might not enjoy certain Filipino films due to various factors that can affect their overall cinematic experience. While it’s essential to note that Filipino cinema is diverse and offers a wide range of genres and themes, there are certain trends and characteristics that some viewers might find off-putting. Here are some reasons why some individuals may not enjoy Filipino films, along with examples:

Poor production values

As previously mentioned, low-quality Filipino films with poor production values can detract from overall enjoyment. Amateurish cinematography, unconvincing special effects, and lackluster sound quality can make it challenging for viewers to immerse themselves in the story fully.

Example: “Ang Maestro ng Pelikula”: This comedy film attempts to parody various classic Filipino movies but falls short due to its evident low budget and subpar production values, resulting in a lack of comedic impact and failed attempts at paying homage to the original films.

Predictable and clichéd storylines

Some Filipino films may rely heavily on formulaic and overused plotlines, leading to a lack of originality and surprise. When viewers can easily predict the outcome, it diminishes the excitement and emotional investment in the narrative.

Example: A romantic drama follows the typical “boy meets girl” formula, with predictable obstacles and resolutions that leave little room for character development or engaging twists.

Excessive melodrama and telenovela influence

Certain Filipino films draw inspiration from telenovelas, leading to melodramatic performances and exaggerated emotions. While this style appeals to some audiences, others might find it overly sentimental and unrealistic.

Example: A family drama embraces melodrama, with characters exhibiting extreme emotions and overwrought reactions to everyday situations, making it challenging for some viewers to connect with the story.

Lack of originality

Some Filipino films may imitate popular international films or borrow heavily from Hollywood tropes, resulting in unoriginal content that fails to showcase the uniqueness of Filipino culture and storytelling.

Example: An action film attempts to mimic the style and plot of a popular Hollywood franchise, but it lacks the creativity and depth needed to stand on its own as a compelling and original work.

Inconsistent pacing and editing

Poorly edited films can disrupt the flow of the story and create a disjointed viewing experience. Inconsistent pacing can lead to dull moments that lose the audience’s interest.

Example: A thriller suffers from uneven pacing, with certain scenes dragging on while critical plot points are rushed, resulting in an unsatisfying and confusing narrative.

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