Celebrate International Women’s Month this weekend by watching powerful and inspiring films directed by Filipina filmmakers.
Can you believe that we’re more than halfway through March already? Time sure flies at a breakneck pace, it’s really hard to catch up. But hey, you deserve to take a moment to relax and unwind. Thankfully, we curated a watchlist to save you in the movies department. That difficult task of choosing your next watch? We got you covered.
And since we’re currently celebrating the International Women’s Month, what better way to honor this important and special occasion than by indulging in some fantastic films directed by talented Filipina filmmakers. From powerful dramas to heartwarming comedies to impactful documentaries, these movies are a testament to the incredible creativity and vision of women in the film industry. So, grab some popcorn, get comfortable, and check out our top picks for movies directed by Filipina directors that you can watch right now.
Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus & ODA SA WALA
One of the most exciting and prolific Filipina writer-directors out there, Dwein Baltazar has been crafting expansive and lucid stories about the profundities of life and love. If you’re feeling wistful, then her hallucinating offering, Gusto Kita With All My Hypothalamus, which tells the story of an elusive woman, an urban labyrinth, and the intertwined fates of four men. Meanwhile, for those seeking meaning amidst life’s ambiguities, then the award-winning indie drama Oda sa Wala, is just the right escape.
That Thing Called Tadhana & Fan Girl
When it comes to genre movies that make an emotional impact, Antoinette Jadaone is the woman we could always rely on. From the way the record-breaking hugot rom-com That Thing Called Tadhana breaks and mends hearts simultaneously to the pointedly realist and sociopolitical layers of the gritty drama Fan Girl, Jadaone’s cinematic voice has always proved to be resonant.
Four Sisters and A Wedding & Hello, Love, Goodbye
In the realm of local blockbusters, the name Cathy Garcia-Molina will always rule. And not only does she make financially successful offerings, they’re also always effectively contextualized to the Filipino experience.
In Four Sisters and a Wedding, she deftly captures the endearing and messy complexity of a Filipino family that, coupled with strong performances, has become part of the local mainstream canon. Hello, Love, Goodbye, on the other hand, melds diasporic themes with aching romance that makes for an ultimately moving piece. Perhaps even so moving it became the highest-grossing film ever produced in the Philippines.
The OG Filipina filmmaker and considered to be the vanguard of Philippine contemporary cinema, the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya carries a powerful body of work composed of films that are sharp indictments of the reality of Filipino society. A National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts, Diaz-Abaya became one of the country’s foremost directors in the 80s, producing works that bravely interrogate and condemn the oppressive Marcos regime.
One of them is Moral, a daring coming-of-age tale centering on the lives of four college girls navigating through their sexuality and professional desires amid the early years of martial law. Written by fellow National Artist Ricky Lee, Moral is part of a trilogy of Diaz-Abaya’s feminist films, which includes Brutal and Karnal. A brilliant tribute to womanhood, Moral stars industry heavyweights Lorna Tolentino, Gina Alajar, Sandy Andolong, and Anna Marin.
BILLIE & EMMA & Baka Bukas
Consistently heroing lesbian narratives in the Filipino mainstream scene, Samantha Lee has never wavered in creating technically exquisite and pathos-filled romantic stories. From the vibrance of young love in Billie & Emma to the palpably sorrowful longing in Baka Bukas, Samantha Lee’s films will always leave you rapt in transportive emotions.
With a mission to make films that address memory, history, and the idea of home, Shireen Seno has been pushing the boundaries of local cinema with her visionary approach. Nervous Translation, her critically acclaimed and internationally awarded sophomore effort, is a surreal portrait that follows the story of an eight-year-old timid child Yael as she discovers a miracle pen that can translate the thoughts and feelings of nervous people. Set in the political milieu of 1987, the film sensitively captures the innocence and wonder of a child trying to make sense of the world around her.
War is a Tender Thing
In War is A Tender Thing, documentarist and film scholar Adjani Arumpac offers a deeply personal and sweeping lens on the struggles beleaguering the war-torn Mindanao. With enriching layers of the familial and sociopolitical, War is a Tender Thing serves as an honest and potent collection of memories that need to be seen and revisited.
Sunday Beauty Queen
Another Filipina documentarist that has been actively chronicling the complex Filipino experience is Baby Ruth Villarama. Her Metro Manila Film Festival best picture winner, Sunday Beauty Queen, foregrounds the torturous martyrdom of Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong who, in a beauty pageant unlike any other, strives to redeem themselves and reclaim their beauty and dignity, even just for a day.
Sana Maulit Muli
Olivia Lamasan is a true stalwart of Philippine cinema, with an illustrious career spanning three decades. As the former head of ABS-CBN Films Inc. and now a creative consultant, she has established an inimitable filmography that has earned her widespread respect and reverence in the industry. Her deep knowledge and expertise in the cinematic medium have earned her the title “inang,” a term of respect and endearment in the industry.
Among her era-defining works is the 1995 classic Sana Maulit Muli, a dreamy romantic drama starring Aga Muhlach and Lea Salonga that explores the themes of long-distance relationships and second chances. This timeless tale has been restored and remastered, and is now available for streaming, promising to captivate new generations of viewers with its ageless charm.
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