Velez: The Mindanao films you need to watch


MY PREVIOUS column reviewed the criticisms against the film "Mindanao." Now you may be asking: are there any films that portray stories of Mindanao? Yes, there are.

As mentioned in my previous column, the past decade (2010-2019) saw the rise of indie cinema in the Mindanao regions, and some even winning awards from Famas, Gawad Urian, Young Critics Circle and various festivals.

Here are some films and documentaries that we should watch:

1. Sheika (2010) directed by Arnel Mardoquio, is based on a real life mother whose four sons killed by the Davao Death Squad. Awards: Best Picture and Best Director in Gawad Urian 2010.

2. Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim (2012), Mardoquio, is a journey of a child of fallen Moro fighters accompanied by his surviving relatives. Best Film, Cinemanila, CinemaOne Festival, Young Critics Circle.

3. War is a Tender Thing (2013) by Adjani Arumpac, is a documentary tracing her clan's history and perspectives through various wars from the American period to the present. Nominee for Best Documentary, Urian; Winner, Yamagata International Film Festival 2013.

4. Forbidden Memory (2016), by Gutierrez Mangansakan II, is a documentary of narratives by survivors of the Palimbang Massacre in Sultan Kudarat in September 1974. Mangansakan said this is a retelling of a traumatic memory suppressed by the Marcos regime and the military during Martial Law. Best Documentary in CinemaOne.

5. Women of the Weeping River (2017) is a story of a widow overridden with wish for revenge and closure over a family conflict. Best Film, Best Director, Urian 2017.

6. Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill) (2017) by Arbi Barbarona, depicts a Lumad couple's experience as they are forced by soldiers to guide them to hunt down communist rebels. Best Picture, Sinag Maynila. Best Director, Sinag, FAMAS, Urian.

There are still a couple more good films about Mindanao but I limit this due to space constraints. But this is a list that somehow represents the best of Mindanao films, and presents stories and narratives grounded on complex yet simple struggles of the Moro, Lumad and even non-indigenous habitants of this island.

Sadly, the question has always been, where to find and watch these films. It has been a challenge for a decade to find venues and even an audience in Mindanao given the monopoly and dictates of commercialized films. The films mentioned above have made rounds in schools and local festivals. We should try to push for more of these screenings to educate ourselves about our histories, narratives and longings, which are captured in these films.


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