3.5, Southeast Asia


2008 / Brillante Mendoza > Premiering at Cannes in 2008, Serbis drew a lot of controversy for its explicit sex sequences and—wait for it—boil popping visuals (you’ll have to see it to know what I mean). And in 2009, Mendoza scored a coup for the Philippines by taking home the best director prize from the same festival for his follow-up Kinatay. The world can thank him for two simple aspects of his style seen in this movie: He shows a part of his country that most don’t know about, as a family in Angeles struggles to survive by running a theatre running heterosexual pornography for a homosexual clientele. And more interestingly, he approaches this culture with a kind of hands-off, natural viewpoint that feels neither forced nor sensational. There are scenes in the film that initially contain shock value, but over a complete run-through, the whole thing works surprisingly well. As my introduction to Filipino cinema, I feel fairly confident that we’ve only scratched the surface. But if this is any indication of what’s to come, the industry should have a brighter future. Its colonial history and the Marcos “reign” along with its positioning in the current globalization climate gives it access to stories that maybe only Thailand can rival.