Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Not too long ago, the majority of Philippine cinemas favored and more commonly screened Western and international releases, with the occasional or even sporadic movie from local major production companies to mix things up. But moviegoers have proven themselves able to command change: Because they’re showing up and being vocal about their enthusiasm for Filipino films, along with critical acclaim and record-breaking box office success, they were able to pave a way for more independent production houses and therefore more local choices to grace theaters.
The rest of 2019 promises dozens of interesting and possibly base-breaking new releases, from sequels and reboots to anticipated love team comebacks and unexpected pairings. They’re also set across different cities and countries — some are even collaborative projects with foreign creators.
We've listed down a 2019 list before, and have added a new set of films to watch out for below. There’s something for everyone, whether you want to laugh, scream, or swoon.
“Between Maybes” stars Julia Barretto as an actress who books a random flight to Japan in order to regain control of her life and Gerald Anderson, who plays a man who also happens to have isolated himself to do some soul-searching. The two forge a connection and attempt to navigate life with each other. The film is directed by Jason Paul Laxamana and is set to premiere on May 15.
Also coming out on May 15 is the horror film “Kuwaresma,” directed by Erik Matti and starring Sharon Cuneta and John Arcilla. It is a rare venture into horror for Cuneta, who has described it as the most challenging role of her career. The mysterious trailer promises trouble, dysfunction, and tragedy as a family is haunted by the ghost of their youngest daughter.
Also called “The Halt,” Lav Diaz’s return to speculative fiction is set to premiere this month at the Directors’ Fortnight of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Set in the year 2034, the film tackles environmental themes, featuring a world that hasn’t seen the sun in years, controlled by corrupt forces and depleted by epidemics and despair. The film stars some of Diaz’s frequent collaborators including Piolo Pascual, Shaina Magdayao, Pinky Amador, Hazel Orencio, Mara Lopez, Noel Miralles, and Bart Guingona, and Joel Lamangan.
This Korean-Filipino project, which was filmed in South Korea and premieres on June 5, is based on the 1992 Japanese black comedy “Hikinige Family.” Helmed by Korean filmmaker Kim Tai Sik, it stars Sue Ramirez, Nonie Buencamino, Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, and Marco Masa alongside Park Ji Won, also known as Shinwoo of now-defunct K-pop act BLANC7. Its ensemble cast finds themselves in increasingly bizarre situations following personal struggles, some being heavier than the others.
“Hello, Love, Goodbye”
Two halves of the country’s biggest love teams have partnered up in a romantic comedy directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina. Coming out later this year, the Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards starrer “Hello, Love, Goodbye” is set in Hong Kong and is reportedly themed around the lives of overseas Filipino workers.
“Pandanggo sa Hukay”
Sheryl Rose M. Andes’ Cinemalaya entry stars Iza Calzado as a young midwife and single mother who struggles against poverty and violence as she prepares for a job interview that will take her abroad and to a better life. The sleek, minimalist trailer features Calzado performing the titular dance, but as the title — and the abrupt, jarring cries of a baby — suggests, things may not be looking upward as they seem.
“John Denver Trending”
Another Cinemalaya entry, Arden Rod Condez’ “John Denver Trending” stars Meryll Soriano and revolves around an all-too-real way anyone’s life can be turned upside-down in the digital age. An ordinary farmboy and high school student is accused of stealing an iPad and ends up assaulting a classmate in his efforts to defend himself — an incident that is recorded on video and posted online. In less than a week, nothing is ever the same.
Set in the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines, the title of “Iska” connotes both an extension of the UP identity and the name of its central character. The tragicomedy is directed by Theodore Boborol, and is also set to premiere at Cinemalaya. In the film, Iska, who is played by critically-acclaimed actress Ruby Ruiz, has to reckon with losing everything she cares about and what kind of person the experience turns her into.
The title of Joji V. Alonso’s Cinemalaya entry translates to “a beautiful pain.” Starring Mylene Dizon and Kit Thompson, it’s about a woman in her 40s who’s determined to live out the rest of her days alone — until she meets a young man half her age and begins to question her decision. In their respective and joint journeys to happiness, however, they find that the promises and possibilities still bring challenges and sacrifice.
“ANi: The Harvest”
Directed by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro del Rosario and starring Ricky Davao, Anna Luna, and Miguel Valdes, the sci-fi Cinemalaya entry “ANi: The Harvest” is set in the federal state of Bicol in the year 2050 and includes a bit of magical realism. A precocious newly orphaned boy has moved into a farm to live with his grandfather, but when the latter falls ill and their crops follow suit, the boy embarks on a quest with a malfunctioning robot to save the grandfather’s life.