Seven Filipino Films Screening In Cannes Film Festival 2023

Five movies, one short film, and two documentaries are representing the country at the 76th Cannes.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival is still in full swing, as it’s set to end on May 27 (Saturday). The big annual event is experiencing its share of stunning celebrity red carpet moments, and has a strong roster of diverse films lined up for its screenings. 

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Standing as testament to the excellence of Filipino filmmaking are four films in a range of genres, from intimate documentaries to heart-pumping crime thrillers.

Without further ado, below are the proudly Filipino-centered works being exhibited in the festival, as announced by the Film Development Council of the Philippines

MOVIES

TOPAKK 

Directed by Richard Somes and starring the talents of Arjo Atayde, Julia Montes, Sid Lucero, Enchong Dee, Kokoy De Santos, TOPAKK tells the story of an ex-special forces operative struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The film’s official IMDb summary elaborates: “In his bid for redemption as a security guard, [he] attempts to save the life of a woman who is being hunted by a corrupt police death squad working for a drug cartel.” 

The official posters of "TOPAKK" and "Her Locket"
The official posters of “TOPAKK” and “Her Locket”/Photo from the Film Development Council of the Philippines Facebook

Her Locket 

J.E. Tiglao’s film follows the story of Jewel, a mother with dementia who’s past memories return upon finding an old locket. The filmmaker is known for creating emotional and intimate dramas, having also directed the 2019 movie Metamorphosiswhich centers around Adam, an intersex individual played by Gold Azeron.

RIA

Masbate-born director Arvin Belarmino will be screening his film RIA, which tells the story of the titular character—a timid folk-punk musician living in an artist’s space owned by a cancer patient. 

Hardened from dealing with her family’s financial struggles, Ria ends up accepting side jobs from her friend who happens to be a pornography video actress. 

The official poster for "RIA"
The official poster for “RIA”/Photo from the Film Development Council of the Philippines Facebook

Grace

Grace is the only crime thriller in this year’s list of Filipino films. Directed by Ato Bautista, the movie is about a college student seeking revenge for the death of his girlfriend. This involves taking down members of an elite fraternity—which won’t be an easy feat, given how they hold powerful positions within Philippine politics. 

Ako si Ninoy

Ako si Ninoy is director Vince Tañada’s musical film on the life and sudden death of late senator, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. The movie was actually adapted from a musical commissioned by his late wife and former president, Cory Aquino.

The film’s production process involved input from historians as well as Martial Law witnesses to ensure factual accuracy—something particularly important to Tañada, who decided to create the film adaptation in response to fake news and historical revisionism circulating around the internet.

The official posters of "Grace" and "Ako Si Ninoy"
The official posters of “Grace” and “Ako Si Ninoy”/Photo from the Film Development Council of the Philippines Facebook

SHORT FILM

The Art of Detaching One’s Memory 

Jan Carlo Natividad’s piece entitled The Art of Detaching One’s Memory is the only Filipino short film in the roster. It’s an entry in Cannes’ Focus Work in Progress (WiP) program, which aims to promote short films to potential distributors, producers, and other film professionals. 

The film’s official description is as follows: “Haunted by the identity of his ancestry, a young Filipino filmmaker who came from a generation of shamans reconnects with the forgotten practices of his family roots and attempts to reconcile with the spiritual realm.”

A promotional sneak-peek of the short film "The Art of Detaching One's Memory"
A promotional sneak-peek of the short film “The Art of Detaching One’s Memory”/Photo from the Film Development Council of the Philippines Facebook

DOCUMENTARIES

Tens Across the Borders

This documentary is a co-production project between the Philippines, Singapore, Germany, and the United Kingdom, directed by Chan Sze-Wei. 

As one of the entries in Cannes Docs, its official description reads: “We witness four trailblazers of the underground ballroom scenes in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore, as they journey to hold on to their ballroom and birth families, connect with ballroom’s source in New York City, and grow a flourishing queer community across Southeast Asia.”

A screencap from "Tens Across the Borders"
A screencap from “Tens Across the Borders”/Photo from Marché du Film’s official website

Asog

An entry in the Cannes Docs-In-Progress program is Asog, directed by Sean Devlin. The film centers on a non-binary Filipino comedian named Jaya, a survivor of typhoon Haiyan who lost their career when their talk show’s studio was destroyed amidst the storm. 

Its official Cannes description reads: “Asog follows Jaya on a road trip to a drag pageant and along the way they encounter Filipinos enduring the impacts of climate change, including residents of Sicogon Island whose land was stolen in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.”

Jaya, the focus of the documentary "Asog"
Jaya, the focus of the documentary “Asog”/Photo from Marché du Film’s official website

Banner photo from Tens Across the Borders via Marché du Film’s official website.

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