“What’s your all-time favorite film?”
A friend recently asked me this question remotely aware such is not easy answering. Among family and friends known to me, they knew just how I love films. It was a love-hate relationship that dates back during my college years after discovering there’s a secret portal to the lives of others through the celluloid world.
That’s why asking for my best is not easy. Even giving ranks to the ones you love, and putting to drawers the least of your favorites are tough.
What criteria should I use to rate whether a film is good or bad, or to determine which films reverberate or has a striking appeal?
Giving your best film or films of all time, even if they are just three, five or ten are very difficult to say as such would require you to like look back at the past couple of years in your cinematic journey. Even if that film odyssey took me to heavens and nadir of my life, or even if they happened in movie theaters, web streaming, bus rides or laptop, oh, man, it’s really very tough.
So after spending a whole afternoon recalling, playing back the films which lingered most in my mind, I finally thought of blogging my choices of films that I can proudly put in my list. Don’t worry, there are no big spoilers, just some thoughts why these films belong to my list.
Now presenting, my seven best films of all time:
Yi Yi: One and A Two (2000) – This novelistic and cinematic masterpiece from acclaimed Taiwan director Edward Yang is surely one of the most beautifully-written and directed piece of world cinema of all time, which I agree to 100%. The film revolves around the struggles of a dysfunctional middle-class Taiwanese family where the perspective of Yang-Yang, the young son, gives the film its soul.
Paris, Texas (1984) – Directed by Wim Wenders, this wonderful film is the story of a mysterious man (convincingly played by Harry Dean Stanton) who seems to have lost his memory of the past and has returned to revive his relationship with his brother and his son after wandering for long in the deserts. This man’s next mission is to track down his former wife who abandoned him and their son. It is the piercingly beautiful screenplay and the film’s build up of the revelation of the secrets and lies that finally redeemed the characters with fractured souls. Unforgettable.
Running on Empty (1988) – One of the most heart-breaking films that I’ve watched is directed by Sidney Lumet. The deceptively simple tale of a former activist couple who are always on the run from the FBI after figuring in an anti-war protest and bombing of a napalm research facility. The couple, including their children assume different identities to escape possible jail terms. Their past haunt them and their children but now their son seeks freedom.
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) – Just how much a French film about children and the Holocaust should be and its theme of friendship, betrayal and difficult choices during times of crises compelled me to pick this film among the most unforgettable I’ve watched. This Venice Film Festival-prize winner was also authobiographical and based on the childhood of its director Louis Malle.
Foster Child (2007) – Directed by one of cinema’s most brilliant auteurs living today, Brillante Mendoza’s fourth film is arguably his best. Foster Child features a day in the life of a temporary foster parent (played convincingly by Cherry Pie Picache) to an abandoned child and showcased the now-signature Mendoza cameraworks. The last few hours before turning over the child John John to his new, adoptive American parents packs a difficult and bitter punch of reality about what it means to be a mother, even to a child not your own.
Orapronobis: Fight for Us (1989) – The only political thriller in this list, Lino Brocka’s superior, chilling and powerful Fight For Us tells the human rights abuses in the aftermath of the fall of Ferdinand Marcos told through a former priest who turned his back against the resistance movement. Played by Philip Salvador, the former priest will soon find out that counterinsurgency operations still plague the country. Is change possible after the country installed a democratic leadership? These are difficult questions that continue to haunt and resound the present state of politics in the country.
Isang Araw (One Day, 2013) – Even only having watched this small budget film this year (at a Sponsors’ Night in December for the benefit of Typhoon Yolanda victims), the independent film which Daniel Razon stars, writes and directs quickly rose to my all-time best films for so many compelling reasons. Isang Araw tells the simple tale of a man who remains steadfast despite hardships and struggles, keeping his dignity intact and believing that God’s justice will prevail. The film’s profound power lies in the depth of the theme of faith and of being righteous in the sight of God, a rarity in world cinema. In championing the poor in the film as in real life and Razon’s magnetic charisma all make the comparison being made between him and the Man of Steel or the late Fernando Poe Jr. sounds plausible.
Reflecting on my choices
Cinema can be a mirror of the harsh realities in life and a powerful medium in reaching out to the hearts of the people. And beyond serving the artistic purpose of a director, cinema can bring truths not just to expose the weaknesses of a system.
While my choices are very limited in scope and what they can magnify or reflect about the human conditions, I believe they transcend their very finite lifespan in the way they expose some realities and give something to ponder. But the really best ones impart some powerful lessons about choosing the better road to take. As in the lessons shared by Isang Araw, it is being compassionate even towards your enemies. And when you do, it’s like everything else are going to be easy and ‘that’s nothing short of miraculous.’