4 emotionally charged Filipino films shot in the US
Movies can be the closest we have to a time machine, but they can also shapeshift into metaphorical plane tickets.
If postcards or “I love [insert location here]” shirts won’t cut it, maybe living vicariously through fictional characters and seeing them figure their life out (which may or may not include messy confrontations) in a foreign country would immerse us into an almost-realistic traveler experience. People talk about international films set in the Philippines, but how about Filipino films shot abroad?
Here, we take a trip down memory lane and zero in on the United States where, according to both fictional and real stories, Filipinos reunite with loved ones, try to restart their lives, or work mercilessly to make ends meet. With these emotionally charged stories, the spots these characters go to suddenly transform into places with much more depth.
“Alone/Together” in New York
In many of its promotional materials, it’s obvious that Antoinette Jadaone’s 2019 brainchild “Alone/Together” clings to usual yet nostalgia-evoking hangout spots like University of the Philippines Diliman’s Sunken Garden and the National Museum.
No wonder—the film, apart from serving us harsh truths about love and longing, is also a snapshot of how our dreamer selves would be disappointed about what adulthood is actually like.
But did you know that a huge and highly pivotal chunk (we’re still keeping it spoiler-free) of the film is shot in The Big Apple? The story of ex-college sweethearts Christine (Liza Soberano) and Raf (Enrique Gil) reaches Central Park, The Guggenheim Museum, and tourist favorite The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Sana Maulit Muli” in California
The chokehold this film has on Filipino cinema enjoyers is insane. For something released in 1995, it’s cool that Gen Zs still get invested in random clips and stills of this romantic drama (which is another Olivia Lamasan gem, by the way).
Critically acclaimed “Sana Maulit Muli,” partly shot in San Francisco, is the second film collaboration between Lea Salonga and Aga Muhlach—and the LDR movie blueprint. After being pulled to live with her estranged mother in California, Agnes (Salonga) experiences trials and some pushing-and-pulling with longtime boyfriend Jerry (Muhlach) because of their literal (and metaphorical) distance.
P.S. On its 20th anniversary, “Sana Maulit Muli” was digitally restored and remastered.
“In My Life” in New York
Filipino cinema veteran John Lloyd Cruz has traveled a lot throughout his stellar filmography—Malaysia for “Miss You Like Crazy” and Dubai for “Dubai,” to name a couple. Meanwhile, for Olivia Lamasan classic “In My Life,” he’s in the US, joining Vilma Santos-Recto and Luis Manzano as top billers.
The film, which is mainly shot in New York City, spotlights stony-hearted woman Shirley Templo (Santos-Recto). Due to many upsetting events, she decides to move to NYC with her only son Mark (Manzano). She then meets Noel (Cruz), her son’s boyfriend. As someone who likes being in control of everything, how will Shirley face unexpected circumstances in a foreign land?
“A Mother’s Story” in California
Now, who’s up for some sharp family drama? I’m betting “A Mother’s Story” will require at least three tissue boxes because it has the elements of a total cryfest: It’s about an Overseas Filipino Worker, the gravity of conflict will make you feel like the world is against you, the angst you’ll feel will also turn into tears, and it has Pokwang and Xyriel Manabat and their acting chops.
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This 2011 independent film directed by John-D J. Lazatin follows Medy (Pokwang), a makeup artist who soon flies to America because of her client, who’s a concert star on tour. Little did this hardworking mother know that she’ll face injustices in the new territory—and even witness the downfall of her family.