Most Controversial Philippine Films
Throughout the history of the film industry in the Philippines, several filmmakers have already produced projects which tackled Philippine political, sexual, social and religious matters which are considered sensitive and controversial. Some of which are taboo subjects but are widely acknowledged by film audiences.
The following are some of the most controversial Philippine films which spawned heaps of rumors and comments from moviegoers and movie aficionados; were applauded; nearly banned, or totally banned in Philippine cinemas.
- Toro (Live Show) - was one of the most talked about films released in Philippine cinema, such that it was even banned in all movie theaters. The movie dealt with a very sensitive issue--the plight of the "toreros and toreras" or people who do "live shows/live sex" for a living. Despite strong prohibitions, many people were still able to watch the film. Most of its viewers believed that this movie deserved international recognition because, unlike the typical bomba (Filipino soft porn) films, which are substantially weak, Toro is a film that gave the words sex and sexuality a different meaning.
- Imelda - This is a documentary on one of the Philippines' most popular personalities, the former First Lady Imelda Marcos. The film explores Imelda's complex persona, documenting her stellar rise to power and her plunge into notoriety. This film showed the controversial opulence of the Marcos family amid the poverty of the people they enslaved. Initially, Mrs. Marcos opposed the public showing of this film in the Philippines. She even secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a local court, banning it from public viewing. Eventually, the former First Lady allowed it to be shown, with a condition to omit the word "documentary" attached to it.
- Jose Rizal - This film is dubbed as "controversial" in the sense that it created a buzz as one of the biggest-budgeted films ever made in the history of Philippine cinema. It had a record breaking (by Philippine standards) P80-million budget or US$2 million. This biographical epic went on to become the most successful Filipino film of all time. Diaz-Abaya also settled a bitterly-debated issue on Rizal’s alleged retraction of his strongly anti-colonial and anti-clerical writings, since this film portrayed Rizal as the prodigal son who returned to the colonial Catholic religion of his oppressors and renounces the very works that “served to restore dignity, self respect, pride, and patriotism among the Filipinos”. This three-hour epic won several prestigious awards and has also premiered at several well-known film festivals around the world.
- Red Diaries - tells the story of three different women, all of them played by Assunta de Rossi. One is a kept woman whose love affairs with many men end up in a bizarre triangle of illicit romances. This sexy film was almost banned, not because of its sexual theme, but because according to the Philippine National Police, it allegedly put the image of policemen in a bad light. The former chief of the national police, Leandro Mendoza, protested the showing of this movie claiming one of the three episodes is a direct insult to the police organization as it talks about a martyr wife of an abusive police officer who allowed his colleagues use his spouse. However, this protest proved futile and the movie was shown despite opposition.
- Orapronobis (Pray For Us) - The movie was banned during the Aquino administration for depicting political killings, proliferation of paramilitary vigilantes and the abduction of rebels or non-conformists. The plot was based on actual incidents in the Philippines. According to director Lino Brocka, this film primarily deals with the human rights violations under the Aquino administration.
- Kontrobersyal - is a movie created by National Artist for Film Lino Brocka in 1980 which deals with condemning and deploring pornography, ironically, was also deemed pornographic. Most of the scenes were deemed obscene and offensive to the viewers and was almost banned in Philippine cinemas.
- Bona - Another 1980s film by Brocka for which he was criticized for using well-known movie stars to "attack the star system". Bona is a dramatic film about a schoolgirl who falls in love with a shiftless, aging gigolo, her willingness to eventually become his servant, and her formidable revenge in the end. The character of Bona was played by acclaimed actress Nora Aunor.
- Burlesk Queen - A 1977 film considered controversial because of Vilma Santos's character as a stripper. To support her paralytic father, Chato (Vilma Santos) works as a utility girl for burlesque star Virgie Nite (Rosemary Gil). When Virgie gets drunk on the night of her scheduled show, Chato pitches in for her. She was wildly accepted by the audience, defied her father's admonitions and became an instant sensation. Vilma, known for portraying wholesome roles, shocked the movie industry when she did this film. Her provocative dances in the movie did nothing to help allay this reaction.
- Tatlong Hambog - This 1926 silent film which starred a race car sportsman, Luis Tuason and a vaudeville actress, Dimples Cooper was considered controversial because it was the first Filipino movie with a lips-to-lips kissing scene, considered scandalous at that time.
- Hinugot sa Langit - This Ishmael Bernal film made in 1985 starring Maricel Soriano was considered a controversial film because it tackles the issue of abortion, something the Catholic Church deemed unsuitable.
- Scorpio Nights - This is a 1985 movie directed by Peque Gallaga featuring Anna Marie Gutierrez and Dan Fernando. Aside from its provocative scenes and excessive skin exposure, the film is also a metaphorical representation of Philippine society during the early 80's. It received an X rating from the MTRCB, forcing it to be shown only in the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines.
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