Must-watch Filipino Indie Films

Filipino cinema, if not the best, is one of the most impactful and impressive ones out there. Our actors are trained under big entertainment companies around the country, while theatre actors hone their skills under the supervision of genius and talented mentors.

Aside from movies and/or series produced by well-known entertainment agencies, there are also film productions that are independent; not being a part of or associated with a major record or movie studio.

Show your support for the excellence of Filipino cineplex by watching the following indie films on a variety of online streaming sites!

Photo credits to Quedank

1. Watch BuyBust | Netflix

Erik Matti co-wrote and directed the 2018 Philippine action thriller BuyBust. Anne Curtis and Brandon Vera are among the ensemble cast's lead performers. The focus of the story is the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) sending a team to undertake a drug raid in a slum in Manila. The PDEA squad gets caught by settlers after realizing the job was poorly executed, and they make an effort to get out by battling their way out. The film has been interpreted as a social critique of the contentious Philippine Drug War that the Duterte administration started.

The movie had its premiere on June 29, 2018, at the New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF). It was released widely in the Philippines on August 1 and in limited release in North America on August 10 of the same year. The movie received positive reviews from critics and gained an appreciation for its action scenes, concept, technical features, and Curtis' outstanding performance. It grossed 97 million dollars globally.

Photo credits to Rotten Tomatoes

2. Smaller and Smaller Circles | Full Movie | Raya Martin | Nonie Buencamino | Sid Lucero

Based on F.H. Batacan’s 2002 novel of the same name, Smaller and Smaller Circles is a 2017 Philippine mystery drama film directed by Raya Martin with a script by Ria Limjap and Moira Lang. The story follows Gus Saenz and Jerome Lucero, two Jesuit priests, who are tasked to unravel the mystery behind the killings of young boys in Payatas, one of Metro Manila's largest slum districts. The two priests use forensic analysis, crime scene investigation, and criminal profiling to solve the deaths and ultimately catch the perpetrator while dealing with the systemic corruption of the elite, the government, and the church.

The movie is a stunning reflection of the corrupt Catholic church, anti-poor ideology, and flawed legal system that currently exists in this nation.

Photo credits to IMDb

3. Watch Ang Babae sa Septic Tank Full Pinoy Movie Online

The plot follows three recent film school graduates named Jocelyn, Rainier, and Bingbong who are determined to produce an Oscar-winning movie. They set out to conduct a brief pre-production as a courtesy call to Eugene Domingo, who plays the lead female, and a comprehensive inspection of the Payatas dumpsite, which serves as the main setting for their film. They have the enthusiasm and motivation to fulfill their dreams at whatever cost because they believe they have a winning screenplay. In spite of Eugene Domingo's objections that she can do anything but swim in a sewer, they push her acting abilities to the maximum, forcing her to swim in one.

The Woman in the Septic Tank is a 2011 Filipino comedy film with JM De Guzman, Kean Cipriano, Cai Cortez, and Eugene Domingo as its main cast. It was directed by Marlon Rivera and written by Chris Martinez.

The film served as the Philippines' official entry for the 2011 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film and was also submitted as an entry to the 2011 Cinemalaya Festival. The movie was released on August 3, 2011, by Star Cinema, and it earned 38.4 million pesos. It was the highest-grossing independent film in the Philippines at the time until That Thing Called Tadhana overtook it in 2015.

Photo credits to CineMaterial

4. Patay na si Hesus (Jesus is Dead) Full Movie

Iyay (Jaclyn Jose), a mother and food vendor, discovers that her estranged husband, Hesus, has passed away. She decides to go from Cebu City to Dumaguete to attend the burial and persuades her apathetic children, including Hubert (Vincent Viado) who has Down Syndrome, trans man named Judith Marie "Jude," (Chai Fonacier), and jobless Jay (Melde Montanez), to go with her. While Jay initially declines but soon caves into Iyay's demands, Jude decides to request leave and bring his adopted daughter Mia with him. Bert easily confirms to join. And Hudas, their pet dog, also travels with them.

The 2016 Cebuano dark comedic road movie Patay na si Hesus is a contender for the 2017 Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

Photo credits to Pelikula Mania

5. Bliss (2017) | Full Movie | Iza Calzado | Ian Veneracion | Jerrold Tarog | TJ Trinidad

Because psychological thrillers are so uncommon in Filipino cinema, when Jerold Tarrog does make one, he makes it count. He used more clever techniques with Bliss. The protagonist of this film is a successful actress named Jane Ciego (Iza Calzado), who makes her own movie to earn recognition from the industry. She gets engaged in an accident that left her disabled during one filming. To escape further media attention, she is left in a private residence where she is cared for and watched over by her husband Carlo (TJ Trinidad) and an unkind, peculiar caregiver named Lilibeth (Adrienne Vergara). She begins to experience horrors and goes insane as the days go on. Questioning her sanity while trapped in her own house.

In March 2017, the movie was a competitor at the 12th Osaka Asian Film Festival in Japan, where it received positive reviews and Calzado won the Yakushi Pearl Award for Best Performer.

Photo credits to IMDb

6. Babae at Baril | Netflix

The English title of the movie, The Girl and the Gun, accurately sums up the plot: a department store sales girl discovers a gun. She takes the gun because she is sick of being the underdog and being mistreated by men. Immediately after, she feels more self-assured and ready to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged her. The film gives a voice to women and emphasizes their daily challenges, which range from rape and domestic abuse to workplace discrimination and catcalling. Babae at Baril skirts around these subjects and accurately captures women's experiences worldwide as well as in the Philippines.

Babae at Baril showcases a socially relevant, female-centric drama and marks Rae Red's independent debut as a feature film director. The indie film was an entry at the 7th QCinema International Film Festival.

Photo credits to IMDb

7. Pamilya Ordinaryo - Netflix

The story Pamilya Ordinaryo portrays the day-to-day activities of an informally settled teenage couple in Metro Manila. It reveals a compelling look at how the poor live today, demonstrating both their hustle and being hustled. In the movie, Jane (Hasmine Kilip) and Aries (Ronwaldo Martin) go to great lengths to discover what happened after their baby is abducted. Finding out where their child has been taken is incredibly hard for them, and the difficulties they face serve as an illustration of how harsh this nation has generally been to its citizens.

If you want to explore more about indie films from the Philippines, you can check out the finalists of Cinemalaya 2023 on their website.


Marjorie Ann M. Patricio is a Digital Marketing and Brand Development intern of PS Media Enterprise. She is currently a 4th-year Communication Research student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa, Manila.


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