HomeAsia-Pacific Social Science Reviewvol. 13 no. 2 (2013)

Depictions of Culture in Filipino Independent Films

Ramon Felipe A. Sarmiento

Discipline: Performing Arts, Culture, Social Culture



The concept of culture is arguably Anthropology’s most important contribution to the popular mind. It had become a staple in taking account of the human condition, both in private discourses and in the public sphere, notably in the various media. While popularization of knowledge and frameworks of an academic discipline should be desirable, anthropologists remain wary about reduction or outright misrepresentation in the transit of their ideas from the specialist to the lay. But the non-specialists who deploy the notion of culture are not of the same sensitivities. Independent filmmakers seem to be quite keener than others. Free of commercial considerations, indie films pose much promise in making good use of the cultural lens as they depict human condition with nuance and depth. This study attempts to verify that hunch by analyzing the films entered in the main competition of the Cinemalaya festival from 2005 to 2011. While all 64 films contained aspects of culture, 23 of them proved substantially cultural in their representations. More specifically, the sort of culture portrayed is in step with contemporary anthropological theorizing, that is notions lumped under the purview of the practice framework, wherein culture is held to be dynamic, historically embedded, and largely contingent on human agency. What can explain this hospitality of the indies to practice theory of culture is the fact that feature filmmaking is essentially story-telling, and stories thrives on conflict and change.