IN the documentary Aswang, the being whose name refers to a complex of witches and viscera suckers leaps out of the myths and begins to appear in cities and human settlements. With these creatures come also the so-called drug war and the lives of those caught in the mayhem and violence hitherto unseen in this islands republic. In the meantime, at the palace, a king reigns over a population said to still worship him.

A Thousand Cuts documents an online news site, Rappler, which has been the focus of Duterte’s wrath and attention. The film tracks the founder of the news bureau, Maria Ressa, and the writers who bravely document the present condition. Along the way, it looks into other characters closely linked to the administration and warns us how a press must remain free for it to play a crucial role in any history.

What happened to Marawi is the question asked in this documentary detailing A House in Pieces. As its former inhabitants return to the city, the view of a land—its houses and its people—in shamble becomes devastating not only for those who once lived there and had dreams like anyone of us, but also for us witnessing the ineptitude of a central government.

Despairingly intrusive and yet intimate, the portrait of the filmmaker’s father whose mind and life are fast vanishing can be shattering. Somewhere in the film called Elehiya ng Paglimot (Elegy to Forgetting), we ask the question: How much can I show and to what degree can I breach the familial and personal if only to drive home the point that memories make up the essence of both our past and, therefore, our future?

A structure meant to house ceremonials that affirm a community’s physical continuity and symbolic sustainability owes its title to the name of that space. Buklog chronicles a long ritual by the Subanen, an ethnolinguistic community in the Zamboanga Peninsula, showing a people who believe the world around them has spirits that guard and guide, and that it is the duty of leaders (healers) to maintain that belief and process the action towards them.

The final nominee for Best Documentary is called Masterpiece. In this film, a priest enlists the services of young artists whose subject matter has always been secular to paint the ceiling of an old church. With their styles different from the classical form the figures on the ceiling have always assumed, these young men and one young woman fulfill a dream that only Renaissance artists of Europe had perhaps experienced.

The themes and concerns in the short film categories are, as always, fresh and wide in range. One film deals with a father who concocts a fairy tale of flying into outer space to convince her young daughter why he may not see her anymore (My Father is an Astro-Not). In another, an older man imposes a narrative of horror to a son who cannot understand how an openly homophobic father can distort fatherhood and desire (Ang Bahagharing Uhaw sa Ulan). Then there is a young mother whose art helps her face a loss as she constructs a boat that will carry her child to her final destination (Ola). In another home, a mother cannot accept how her only daughter dresses up and, over a radio play, they enact their own drama (Noontime Drama).

An elderly transgender is about to experience a new status with the law that gives citizens reaching the age of 100 financial benefits (Isang Daa’t Isang Mariposa). The artifice of cinema as a queerspace is supplanted by smartphones linking desires, intimacies and sexual freedom (Next Picture). An old Igorot woman walks to the town, enduring her disability because the sound of an explosion may have hurt again one of her loved ones (Dad-aan na). The folk theater conjured around the death of God is transformed into a carnivalesque landscape of contradictions, caricatures and commentaries (Pabasa kan Pasyon).

Completing the nominees for Best Short Film is an animation that has the contours of graffiti and street arts, which imagines how the present pandemic has only stressed out the gap between the poor and the rich, and how poverty has been an excuse for the tragedies in the mind of the nation (Yawyaw ni JP).

The list of nominees for the Gawad Urian 2021 follows below:


  • Aswang, Alyx Arumpac
  • Buklog, Roel Hoang Manipon
  • Elehiya ng Paglimot, Kristoffer Brugada
  • House in Pieces, Jean Claire Dy and Manuel Domes
  • Masterpiece, Kristoffer Villarino and Januar Yap
  • A Thousand Cuts, Ramona S. Diaz


  • My Father is an Astro-Not, Arjanmar Rebeta
  • Next Picture, Cris Bringas
  • Noontime Drama, Kim Timan and Sam Villa-Real
  • Dad-aan Na (Her Walks), Jules Lumiqued
  • Ola, Mijan Jumalon
  • Yawyaw ni JP, Sine Sanyata
  • Pabasa Kan Pasyon, Hubert Tibi
  • Isang Daa’t Isang Mariposa, Norvin de los Santos
  • Ang Bahagharing Uhaw sa Ulan, Levilou D. Corpuz

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