Earlier this week, the Film Academy of the Philippines released the final shortlist that includes the titles of the seven films that they were considering to be the submission of the country to get that elusive Oscar nod in the foreign language category. It has been years now since the FAP has been choosing and the options have ranged from excellent (2003’s Crying Ladies) to good (2009’s Ploning) to plain bad (2010’s Ded na si Lolo).
Being a self confessed Oscarologist myself, the thing about these submissions is that one must not focus on what the best movie is about. After all, taste is very subjective. I’m not saying we should just submit what the highest grossing movie is. The Academy still cares for a good script, a polished direction, and effective technical aspects; nevertheless, there are themes that gives AMPAS instant hard on. For one, anything about the War makes your movie go noticed. To be specific, anything about the Holocaust or Nazis gives you instant nomination and wins such as those of Germany’s Nowhere in Arica (2002) and Austria’s The Counterfeiters (2006). But then again, we can’t tackle that. AMPAS also likes character driven films that are thought provoking such as 2004’s “The Sea Inside”, 2009’s “The Secret In Their Eyes”, and current champ “A Separation”.
Anyway, here are the seven films that made the shortlist, and what I think their Oscar chances are if the FAP chooses to submit the said film.
Director: Auraeus Solito
Stars: Alessandra de Rossi, Clifford Bañagale, Dax Alejandro
A participant of the 7th Cinemalaya last year, Busong (Palawan) has already made waves in the international film festival circuit whether as participant or exhibit film. The movie has very good technical aspects (particularly the cinematography, make up, and score) and has improved significantly from Solito’s last effort hat ended up as the country’s Oscar submission (2005’s The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros). My biggest worry though is that the film’s unique theme can go both ways in terms of Academy’s reception. Nevertheless, if this ends up as the country’s submission, it will be in the middle of the pack, meaning it’s not necessarily the best the country has ever submitted but far from being the worst.
Director: Brillante Mendoza
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Joel Torre, Maria Isabel Lopez
It has always made me wonder why were past Brillante Mendoza efforts always snubbed by the FAP in their Oscar selection committee, and the closest answer that I figured out was that maybe because they weren’t show locally for a week that is a requirement for any country for their movie to be considered. I’ve always thought that choosing one Mendoza film is an easy route for, at least, some buzz and promotion since they have the festival backing that leads for easy international buzz throughout festival season. Now, Mendoza, gets his first shot for Oscar gold, and I won’t be surprised if the FAP leans toward this Berlin entry this year. The only downside I see is that reviews were mixed for this particular film, and that will probably its Oscar chances to nab that nom.
MANILA KINGPIN: THE ASIONG SALONGA STORY
Director: Daryl dela Cruz
Stars: ER Ejercito, Carla Abellana, John Regala
The producers of the film are very vocal about their desire to bring this film to the Cannes, and while that did not materialize, I think they’ll be eye-ing this possibility more. After all, they can boast about the black and white treatment of the film, and it being the symbol of action film resurgence. However, while the movie can brag about the suiting art direction, captivating cinematography, and musical score, the material does not fall under one of the two regular themes that this category loves to see. It’s too lightweight in terms of character development, and I don’t see this appealing to the Academy’s taste at all.
A MOTHER’S STORY
Director: John Lazatin
Stars: Pokwang, Xyriel Manabat, Rayver Cruz
I find A Mother’s Story a surprising choice in the shortlist not because it is a bad film, but it’s not a great film as well. I even forgot that it’s eligible for contention, and that says a lot. While Pokwang nailed her performance as a suffering mother, the rest weren’t able to live up to the material. Also, we already tried submitting a story about an OFW mother who suffers the consequences of being abroad in a better and more received film Anak in 2000, and that did not lead us to a nomination. Point is, this is more suitable for a Lifetime TV movie of the week than a a country’s Oscar submission.
ANG SAYAW NG DALAWANG KALIWANG PAA
Director: Alvin Yapan
Stars: Paulo Avelino, Rocco Nacino, Jean Garcia
This one is my personal option to be submitted, since among the six movies I saw (haven’t seen Captive yet), this is my favorite. However, biases aside, I think what might work for the movie’s favor is that it mixes different forms of art including both literature and dance in it. An art covered in another art featured in another art might be something that will get the attention of AMPAS. The movie also features outstanding technical aspects specifically the sound and editing, and boasts of a strong screenplay and good direction. If only my vote counts, I’d probably suggest this to be the country’s submission this year. Here’s wishing the FAP follows.
Director: Joyce Bernal
Stars: Kris Aquino, Dingdong Dantes, Angelica Panganiban
I wonder who the Kris Aquino fanboy is among the FAP voters, as her movies always find its way to the shortlist. Just when you thought Dalaw was the worst movie to ever be considered, then comes Segunda Mano. I really don’t see anything significant, noteworthy, and award-worthy in Segunda Mano, and not even Dingdong Dantes improved acting or Bangs Garcia’s funny support can save this one. So I’ll advise the FAP to skip this one.
Director: Muhammad Yusuf
Stars: Gwen Zamora, Pierre Gruno, Agung Saga
I really don’t see why this is even eligible. I get it that GMA Films is half the producer, but everything else (aside from actress Zamora) is Indonesian production. Truth be told, this is more of an Indonesian production than a local one. Also, this has no buzz, no appeal, and no critical support for it to be chosen.
All in all, I’d be pleased if Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa ends up to be the country’s submission, and I’m fine with a Busong or Captive choice. The four others will contest Ded na si Lolo as the worst submission in years.