Philippines’ 86th Oscar Submission: Transit   11 comments

1001587_708370515842957_1956497868_n  Just yesterday, the Philippines announced their official pick as to what the country will submit for the Best  Foreign Language film category at the 86th Academy Awards. First time feature director Hannah Espia’s Transit, a drama about an OFW family in Israel having to deal with the current policy of deporting non-Israelian kids from the country. It is a late inclusion from an original field of nine shortlist which you can find here.

Transit is definitely one of the year’s best films, there’s no doubt about that. It is a great film and I even personally have that as one of the five best films of the year (by far). It managed to sweep last month’s Cinemalaya Film Festival ending up with ten trophies. It has great technical achievements and is an exceptional debut feature from young director Hannah Espia. I’m also glad that the FAP is responding more to female directors, as she becomes the third female director (after Marilou Diaz Abaya and Rory B. Quintos) to have a film being submitted for this. In short, it’s a great film. Period.

But quality can only take you so far.

We all know it’s just not about the quality. Arguably, one can even say that it’s more on the campaigning of the film. With 70+ contenders from films all over the world contending. an all out big campaign must be launched. After all, Transit, hasn’t been a part of the big three festivals (Cannes, Venice, Berlin) nor a participant of the other smaller festivals like Toronto, Tribeca, Sundance, or Telluride. When it comes to Oscar, those are all the only festivals that matter. And an exposure to any of that (and a film’s performance in that said participation) is the kickstarter for its buzz.

This is the type of film that benefits only in the voting process of the actual winner already, since there’s no doubt that it has a huge appeal to the demographics of Oscar voters. But before reaching that stage, it needs an aggressive campaign that will lead it to the said position, which I’m skeptical of it achieving. That is the film’s biggest hurdle. How can they handle to make everyone consider to see it and prioritize it among the dozens and dozens of films in contention.

Now last year I wrote it here, that if I will sum up Bwakaw‘s chances, I’d say its biggest and farthest road that it can travel is the top nine shortlist. After all, same time last year, it already had a Toronto screening, thus the Oscar prognosticating sites (particularly Nathaniel Rogers’ The Film Experience raving about it) keep its small buzz alive. So unless they have some tricks left up in their sleeves, then yes, I guess it’s possible. If I have to make a prediction this year, a top nine is a long shot and it will take a huge miracle of some sorts if it managed to do that.

All in all, while there’s no doubt that we submitted a great film, if we’re really in it to finally get the country a nod, then we should consider more how this policy really works. This is no beauty pageant, we don’t need a film that shows the good side of the country to represent us. If we really want to nab an Oscar nod, then they must start to learn how the tricks of the trade work. This is not a year that we must just get contented that we submitted a great film. We already did that last year with Bwakaw. This year, we have something in contention that could have done much better. Oh well, off to next year I guess.

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11 responses to “Philippines’ 86th Oscar Submission: Transit

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  1. I agree! after all, it’s a business. 🙂

  2. One thing to say: they’ve been doing this for decades now, and they still don’t get the trade?!?!?

    • Surprising isn’t it? LOL. And I can’t believe I’m hearing the “shows the country in a positive light.” Now that UK chose Sean Ellis’ Metro Manila, what does it make of our chances? UGH.

      • They’re showing the Philippines, albeit NOT in a positive light, they’re the more known country, they can campaign more. There you go – the committee’s nightmare is coming true. A film not showing the country in a positive light might end up as a nominee, and it’s not even our submission. 🙂

      • I don’t even get the reason behind that criteria to show the country in a positive light. Oh well. That’s what they get. It’s really sad because I like Transit so much, but I’ll file it in a case under “it’s just not meant to be.”

      • And it’s really frustrating how close we can get in some years (2008 and 2009, for example), and yet, we don’t get the chance to even have the strong buzz simply because of that nonsensical criteria.

        I mean, Brazil was proud with City of God even if it was about the drug deals in their country. It even earned major awards. The selection-governing body should be reformatted. 🙂

      • Or Un Prophete in 2009. We take too much consideration in other external factors like “positive message” or the one with the election period in 2010. They really need to revamp it. Or at least learn the tricks of the trade.

      • I guess the committee is just to afraid to admit that “you know what, some of our best films don’t necessarily put us in good light, but it’s still a GREAT film, after all.”

  3. The day Transit was chosen Erik Matti tweeted spoilers sa OTJ. Baka na disappoint din sya no. Triple tie din kasi so it wasclose. But I LOVED Transit though and if by any chance magka buzz it could appeal to voters. Ang sayang sa OTJ dun may US distributor na and Sept. 27 release sa North American theaters and kung napili sakto sana.\

    So Metro Manila and Ilo-ilo mga pinasa ng ibang bansa,

    • Yes. Nadefeat ang purpose ng pag-submit ng Transit na not showing the ugly side of the country and it is even funnier that another country did it for us. I love Transit, no question about that. But it won’t work given the process of the Oscar.

      It was such a wasted opportunity, and I’m really disappointed. And yes, it seems like Matti was too. Can’t blame him. It was one of the rare times I actually thought we had a chance.

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