Archive for August 2017

90th Oscar Foreign Language Film: What Should the Philippines Submit?   3 comments

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It’s the time of the year! One Filipino film will be chosen to represent the country for the 90th Academy Awards next year. With the rise of more local film festivals such as FDCP’s recently-concluded Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, and their partnership with SM Cinema – Cine Lokal – getting the requirement of seven day commercial release seems easier nowadays as compared to previous year.

To qualify as an eligible submission, the Academy’s rule states that “The motion picture must be first released in the country submitting it no earlier than October 1, 2016, and no later than September 30, 2017, and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor.” The country must submit its intended film before October 2, 2017.

As of this writing, only six films have submitted thus far, and none of the usual favorites have made their decisions yet. Will Submission #29 be our charm? Which film will be our best bet to advance forward to represent the country? I’ve divided them in three different categories.

DISCLAIMER: It has to be cleared that this ISN’T the final shortlist from the Film Academy of the Philippines yet, and are just mere speculations and recommendations.

FRONTRUNNERS:

Apocalypse Child

APOCALYPSE CHILD
Director: Mario Cornejo
Screenplay: Mario Cornejo, Monster Jimenez
Cast: Sid Lucero, Anicka Dolonius, RK Bagatsing, Ana Abad Santos, Gwen Zamora
Philippine Release Date: October 26, 2016

The film is set in the surfing town of Baler where Ford is wasting his youth away. Named after Francis Ford Coppola, his mother continuously hopes that the Hollywood director would someday acknowledge her son. As another surfing season is ending, he is faced to confront his past, including the myths about his life.

Winner of the Best Picture at the QC Film Festival back in 2015, Apocalypse Child only had its commercial run almost a year later of October in 2016. The film, while having a Hollywood connection in its plot, is no doubt about it one of 2015’s best offerings, but it’s just a case of something that’s not right up the Academy’s flavor. Obviously, it doesn’t undermine the greatness of Apocalypse Child, a personal favorite of mine, but just a case of oil and water not mixing together.

Area

AREA
Director: Louie Ignacio
Screenplay: Robby Tantingco
Cast: Aiai delas Alas, Allen Dizon, Sue Prado
Philippine Release Date: November 9, 2016

Named after the red light district, Area centers on Hilary, an aging prostitute, saving up money in the hopes of going to the US to find her long lost son.

Area has been hopping and collecting awards from low-key international critics, and while I don’t think it will ultimately end as a final submission pick for the country, this poverty-themed film will have its fans in the selection committee.

Birdshot

BIRDSHOT
Director: Mikhail Red
Screenplay: Mikhail Red, Rae Red
Cast: Mary Joy Apostol, John Arcilla, Arnold Reyes
Philippine Release Date: August 16, 2017

Birdshot is a coming-of-age thriller that tells the story of a young farm girl who wanders off into a Philippine forest reserve. Deep within the reservation she mistakenly shoots and kills a critically endangered and protected Philippine Eagle. As the local authorities begin a manhunt to track down the poacher of a national bird, their investigation leads them to an even more horrific discovery.

Before it opened the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival earlier this month, Birdshot has already made rounds internationally – Goteborg, Osaka Asian, Titanic Hungary, Vilnius, Taipei, Cinemalaya, New York Asian film festivals – and a victory for director Mikhail Red as Asian  Future Best Film Award at Tokyo, so there’s no denying that it can work its international presence. That plus its critical consensus and its huge potential of a crossover international appeal can certainly make it a decent, if not great, submissions for the country.

 Bliss

BLISS
Director: Jerrold Tarog
Screenplay: Jerrold Tarog
Cast: Iza Calzado, Adrienne Vergara, TJ Trinidad, Ian Veneracion
Philippine Release Date: May 10, 2017

After involving in a film production accident that leaves her crippled, Jane Ciego, a successful actress, slowly transitions into madness after experiencing horrors and torture in her own home.

Even before its local premiere last May 10, Bliss has already made rounds because of Iza Calzado’s victory at the Osaka Asian Film Festival for this performance. This + love for Jerrold Tarog, who is no stranger here after his 2015 smash hit Heneral Luna was submitted, can certainly work for this film’s advantage to be our country’s submission.

Die Beautiful

DIE BEAUTIFUL
Director: Jun Lana
Screenplay: Jun Lana, Rody Vera
Cast: Paolo Ballesteros, Christian Bables, Joel Torre
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2016

Friends attend the wake of Trisha, a Filipino transgender woman. They look back into the her life as she faces the adversities and triumphs of living as a transgender in Filipino society

Sweeping awards left and right, which started its victory at last year’s Tokyo International Film Festival, Die Beautiful is probably the closets contender we have this year that managed to have both great commercial and critical response, something that will surely benefit it as well. At the center of the film is Urian (and Tokyo) Best Actor Paolo Ballesteros who will surely campaign for the film if it gets selected. They can also spin an LGBT narrative here with a transgender lead character, and pop culture mentions ranging from Miley Cyrus to Lady Gaga and Beyonce can also help.

Kita Kita

KITA KITA
Director: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
Screenplay: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, Empoy Marquez
Philippine Release Date: July 19, 2017

A blind woman falls in love with a man who uses kindness and humor to make a connection with her.

Kita Kita is the box office success story of 2017 in the Philippines, no doubt about that. So don’t be surprised to see it as a possible shortlist submission entry. This Empoy-Alessandra rom-com might be seen as too fluff to be submitted (and frankly, I agree), but then if middlebrow material like The Intouchables by France can be submitted in 2013 because of its huge box office performance, then I won’t be surprised if the local Academy goes with this. After all, Intouchables made it to the shortlist of nine only to miss the actual nod.

Patay na si Hesus

PATAY NA SI HESUS
Director: Victor Villanueva
Screenplay: Moira Lang, Fatrick Tabada
Cast: Jaclyn Jose, Chai Fonacier, Melde Montanez, Angelina Kanapi
Philippine Release Date: August 16, 2017

The death of a woman’s estranged husband brought her and her family into a road that changes their lives forever.

Another crowd-pleasing comedy, this film starring a dysfunctional family on a road trip is right up the alley of previous submissions such as Ded na si Lolo, Bwakaw, and Ang Babae sa Septic Tank. This also stars Cannes Best Actress Jaclyn Jose which can work to its advantage (but then, if her in Ma’Rosa didn’t work last year, then maybe I’m just reaching a bit here).

Pauwi Na

PAUWI NA
Director: Paolo Villaluna
Screenplay: Paolo Villaluna, Ellen Ramos
Cast: Bembol Roco, Cherry Pie Picache, Meryll Soriano, Jerald Napoles, Chai Fonacier
Philippine Release Date: August 16, 2017

The film follows a family who decide to use pedicabs so they could “pedal” their way back to the province. A series of unfortunate events occur that will either test their determination or distract them from their journey home. ‘Pauwi Na’ is a tragic-comic portrait of a dysfunctional family and the disquieting blind faith they invoke as they dream of going home.

Also titled as Pedicab, this heartwarming drama with a strong ensemble headlined by Bembol Roco and Cherry Pie Picache has already received Best Film at the Shanghai International Film Festival. I feel that this is a movie that can appeal to the international community that has the most ‘local’ flavor so to speak. While it has a tendency to be lost in the shuffle when competing against other countries, this is a good, possible submissions for us.

eRespeto

RESPETO
Director: Treb Monteras II
Screenplay: Treb Monteras II, Njel de Mesa
Cast: Abra, Dido dela Paz, Loonie, Chai Fonacier
Philippine Release Date: TBD

Hendrix dreams of hip-hop greatness, but  he’s spiraling down a rabbit-hole of crime and poverty until he meets Doc, an old poet still haunted by his martial law past. Respeto is a celebration of the underground Pinoy hip-hop world and how we find the words to find ourselves.

Winning the top plum at Cinemalaya earlier this month, Respeto teases a commercial screening already, and while there is no definite date given yet, it needs to have a seven-day run by September 30. While hip-hop and fliptop is something that can appeal to a foreign audience, I fear for a “lost in translation” scenario on how this will be received internationally as compared to the love it got here.

Sunday Beauty Queen

SUNDAY BEAUTY QUEEN
Director: Babyruth Villarama Gutierrez
Cast: Rudelie Acosta, Mylyn Jacobo, Leo Selomenia
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2016

Beneath Hong Kong’s glittering facade, Filipinas working as domestic helpers work in relative anonymity and for near slave wages. In a beauty pageant like no other in the world, five helpers give themselves makeovers for a day and gleefully reclaim their dignity.

There’s already a narrative written for this because it can be the first ever documentary submitted by the country for Oscar consideration. The last documentary feature to be nominated for a Foreign Language Film Oscar is 2013’s The Missing Picture from Cambodia. It’s also helped by the idea that the concept of OFWs is so Pinoy in culture, and we’ve submitted those in the past too (2000’s Anak comes to mind).

POTENTIAL SHORTLIST MENTIONS:

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While I don’t think these films will end up as submissions, don’t be surprised to see any of these in this group to make it in the final shortlist:

2 COOL 2 B 4GOTTEN
Director: Petersen Vargas
Screenplay: Jason Paul Laxamana
Cast: Khalil Ramos, Jameson Blake, Ethan Salvador, Ana Capri
Philippine Release Date: March 15, 2017

Winning Best Picture at the Cinema One Originals 2016, this coming of age story of a young boy has done some international festival rounds (even winning an Audience Choice in Italy), but its too small scope will certainly hinder its chances.

HAMOG
Director: Ralston Javier
Screenplay: Ralston Javier
Cast: Zaijan Jaranilla, Therese Lamvar, OJ Mariano, Lou Veloso, Anna Luna
Philippine Release Date: August 16, 2017

Like, 2 Cool 2 Be 4goten, Hamog might be seen as more of a low-key contender, which can be quite the challenge if it faces and more buzzed entries from other countries.

ANG HULING CHACHA NI ANITA
Director: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
Screenplay: Sigrid Andrea Bernardo
Cast: Therese Malvar, Angel Aquino, Jay Bordon
Philippine Release Date: June 16, 2017

There have been instances from previous years when we included films from older years to make the shortlist on their actual year of commercial release (Boses in 2012, Alagwa in 2013) so this one certainly fits the bill.

PAGLIPAY
Director: Zig Dulay
Screenplay: Zig Dulay
Cast: Garry Cabalic, Anna Luna, Joan dela Cruz
Philippine Release Date: August 16, 2017

Again, another film that might be perceived as too low-key for a submissions entry but is certainly deserving to be up for consideration.

SAVING SALLY
Director: Avid Liongoren
Screenplay: Carlo Ledesma, Charlene Sawit-Esguerra, Avid Liongoren
Cast: Rhian Ramos, Enzo Marcos, TJ Trinidad
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2016

While this type of animation can work on its advantage when attracting the international crowd, the story might be seen as too lightweight which can hinder its overall chances. Romantic light stories aren’t really the Academy’s cup of tea.

SEKLUSYON
Director: Erik Matti
Screenplay: Anton C. Santamaria
Cast: Ronnie Alonte, Rhed Bustamante, Phoebe Walker
Philippine Release Date: December 25, 2016

For an MMFF film, this one got solid reviews and even swept the Gabi ng Parangal of last year. This is also from the Dan Villegas and Jennylyn Mercado team-up, which reminds us that English Only Please, was part of the short-list that year.

SLEEPLESS
Director: Prime Cruz
Screenplay: Jen Chuaunsu
Cast: Glaiza de Castro, Dominic Roco, TJ Trinidad
Philippine Release Date: May 26, 2017

With its surprising box office receipts and a good to great critical reception, this can fit the slot of the rom-com slot that has included films such as English Only Please and That Thing Called Tadhana.

ELIGIBILITY ISSUES:

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The other big winner at this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is Kiko Boksingero from director Thop Nazareno, a small gem of a film about an aspiring boxer who met his father. The critical standout at the ToFarm Film Festival is What Home Feels Like which stars indie favorites Bembol Roco and Irma Adlawan. Both of the said films have no commercial releases yet since their festival run. Meanwhile, Sheron Dayoc’s Women of the Weeping River, the biggest sweeper at this year’s Gawad Urian including the top Best Picture plum (among more Best Picture prizes), will definitely get a commercial release from TBA, though date of release isn’t publicly revealed yet. If eligible, it’s a strong contender for the submission.

FINAL VERDICT:

After last year’s bloodbath of competition between frontrunner Ma’Rosa by Brillante Mendoza and the late gamechange Ang Babaeng Humayo by Lav Diaz, this year looks tame in comparison. Of course I’m talking about the international buzz-level and does not reflect the quality of these films mentioned above. 2016 was probably the strongest presence we had in the international scene with Competition entries at the Big 3 festivals and winning a prize in all three too. As for this year’s entries, I’d trim it down to three – Birdshot which I can see having a really great international appeal (its toughest challenge is putting itself out there which it has already started to do), Pauwi Na (heart tugging family film that has won Shanghai’s top prize already), and Die Beautiful. If I were the one deciding, my vote goes to Die Beautiful, as I think it’s right up the Academy’s alley – great acting performances, has this crossover crowd pleasing appeal, and possible narrative for its central transgender character.

Share your thoughts with me! You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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