Yesterday, the Film Academy of the Philippines announced Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa as the country’s submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards that will happen on February 2017. The film bested nine other entries which includes Berlin winner Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, Cinemalaya Best Picture Pamilya Ordinaryo, and the last minute addition Ang Babaeng Humayo by Lav Diaz.
This is the first time for director Brillante Mendoza who has been shortlisted thrice before (2009 for Kinatay, 2013 for Thy Womb, and 2015 for Taklub). Mendoza has also won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival back in 2009, also for Kinatay. In a way, he’s – for lack of a better term – overdue for an Oscar submission. Why he hasn’t represented us thus far is really surprising.
Ma’Rosa, tells a day in the life of a poor family, headed by their matriarch Rosa (played by Jaclyn Jose), as they scramble to find the money to pay off the corrupt policemen that have arrested them or dealing drugs. Back in May, it competed at the Cannes Film Festival Main Competition section where it pulled off the historic Best Actress win for Jose, being the first Filipina and Southeast Asian actress to do so. Certainly, it has the clout and the festival exposure.
Now let’s dissect its chances. Can Ma’Rosa pull off that elusive first nomination for the Philippines? For those counting, we’ve submitted 27 times in the past — back from our very first in 1953 for Manuel Conde’s Genghis Khan up to last year’s Heneral Luna from Jerrold Tarog) to no avail. No nomination and no shortlist mention.
As mentioned above, one of the things going for Ma’Rosa is its festival exposure. Not only did it take a home a prize at Cannes, it also played at the Toronto Film Festival. It has partnered with sales agency company Films Distribution which also distributed current Best Foreign Language Film winner Son of Saul. Impressive, right? Well not in the sense you’re thinking of. It has to be clarified though. Films Distribution is not an Oscar-campaigner studio per se. It’s not the same as Focus Features or Fox Searchlight or even The Weinstein Company. Son of Saul‘s win last year was due to being campaigned by Focus Features which handled its whole awards run campaign. Ma’Rosa doesn’t have that.. yet. In reality, the most Films Distribution can do is to help the movie gain more festival exposure. Going by a quick search shows that after Toronto, it’s also heading to BFI London, which is good. More festival exposure is always better.
Reviews by foreign critics is always a factor too. It has to be mentioned first that Mendoza is really as divisive when it comes to foreign critics. Remember when the late Roger Ebert mentioned that Kinatay surpassed Vincet Gallo’s The Brown Bunny as “the worst film in Canes history?” So it’s a bit of delight that Ma’Rosa is probably one of the better-reviewed films in his filmography. While critics still had reservations, they were more welcoming than the usual. THR mentioned “Thankfully, and as in his other features, Mendoza again manages to turn his locations into a character in its own right. ” Variety’s Maggie Lee summed it best when she said “Boasting a simple, coherent plot shot with real-time, handheld verismo, it’s a work of understated confidence that will not disappoint his festival acolytes, but probably won’t win many new converts.”
A lot has been mentioned about how we, at a certain extent, can be helped by our own country’s narrative right now. As the world probably knows already, we’re very vocal in our battle with the issue of drugs. And many feel that the movie is timely and that can help buzz. Historically, not really. This category really doesn’t care about that, to be frank. A year after Brokeback Mountain lost Best Picture, a significant amount of queer films were submitted for Best Foreign language Film including our own Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros. The total number of gay films nominated that year? Zero. In 2010, an election year in many countries, a lot of them rode that narrative, again including us when we submitted Dondon Santos’ Noy and Brazil went with Lula. Number of election themed nominated movies that year? Zero. This whole controversy reminded me just three years ago when we went with Transit as our submission (make no mistake, still a great film, just not a great Oscar entry) over the snubbed On the Job and the FAP’s reasoning was that they don’t want to submit a film that showed the negative side of the country. Submitting Ma’Rosa I guess is a huge leap to the other direction, if that means something.
The biggest factor that can probably help Ma’Rosa is its Cannes win. Sure its only Best Actress (and by only I mean that in the hierarchy of Cannes wins, its in the lower tier alongside Best Actor and Best Screenplay. This sentence, by no means, does not intend to take anything away from the marvelous Jaclyn Jose), but a win is still a win. And that it’s still buzz. For a movie that was perceived as a non-event of some sort at Cannes (it was one of the least buzzed films of the competition, but then it’s pretty understandable since he’s competing with the likes of veterans and/or those with Hollywood cast), how it ended up going home with a win is a win itself already.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Three days ago, it was announced that Lav Diaz’ Ang Babaeng Humayo will go for a September 23 release, which would make it eligible for this year since it’ll be meeting the necessary requirements to contend. The huge amount of buzz over its historic Golden Lion win (the highest honor ever received by a Filipino movie in history) is too much to ignore. Sure, it’s a Lav Diaz film which means it runs for more than three hours, and that didn’t help Norte two years ago. That said, foreign critics being unanimously positive about it, plus the film being called as his most accessible (especially since Diaz is another name that’s divisive to foreign critics), with a sure huge company to back its campaign (Charo Santos was the president of the biggest TV network in the country), it’s basically a decision too obvious to make by that time. That’s why it’s a tad surprising that the announcement happened yesterday. This prompted Humayo to move back to a September 28 screening, which will make it ineligible for next year’s submission too. That, and the buzz over Golden Lion and the Toronto inclusion will be old news by then. Let it be clear though that none of this should be pointed against Ma’Rosa, Mendoza, or any of his team, since decision wasn’t really theirs.
A few weeks ago pre-Venice Film Fest, I wrote about the possible submissions and strongly felt that none of the films would do the trick. In that case, why not throw a bone to Mendoza’s Ma’Rosa. But the whole Golden Lion win affected everything. My final verdict says that nope we ain’t getting that nomination nor that Top 9 mention. If anything, my takeaway with this year is that we’ve finally acknowledged and submitted Mendoza’s work (which was already beyond deserving back in 2009 when we had that tragic Ded na si Lolo submission), but at the expense of a stronger contender. I’d love to be wrong though.
Off to next year.
2012 has given us a wide array of supporting actress performances from dramas to comedies, from musicals and even horror films both in indie and mainstream movies. This category also contains some of the finest names in television, films, and even the stage. Here’s a sample masterlist of who can get nominated from the award giving bodies next season.
Take note that when I say award giving bodies, it’s as varied as the mainstream hard on of the PMPC Star Awards for Movies up to the indie love of the Manunuri and sometimes the in between such as the Golden Screen Awards.
LEADERS OF THE PACK
I wouldn’t be surprised if veteran actress Anita Linda will pick up a lot of supporting actress trophies for her performance as the foul mouthed Alzheimer’s healed grandmother of Coco Martin in Santa Nina. If not that, then she might gain notices for albeit a similar role in Olivia Lamasan’s The Mistress. Speaking of The Mistress, comeback veteran actress Hilda Koronel can find herself back again in awards territory as the original life spewing one of the famous movie lines of the year via “Layuan mo ang asawa ko. Tagalog ‘yan para maintinfihan mo.” Janice de Belen had a fabulous year giving memorable performances in all of her movie appearances this 2012. While I can see her getting nominated for the horror films she did, her biggest chance is still Joey Reyes’s Cinemalaya entry Mga Mumunting Lihim portraying the role of Olive, the one in the quartet of friends who wasn’t able to finish college and gets a boyfriend twice younger than her age. Janice’s co-star Agot Isidro can also reap nominations as the self centered judgmental friend Sandy also from the same movie. To round off the top five, I’d put Angelica Panganiban‘s name here as workaholic Jacqueline who’s trying to be the perfect wife in One More Try. While I can see cases wherein Panganiban will be moved to Lead, I guess they might throw her a bone here in order to avoid internal competition from Angel Locsin. Not that it’s a fraud or something because I felt she was actually a supporting actress in this one.
If award giving bodies failed to like any of the women above, then you can always count Nora Aunor’s performance as Emilio Aguinaldo’s second wife in El Presidente though lack of screentime will probably hurt her. Lovi Poe suffers the same fate as Thy Womb co-star Aunor from appearing in the final moments of the film especially since local award giving bodies love scenery chewing scenes that screams acting from its audience. Both Fides Cuyugan Asensio and Raquel Villavicencio can also be in the running this year as the more superior nuns of Adoration Clositer in Vincent Sandoval’s Aparisyon. Young actress Alessandra de Rossi also got a boatload of performances this year and she can get nominated as Coco Martin’s past love in Santa Nina or the cop daughter in the family ensemble Mater Dolorosa. A lot of mothers can also get a nomination or two this year such as those of Eugene Domingo as an annoyed mother who found out that her son fathered a teenage daughter in the musical I Do Bidoo Bidoo, Cherry Pie Picache‘s mother who keeps a secret in Lawrence Fajardo’s The Strangers, Rosanna Roces as the mistress of Philip Salvador who is dependent to Gina Alajar in Mater Dolorosa, and Dawn Zulueta as a strict mother who’s distant from her son in Ang Nawawala. Since there’s an abundance of mistress themed movies, one can also expect a nod for Andi Eigenmann‘s role as the third party in A Secret Affair.
THE REST OF THE PACK
And as for the others, possible supporting actress turns that can receive mentions this year include Kim Chiu‘s transformation as Vilma Santos’ half daughter in The Healing, Mercedes Cabral as Nora Aunor’s friend in Thy Womb, Gina Pareno as the voice of reason to daughter Angel Locsin in One More Try, Annicka Dolonius as Gibson’s apple of the eye in Ang Nawawala, and Angel Aquino as one of the victims in Brillante Mendoza’s Berlin entry Captive. Further supporting mentions that might grab attention at next year’s award giving bodies are Cinema One Originals winner Ria Garcia in Melodrama Negra, Daria Ramirez as Pokwang’s mother who took care of her grandchildren in the absence of her daughter who went abroad for a living in A Mother’s Story, Toni Gonzaga who is caught in between Vice Ganda and Luis Manzano’s antics in This Guy’s in Love with U, Mare, Angelina Kanapi as Dennis Trillo’s cousin in Ang Katiwala, and Cherie Gil in the comedy ensemble Madaling Araw, Mahabang Gabi.
That’s it! That’s just 25 names, but it gives award giving bodies a lot of options to choose from in next year’s awards derby. Tomorrow, spotlight for the supporting actors of the year will be given.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl
Mistress themed movies are the new bread and butter to become a staple hit nowadays, so everyone wants to star in one. Whether it’s the society’s penchant for seeing two women fight, hear endless quotable lines, or simply the gossip mongers nature of the people in our country, they’ve become a tradition now to expose affairs in the big screen, at least. The latest to join the bandwagon is the triumvirate of Anne Curtis, Derek Ramsay, and Andi Eigenmann under the helm of TV director Nuel Naval in his first movie offering entitled A Secret Affair.
Raffy (Anne Curtis) and Anton (Derek Ramsay) have been in a relationship for just three months, but he already popped the question to her. While she said yes, she gets cold feet the night before the actual wedding causing them to call the event off. Raffy went abroad to think about it, while Anton is left here devastated. Raffy’s sorority sister, Sam (Andi Eigennman), has the hots for him and tried her best to take her place, sexually at least. So when Raffy re-entered the picture, chaos ensues among the three.
To start things off, the storytelling seems straight out of the telenovela handbook. Characters leaving no room for logic at all and women snapping at each other. The friends of the other two women switch from one camp to the other, while Raffy switches from a petty bitch at one scene to a helpless crier on the next one. Sam’s too one note of a character that when she feels hurt, you can’t help but laugh at her. It seems as if there’s no big rationale behind their actions but just to play cat and mice with each other trying to have the last laugh.
As if that’s not enough, the dialogue was cringe-worthy. I admit there were those parts that worked with me dialogue wise, but it was an overkill. Normal people do not speak this way, and it occurs as if the writers are attempting to come up with a quotable line that will serve as a catch phrase in the long run, so they inserted all their entries in the film and relies on which one will work (For the record, my favorite is Raffy’s delivery of “Alam mo saan masarap mag-kape? Sa burol mo.“). The rest were just simply cheap pot shots that reflect how poorly the characters were written. The biggest laugh though comes in the end, when we’re treated to a “reflection” part of the three characters of what they’ve learned from it. Ahhhhh! Last shot to justify the relevance of the film.
For what it’s worth, I appreciate Nuel Naval’s direction. There were some scenes that showed some potential. I’ve been a fan of his Maalaala Mo Kaya episodes, and I know that he can do better given a tighter and better material to work on. As for the acting, Anne Curtis has already amassed this likable persona that you would be rooting for her either way even if she’s the mistress (see: No Other Woman) or this time, the protagonist. But having a likable personality can only bring you so far especially if you’re given a poorly written character to play. The same can be said for Andi Eigenmann who definitely has made her presence felt but can’t escape from the one note character that she was given too. Derek Ramsay was thankless as usual, though I guess one puts too much effort given that body he shed off in the film. Jaclyn Jose was the only remarkable among the supporting players, but even she is a hit or miss.
The way I see it, the film’s biggest problem is its material. For a movie that tends to borrow all the tips from the telenovela handbook, it tried to push a “realistic” (re: moral) ending. I’m pretty sure that many people from this production can do better than this; it’s just that there’s no one who rose above the helpless material they were given.