Archive for the ‘philippines’ Tag

Philippines’ 90th Oscar Submission: Birdshot   2 comments

BirdshotThe Film Academy of the Philippines, in charge of choosing the submission for the Academy Awards, has announced earlier today that Mikhail Red’s Birdshot is the official entry of the country for the 90th Oscars. Birdshot bested seven other movies (Die Beautiful by Jun Lana; 1st SEM by Dexter Hernandez and Allan Ibanez; Ang Araw sa Likod Mo by Dominic Nuesa; Kita Kita by Sigfrid Bernardo; Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B by Prime Cruz; Patay na si Hesus by Victor Villanueva; Triptiko by Miguel Franco Micelena; and Sunday Beauty Queen by Baby Ruth Villarama) in the process.

Birdshot is the first submission from 25-year old director Mikhail Red, son of Raymond Red, Cannes winning director for his short film Anino. The film premiered at the Tokyo International Film Festival, was the opening film for this year’s Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival, and a winner at the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino last month.

The film tells the story of a young Filipino teenage girl who wanders into the boundaries of a Philippines reservation forest. Deep within the reservation, she mistakenly shoots and kills a critically endangered and protected Philippine eagle. As local authorities begin a manhunt to track down the poacher of a national bird, their investigation leads them to an even more horrific discovery. The film stars John Arcilla, Arnold Reyes, and newcomer Mary Joy Apostol.

How will Birdshot fare in the Oscar game? As for starters, it’s already competing against much high-profile films including Palme d’Or winner The Square from Sweden and other Cannes entries such as BPM (Beats Per Minute) from France, Germany’s In the Fade, Russia’s Loveless, and Austria’s Happy End. There are also other high profile contenders such as Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, Israel’s Foxtrot, Denmark’s You Disappear, and Cambodia’s First They Killed my Father directed by Oscar winner Angelina Jolie. In this regard, we’re lacking way, way behind to be noticed. Four of the last six winners in this category debuted at Cannes, one from Venice, and the other one from Toronto. We really need to put it out there/

That said, the local studio handling this is TBA Productions, also the people behind our 2015 submission Heneral Luna. While the film was not nominated nor did it advance in the shortlist, they’re a team that can use previous experience to their advantage and partner with an international distributor to assist them with their Oscar campaign.

It also helps that the film has this Western appeal, something that will not be hard for the committee to like and appreciate. This has always been a “barricade” of some sort of many of our previous entries from Anak in 2000 to Ang Babae sa Septic Tank in 2011. Birdshot is a movie that can appeal both to middlebrow and highbrow movie fans, so it can be in the running for both the popular vote and the committee save. It’s also difficult to crack how the committee save will be chosen. As per a source last year, the three “saved” films were Australia’s Tanna, Switzerland’s My Life as a Courgette, and Germany’s Toni Erdmann.

When I wrote about my potential Oscar submission analysis a few weeks ago, I predicted that it will either be Die Beautiful, Pauwi Na, or Birdshot that will be chosen as the Oscar submission. All of these will be decent picks, but it’s a year that’s tough for the country to penetrate and get that elusive Oscar nomination.

Maybe 2018 will be better for us.

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Posted September 26, 2017 by Nicol Latayan in Awards, Films

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Philippines’ 88th Oscar Submission: Heneral Luna   Leave a comment

11541975_1632374606977269_5171522840825921614_nIt was only a few hours ago when the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) announced via its director Leo Martinez that Jerrold Tarog’s film “Heneral Luna is the Philippine submission for the 88th Academy Awards. It’s first time for director Tarog whose film tells the tale of underrated Filipino hero Antonio Luna in his quest to lead the country against the Spanish colonizers during Emilio Aguinaldo’s regime.

As per Marinel Cruz of Inquirer, “Heneral Luna” beats out five other contenders including Brillante Mendoza’s Un Ceratin Regard entry this year “Taklub” and Carlos Siguion Reyna’s multiple Cinemalaya winner last year “Hari ng Tondo.

The journey of “Heneral Luna” is really impressive to say the least. The film opened up to decent numbers but the strong word of mouth particularly in social media paved the way for more cinemas to bring it back to more screens. As a matter of fact, its second week opening day was way higher than its initial first day grosses. It has received raves one after the other with critics praising its polished direction, great ensemble headed by John Arcilla in a career-best role and the different treatment it used as compared to the other biopics about our Filipino heroes.

Now less than two weeks after it opened, its now the Oscar submission of the country representing it in the world platform against more than 70 countries in the world. It’s also the first time the Philippines submitted a film about one of its heroes in the 27 times that we have sent a bid at the Oscars. It’s a bittersweet feeling for everyone in the film involved as well as its fans, and the announcement of it as the country’s submission was met with such enthusiasm and clamor.

But now, let’s talk about the real deal. How will it fare at the Oscar race this year? Just like how I predicted that both “Bwakaw and “Transit” aren’t going anywhere or that “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan can count a top nine inclusion at most, it’s time to analyze Heneral Luna‘s chances. When I wrote about my usual Oscar submission analysis and recommendations a month ago, I specified how this is a year when we’re lacking that ecstatic contender that can bring us at least that much-awaited Oscar attention. And now a month later, I still think stand with the same sentiment.

As for starters, this year shapes up as a stacked group of submissions by far from Oscar-friendlier countries. Portugal went with the Cannes movie “Arabian Nights Part 2″ by Miguel Gomez while Hungary is close to have that Oscar wrapped up already with its entry Laszlo Nemes’ “Son of Saul” which won the Grand Prize Jury earlier this year at Cannes. There’s also “Embrace the Serpent” from Colombia, “The Second Mother” from Brazil, and Un Certain Regard winner “Rams” from Iceland. Among Asian contenders, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s comeback film “The Assassin” leads the pack. Not only are they miles ahead from Heneral Luna in terms of festival buzz, but they all have US distributors already who will campaign the hell out of them. Maybe Heneral can still hop in a competent enough distributor (FWIW, announcement was only made a few hours ago so it’s not as if they’re already on full gear with their campaign plan).

Another thing blocking Heneral Luna‘s way is that its theme isn’t really the Academy’s cup of tea. For Oscar, it’s Holocaust or bust. I’ve read some comments how the portrayal of Americans in the movie would pick up interest among the voters, and that point is pushing it. Antonio Luna, probably as underrated as he is, doesn’t bring the same type of buzz as let’s say if it was a Jose Rizal biopic (which isn’t the film’s fault). The film’s biggest hurdle is that it needs to be seen in order to be voted. It’s really not safe to count on the “plus three” system of the executive system (those that don’t get in the popular vote) especially since it’s reserved for quirky and non-traditional films that aren’t really Academy friendly (think of Dogtooth or An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker). Heck, even Lav Diaz’ Norte last year didn’t get in the plus three system and that has the Cannes buzz surrounding it.

Heneral Luna is a great film — no doubt about that, but all its Oscar talk about it “as our shot at winning an Academy Award” or even that “we have a chance” is setting themselves up for disappointment. And let it be clear that it’s not because of its quality. It’s a well-made film that deserves to be seen by every Filipino. Period. But if we are to talk about the aspect of it being our Academy Award submission, then it’s a different story altogether. If anything, the greatest thing that comes with this announcement (aside from recognition for the team behind the movie) is that it shows that the Filipino audience is willing to show up for quality films. Forget about Oscars, it’s a long shot at best.

Talk to me about it on Twitter: @nikowl

87th Oscars: Foreign Language Film Race   Leave a comment

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After a record breaking 83 submissions from different countries this year (six more than previous record 76 last year), it is safe to say that this is definitely one of the closest categories of the year. Add the fact that there is no definitive frontrunner for this year like that of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in 2000, or “A Separation” in 2011 and “Amour” in 2012, it just makes the whole race more competitive. Below, I list down 20 countries (in alphabetical order) that are definitely in contention and are a cut above the rest in this field of 83 and has bigger chances of getting closer to that coveted golden naked Oscar trophy.

*Clicking the photo will lead you to the film’s trailer or a clip from it!

Argentina

Belgium

Brazil

Canada

Cuba

Ethiopia

France

Georgia

 

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Israel

Italy

Mauritania

Philippines

Poland

Russia

South Korea

Sweden

Turkey

Post-submission release, here’s how I’ll assess the race in terms of countries getting closer to the Top 9 and ultimately the top five final nominations. Belgium can probably work on the “no win” narrative yet and it’s the Dardennes so it can be considered hitting two birds with one stone. But then, both Russia and Poland are in contention as well and can all share frontrunner status.

.FINAL RANKINGS

What are your thoughts on the race? Who do you think are ahead of the pack and who can still surprise? You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Philippines’ 87th Oscar Submission: Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan   1 comment

Norte After days of waiting, it’s the time of the year again when the country chooses its representative for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Let it be clear that of course, Oscar is not the be-all and end-all of anything great when it comes to filmmaking, but somehow among casual moviegoers, Oscar is synonymous to anything that represents great quality. And its prestige is still ever so present that one can’t help but be interested in the whole process. After all, having an “Oscar winning film” or “Oscar winning country” is a great bonus to a film’s achievement.

Just hours ago the Film Academy of the Philippines, represented by Leo Martinez, confirmed that the Philippines submitted Lav Diaz’ 250 minute film Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” for next year’s awards consideration. Norte, a take on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, showed the contrast of a man (Sid Lucero) committing a crime but was spared from it and an innocent one (Archie Alemania) paying for the former’s sins. In line with that, life goes on for the latter’s wife (Angeli Bayani) as she deals with the aftermath of the incident.

In my annual analysis of possible contenders almost a month ago, I’ve specified that it boils down to two contenders: Jun Lana’s “Barber’s Tales” and Lav Diaz’ “Norte“. Both make sense as submissions, but I’m not holding my breath for any of the two considering how the panel assigned to submit has made more mediocre choices than not since its inception in 2007, so seeing them finally taking the right path slowly but surely the past few years is indeed commendable. Besides, what is there to lose if we experiment with a Lav Diaz submission this year? It’s not as if we’ve been nominated before. This can actually serve as a trial of some sort to see what kind of films that we offer can match Oscar’s taste. But anyway, enough about my personal feelings. Let’s go straight to the point. How will Norte fare in the competition this year? And can it *actually* be nominated in the end?

As for starters, this is a year when there is no solid frontrunner for the category Oscar-wise. Sure we have lot of solid contenders to battle out (Brazil’s “The Way He Looks”, Belgium’s “Two Days, One Night”, Canada’s “Mommy“, Mauritania’s “Timbuktu“, Poland’s “Ida“, Turkery’s “Winter Sleep“, and even unofficial but slightly obvious Argnetina’s “Wild Tales“), but none of those are as sure things as “A Separation” was three years ago or even “Amour” the year after. In an open year like this, there are bigger possibilities for an out of the field choice which definitely helps Norte‘s chances.

Second, distribution counts. Among 60+ announced contenders by far, only 17 have US distributors already. Yep, including Norte. Sure, The Cinema Guild might not be as big as Sony Picture Classics, Magnolia Pictures, Roadside Attractions, or even Sundance Selects as far as distribution companies are concerned, and that other likely contenders might even pick up theirs as the season progressed, but having the benefit of a distributor already is a big thing in the country’s history of submitting in this category.

Norte” also boasts of having a wide festival coverage. Even before it participated as part of the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival last year, the film has participated as part of the Hong Kong International Film Festival. Post-Cannes, with unanimous reviews to boot, the film traveled from Locarno to Toronto, New York to Busan, and Brisbane to Glasglow among a plethora of other festivals in different parts of the world. I mean how’s that for exposure right? And did I already mention its great reviews? Because if anything, at least there’s a universal consensus on the quality of the film both here and abroad.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, really. There’s a lot that the film still needs to overcome and it’s not a smoothly paved road en route to Oscar recognition. The film’s length is still running at 250 minutes. That might be too shallow of a reason to actually consider, but remember that the voting to end up in the shortlist is still by public vote from the foreign language film department. It’s not an easy pill to swallow for them to stay 250 minutes to watch a film and convince them to sit around and stay that long or even prioritize watching it (even if one can argue that it’s their job to do so). 200 minutes I’d say they can still tolerate, but anything longer than that might possibly turn them off leading to either not finishing the film or choosing not to even watch the film at all. That is a crucial factor to end up as part of the top six in the first stage of the voting which aims to be included in the shortlist of nine. That said, an executive committee is in charge to review the remaining films left off the top six and add three more films that they’ll base on merit. This is the part where I think Norte might benefit a lot. While it is not being publicly announced which among the shortlist of nine came from public vote and which were inserted the last minute, this change of ruling has led to inclusion of offbeat, quirky, or non-traditional/Academy friendly films such as Belgium’s “Bullhead” to the shortlist in 2011 or something like Greece’s “Dogtooth” to the final five a year before. This part of the voting can really be crucial in helping Norte (and other films that aren’t as buzzed as the early contenders I’ve mentioned in the fourth paragraph) to be a part of the shortlist.

Two years ago, I correctly predicted that a shortlist mention for Bwakaw is a long shot and that last yearTransit isn’t going anywhere. Now if you’re gonna force me to say an actual answer now, I’d say it’s better if we take things slowly. First step of getting the actual nomination is knowing the rules of the game by submitting a competitive film which we have already done. Honestly speaking, I guess a Top 9 shortlist mention isn’t really out of reach this time. After all, this is the best and most competitive submission we had since “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” in 2005. It seems like stars are aligning good enough for the Philippines this year, at least even for a shortlist mention. But I’m quite optimistic with this one. In the end though, Oscar nomination or not, this is already a win-win situation for the country. If you ask me a few years ago if we’ll ever see the day that a Lav Diaz film will be considered as an Oscar contender, I will without a doubt say that it’s impossible. But times are changing, and so far, they’re for the good. Nevertheless, I raise my imaginary glass of toast and say cheers to everyone involved in Norte and the FAP for actually getting this year right. We’ll surely be rooting for you all the way!

You can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

Philippines’ 85th Oscar Submission: Bwakaw   2 comments

Earlier this week, the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) already announced the country’s submission for the Foreign Language Film category for next February’s Academy Awards. Despite some initial backlash among some of the movies that were on the shortlist (released on two separate batches), they still made a very wise decision submitting this year’s Cinemalaya entry, Jun Lana’s “Bwakaw” for consideration and as the country’s official entry.

Bwakaw tells the story of Rene (played perfectly by Eddie Garcia), an old gay man living with only his dog, as he waits for his final days. Much to his surprise, it’s never too late to be opened to a lot of life’s treasured experiences.

This movie beats nine other films that were mentioned to be a part of the two batch shortlist that the FAP announced the past month. Those nine movies include Ron Morales’ Graceland, Jose Javier Reyes’  Mga Mumunting Lihim (Those Little Secrets), Brillante Mendoza’s Captive, Adolf Alix’s Busong (Palawan Fate), Alvin Yapan’s Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa (The Dance of the Two Left Feet), Daryl dela Cruz’s Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story, John D. Lazatin’s A Mother Story, Joyce Bernal’s Segunda Mano, and Muhammad Yusuf’s The Witness.

As for starters, I think this is a very commendable and refreshing choice from the FAP. From the first batch, I would have chosen either Yapan’s Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa or Mendoza’s Captive as the country’s official submission. From the second batch, Morales’s Graceland and Lana’s Bwakaw seems to be the standout options. It’s really surprising that the committee went for one of those four, especially since the last few years have been nothing but weak to “What were they thinking” choices. As a recap…

2008: Soxy Topacio’s Ded na si Lolo a.k.a RP’s worst submission ever. I really don’t see why this was chosen by the Academy. It did not have any staggering reviews, did not make a splash at the box office, and was not even buzzed during that year. Ded na si Lolo is a comedy that tells the story of a six day wake of a big family’s patriarch that opened a lot of secrets, realizations, and acceptance among the members of the family. Up until now, I was not convinced that it was the best submission of the country that year, let alone, the shortlist. My vote would have gone to Brillante Mendoza’s Venice entry Lola who just came off from a Cannes win earlier that year.

2009: Dondon Santos’ Noy a.k.a the FAP got carried away with the election. For this year, the Academy chose to be political and submitted the movie “Noy” which starred the country’s most prominent actor Coco Martin. In here, there’s a juxtaposition about then presidentiable Noynoy Aquino and how a reporter, incidentally named Noy as well, joins him during his campaign period. I remember how after all submissions were revealed, both RP and Brazil received flack for riding on the election bandwagon when the latter submitted “Lula, The Son of Brazil” as its submission. With that said, it is pretty much expected it will not be the film that will bring us our first nomination. My choice that year? Despite not being impressed with the shortlist, I guess I’ll have to go with Joel Lamangan’s family drama Sagrada Familia 

2010: Marlon Rivera’s Ang Babae sa Septic Tank a.k.a the Eugene Domingo lovefest. Coming off from a very solid buzz at last year’s Cinemalaya, this Eugene Domingo starrer is definitely a hit in the making. This satirical take on how three filmmakers wanted to have the perfect festival hit and the road towards it is definitely one of the better films that we have submitted (if we base it on the actual merits of the film). Non-Oscar aficionados thought that this will definitely bring some buzz as most voters will find it relatable (heck, it even had an Oscar trophy in its poster) and witty. But here lies the problem: the Academy, especially voters, are not fond of making fun of their business. Case in point: the 2006 film For Your Consideration starring Catherone O’Hara wherein she played an actress desperately wanting to get an Oscar nod only to see her heart broken when she was snubbed for a nomination. AMPAS ignored the film altogether that year. The same can be said for Septic Tank’s chances last year.

With that said, what do I think about Bwakaw’s Oscar chances? On one hand, it’s off to a good start by being a participant at the recently concluded Toronto Film Festival. It’s next stop is the pickier and stricter New York Film Festival, so that says something about the quality of the film. I’ve learned that it already has a distributor abroad, so that’s another plus for the film’s chances. All it has to do now is maintain the buzz that has initially started. If they can get more festival runs and screenings, then it will boost better word of mouth regarding the film.

On the downside, this might still get lost in the shuffle of all high profile films that debuted from the three biggest festivals this year. There’s already Austria’s Amour, France’s Intouchables, South Korea’s Pieta, Germany’s Barbara, and Romania’s Beyond the Hills. I’m not saying that Bwakaw doesn’t hold a candle to all the previously mentioned films in terms of quality, but seeing that we have not been nominated yet, all those other countries who are Oscar friendlier will have an easy route to gain buzz throughout the Oscar season.

In conclusion, I’m gonna be realistic here and say that so far, its chances are longshot at best. Is this the film that will bring us the coveted Oscar? No I don’t think so. Is this the movie that will give us our first nomination? I still don’t think so. Is this the movie that will make us enter the top nine short list? Probably.  Bwakaw needs A Separation type of consensus in order for us to go all the way this year. However, with all that said, this is one year where I’m really happy with our submission, and it gives me hope that yes, getting that Oscar nod and trophy is still possible. As for now, I’m contended with small steps on our way there.