MANILA, Philippines—The Best Actor wore a stunning violet gown.
True to its maverick spirit, the 9th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival gave the best actor trophy to a transgender, Mimi Juareza, for his acting debut in Eduardo Roy Jr.’s “Quick Change.”
Asked if he had wanted to win best actress instead, Juareza told the Inquirer: “Best actor, best actress … whatever, for as long as they show their appreciation for my work, I don’t mind.”
The jury cited Juarez for “his bold take on a gender-bending role.”
Roy said that for a first-timer, Juareza was a “natural.”
“Luckily, he was a good actor to begin with. We only had a two-day workshop before the shoot,” Roy told the Inquirer.
Another gender-bending role won for theater thespian Joey Paras the best supporting actor award for his work in “Babagwa” in the New Breed section.
Veterans and newcomers alike won big in the indie fest, held at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Sunday night.
Two films clearly led the pack: Hannah Espia’s “Transit” and Jerrold Tarog’s “Sana Dati.”
Debuting filmmaker Espia’s “Transit” brought home 10 Balanghai trophies in the New Breed section—including best film, director, actress for theater stalwart Irma Adlawan and supporting actress for show-biz neophyte Jasmine Curtis-Smith.
“Transit” tells the story of Israel-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose children face deportation.
In the Directors’ Showcase, Tarog’s “Sana Dati” won eight awards—including best film, sound, music, editing and direction (for Tarog) and production design (Ericson Navarro) and cinematography (Mackie Galvez).
Described by Tarog as the antithesis of a romantic-comedy date movie, “Sana Dati” follows a bride on her wedding day as it is disrupted by a mysterious videographer.
In the New Breed section, “Transit” won the Netpac prize and audience choice honor, best music score (Mon Espia), cinematography (Ber Cruz, Lyle Sacris) and editing (Benjamin Tolentino and Hannah Espia). The entire “Transit” cast also won a special citation for ensemble acting.
“Quick Change” also won special jury prize, best sound (Michael Idioma) and screenplay (Roy) in the New Breed category.
“Ekstra” won six trophies—including best actress for Vilma Santos, supporting actress for Ruby Ruiz, screenplay (for Zig Dulay, Antoinette Jadaone and Jeturian), special jury prize, Netpac prize and audience choice in the Directors’ Showcase.
Santos failed to attend the awards ceremony. Her loyal fans, known as Vilmanians, came in full force, however.
In a text message, Santos told the Inquirer that winning feels like “heaven… it was exciting. It was my first try in the indie scene and I was nervous. But I am happy that people appreciated it.”
In the Directors’ Showcase, TJ Trinidad won best supporting actor for “Sana Dati.”
No best actor award was given in the Directors’ Showcase section.
Jury member and filmmaker Peque Gallaga told the Inquirer that no best actor award was handed out in that section because “the bar was set high this year.”
Other jury members were filmmakers Ditsi Carolino and Carlitos Siguion-Reyna and foreign critics and fest programmers Maggie Lee (of the Tokyo International Film Festival) and Bastian Meiresonne (of the Vesoul International Film Festival).
In the Shorts section: Paolo O’Hara’s “The Houseband’s Wife” won best film and screenplay; JE Tiglao’s “Onang,” best director; Adi Bontuyan’s “Taya,” special jury prize and audience choice; and Nica Santiago’s “Sa Wakas,” special citation.
In the New Breed, Roy Red (for Mikhail Red’s “Rekorder”) won best production design.
Cinemalaya’s audience is growing, in terms of audience share, according to organizers.
Cinemalaya Foundation head Nes Jardin said Cinemalaya’s audience increased by 13 percent from last year’s 66,910 to 75,776 this year.
Festival director Chris Millado told the Inquirer that the fest’s earnings at one venue alone (CCP) surpassed last year’s record of P3 million. (The fest had three satellite venues: Greenbelt, TriNoma and Alabang Town Center.)