CANNES—Fighting jet lag and stress, the Filipino contingent remained gung-ho—attending marathon meetings at the Film Market, lining up for screenings at the Palais under the heat of the sun or in pouring rain and gracing dusk-till-dawn parties on Croisette.
Some of the Filipinos arrived in time for the film festival’s opening night and caught “The Great Gatsby,” watching it with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, jury president Steven Spielberg and jurors Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore at the Palais’ Grand Lumiere on May 15.
The whirlwind of activities for most Filipinos began with the premiere of the digitally restored version of Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag” at the Salle Buñuel on May 17, third day of the festival.
Red carpet walk
On the fourth day of the fest, the “Death March” team—led by director Adolfo Alix Jr., producer-actor Jacky Woo, actor Sam Milby and supervising producer Evelyn Vargas-Knaebel—walked on the red carpet, which was soaked by a sudden downpour.
Vargas wore a Fanny Serrano terno, while the men came in suits, as required by organizers: Woo, in Armani; Milby, in Oliver Tolentino; and Alix, in Frederick Peralta.
In spite of the incessant rains, the Filipinos remained in high spirits. Milby was thrilled to see Spielberg at the Palais. He wanted to have a photo taken with this year’s Oscar best actress, Jennifer Lawrence, but was too shy to ask.
Archie Alemania, lead actor of Lav Diaz’s “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan,” had Zhang Ziyi on top of his snapshot list.
Alemania finally succeeded in having a photo with Zhang at the screening of “Death March” on May 19, fifth day of the fest. Zhang is a juror in the Un Certain Regard where “Death March” and “Norte” are competing for top honors.
Not to be outdone, Milby also had a photo taken with Zhang at the Indian cinema party at the Agora on the same night.
Producer Bianca Balbuena and director Joanna Vasquez Arong said they did not have time to watch movies as they had been attending pitching sessions for their coming film, “The Sigbin Chronicles,” part of the Fabriques de Cinema du Monde.
Also attending meetings are producer Vanessa Ulgado (whose project, Tyrone Acierto’s “The Grave Bandits,” is in the Marche du Film), short filmmakers Aiess Alonso, Carlo Manatad and Derick Cabrido (whose works are in the Short Film Corner) and filmmaker Sheron Dayoc (who is collaborating with Cabrido and Ulgado).
The Filipinos took a break from their grueling schedules to attend a dinner party hosted by Patricia Zobel de Ayala, honorary consul in Monaco, in her residence in Monte Carlo.
On the way to Monaco, the team made a quick stop in Beausoleil, France, where Alix received a medal from Mayor Gerard Spinelli.
On the sixth day, mixed reviews of “Death March” came out in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and RogerEbert.com.
Variety’s Justin Chang called it a “gruelingly abstract and attenuated war meditation … A drawn-out tribute/art piece (which had a) walkout-heavy Cannes premiere.”
But he said “(cinematographer Albert) Banzon’s black-and-white imagery does occasionally mesmerize, and the actors show an impressive intensity of commitment.”
Chang concluded, “By the time it grinds its way to an inevitable bleak conclusion, (it) has long since exhausted its ideas and the expressive potential of its daring but ineffectual stylistic devices.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy wrote, “(It) can be theoretically admired for trying something different, but the repetitiveness and tedium soon take over…”
RogerEbert.com’s Barbara Scharres praised the film as “a surreal, stylized drama … An eerie meditation on the psychology of men facing incomprehensible brutality.”
Scharres noted, “Alix’s method is surprisingly effective, although this isn’t a film for everyone. It is best appreciated almost as a dance of seething, scrambling, stumbling bodies, to the cacophonous chorus of groans, pleas and exploding shells.”