Filipino film on lost rituals takes World Festival prize
MANILA, Philippines–A five-hour drama set on the brink of martial law, the Philippines’ sole entry to the 2014 World Premieres Film Festival (WPFF), bagged the Grand Festival Prize at the awards ceremony on Wednesday night at the Centerstage theater of SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
Lav Diaz’s “From What Is Before,” the winning piece, is a recollection of the acclaimed indie filmmaker’s high school years in Sultan Kudarat before martial law.
“According to Lav, the movie shows three Maguindanaoan rituals ‘erased’ after martial law,” said cast member Kristine Kintana in an earlier interview.
The film, which almost failed to make it to the festival because of technical problems, likewise won the Best Ensemble Production award.
Kintana said in a press conference on Sunday that the hard drive containing all the files from the start of Diaz’s filming in December 2013 got “corrupted.” While Diaz had kept a backup, Kintana said not all files were restored. The director failed to make it to the festival’s opening ceremony on Monday because he was still busy with last-minute editing work.
The WPFF, which will run until July 8, is organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).
FDCP chair Briccio Santos was pleased that a compatriot won the award. “Lav rightfully deserves this. I hope [his victory] will entice other Filipino filmmakers to create more movies and explore new narratives,” he said.
The Ecuadorean drama, “Open Wound,” a true-to-life story based on the territorial conflict between Ecuador and Peru in the 1940s, bagged the Grand Jury Prize. The Alfredo Leon Leon film also brought home the Technical Grand Prize and the Best Performance by an Actor award for Rene Pastor.
Not one but 3 prizes
Iranian thespian Roya Teymourian won Best Performance by an Actress honors for her work in Reza Azamian’s “Romantic Nostalgia.” The Best Artistic Contribution (Cinematography) award was handed to the Spanish film “Crustaceans” by Vicente Perez Herrero.
Other films that competed under the International World Premieres category were: “The Sharks of Copacabana” (Rosario Boyer, Brazil); “Autopsy of Love” (Arturo Prins, Spain); “New York Shadows” (Juan Pinzas, Spain), and “Our Hodja” (F. Serkan Acar and Yilmaz Okumus, Turkey).
“I didn’t expect to win even one prize but I got three,” said Leon shortly after the awards ceremony. “I’m the youngest of the eight competing filmmakers, and while they have been making films for a while, this is only my first. I’m really happy for the opportunity to show the film so far from home.”
The 81-minute Spanish documentary “Coast of Death” was declared winner of the Cine Verde Prize for Best Environmental Feature. The film by Lois Patino tells of the historical region of Costa de Morte, its people and its mysterious landscape.
Composing the festival jury were Benjamin Illos, member of the Cannes Film Festival’s Quinzaine des Realisateurs selection committee; Roger Garcia, executive director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival; and John Badalu, a founding member of the Indonesia Film Festival.
“We selected jurors who are very reputable,” Santos said. “They have been invited to other international festivals and are very prolific and proficient in their own right. We made sure to select the right ones also to keep the integrity of the winners.”
Santos said the WPFF would be an annual event. Some 40 films from 27 countries which participated in the festival will be screened in SM Cinemas in Metro Manila until July 8.
Ecuadorian director Leon said he hoped more Filipino audiences would get to see his work.
“It’s important for festivals to build an audience. You have to let the common people know that [through the WPFF], they are given a unique opportunity to watch films from different parts of the world,” Leon said. “Filipinos should come to the festival every year because it should be a great experience for them. I wish this festival would last a very long time, that in the years to come it would build a bigger audience.”
“Open Wound” is Best Actor Pastor’s first full-length feature, said Leon. “He auditioned for the role and I thought he did a great job. I liked that he’s very natural. It’s like he is not acting at all. Through his eyes, without speaking, he is able to communicate a lot of things. He is going to be very happy to know that he won an award here.”
Leon described his film as “very sincere.”
“This is actually not about war but a coming-of-age story of a young soldier,” he said. “I think everyone, no matter where you are in the world, can relate to that—to the inner struggles of growing up. We’ve all had to face difficulties in different times in our lives. This shows that we’ve all had a hard time finding out who we are and why we’re here.”
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