Vladivostok winner debuts in QC fest
When the Filipino film “Anino sa Likod ng Buwan” won the first of its four awards at the 13th Pacific Meridian Film Festival in Vladivostok, Russia, the usually loquacious filmmaker Jun Robles Lana was stumped speechless on the podium.
“I just said thank you,” Lana recounted. “Luckily, we won three other awards so I was able to express what I wanted to say.”
“Anino” won the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) and Fipresci (international critics) prizes, best director (for Lana) and best actress (for LJ Reyes).
The film’s strong showing in the Russian fest was a much-needed “validation” for Lana, who admitted that his latest work is a tad different from his previous award winners “Bwakaw” and “Barber’s Tales.”
“I had to make difficult decisions during the making of ‘Anino,’” he looked back. “I felt so vulnerable.”
For starters, the two-hour film only has three main characters and some scenes were shot in one long take. “I couldn’t rely on my usual editing tricks. I also tinkered with the aspect ratio and color grading.”
That his daring has paid off in Russia is a fitting reward for all the hard work. “It inspires me to make more films that are out of the box.”
(On the mainstream scene, his Regal rom-com “The Prenup” opens next week.)
Lead actress Reyes similarly pushed herself to the limit in this film, and she is not just referring to the steamy love scenes she shares with costars Anthony Falcon (as her husband and fellow refugee) and Luis Alandy (as a soldier and the third wheel in this triangle).
One sex scene lasted five minutes, Reyes volunteered.
On the first day of the shoot, Lana handed her a letter, Reyes recalled. “It changed everything for me. I broke down and cried.”
During filming, she felt totally immersed in her character’s reality, “that I have no memories of the shoot. I was not myself on the set. It was as if I was possessed by my character.”
Reyes, who had to attend a friend’s wedding, was not able to grace the Vladivostok fest last month. “I wouldn’t know what to say if I had been there to personally accept the trophy. When I heard the good news, I prayed to give thanks for the blessing,” she related.
Lana told the Inquirer that the jurors were bowled over by Reyes’ performance. Singaporean filmmaker and jury member Anthony Chen, who directed the Cannes-winning film “Ilo Ilo,” told Lana that Reyes’ victory was a “unanimous decision.”
Until now, Reyes can’t get her head around the idea that she is now part of an illustrious circle of internationally acclaimed Filipino actresses—like Nora Aunor, Anita Linda, Jaclyn Jose, Cherry Pie Picache, Vilma Santos and Gina Pareño.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” she said. “It encourages me to work harder. In everything I do, I make sure to put my heart into it.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Clarence Tsui was impressed by the film’s lead players, too. He wrote in his review of “Anino”: Lana’s “most visually singular outing… [is] boosted further by bravura turns from his cast.”
Tsui described the film as a “tense and taut drama oozing sex… and social chaos”: “Despite some of the more melodramatic twists and turns, [it] effectively conveys the characters’ sweaty, dirty reality.”
Next stops for “Anino” are Montreal’s Nouveau Cinema (ongoing until Oct. 18) and Hamburg (which ended yesterday) fests.
It will also make its local debut at the Quezon City International Film Festival, with three screenings: Oct. 23 (TriNoma), Oct. 24 (Robinsons Galleria) and Oct. 25 (Gateway).
Lana felt strongly about having screenings in the Philippines. “My hope is that it can start a dialogue about armed conflict and how it negatively affects civilians,” Lana remarked.
The film, he explained, “is set in the 1990s during the height of military operations in Marag Valley, but… the atrocities that the residents of Marag Valley suffered are no different from what the ‘lumad’ communities are experiencing right now.”
Lana pointed out: “As usual, we haven’t learned anything from our history.”