Kiss from Clive Owen, love from Meryl Streep
It was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And since actor Bernardo Bernardo was not the type to decline such a golden prospect, he somehow scored a kiss from Oscar nominee and Berlinale juror Clive Owen at a dinner party in honor of the winners—which included the Filipino film, Lav Diaz’s “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis,” which won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize.
The way Bernardo recalled it, the “kiss” was part of a dare the film’s Tres Tikbalangs (half-men/half-horse creatures played by him, Angel Aquino and Cherie Gil) concocted after the Philippine contingent’s heady victory. “We dared Cherie to ask for a kiss,” he reminisced. “She could and she did. Angel did the same. So, why not me?”
Owen was game. “He smiled and said: ‘Yes, of course!’” They had to do it thrice “because the first two photos were blurry. I was so embarrassed. Char!”
Owen was so gracious that he even invited the PH team to the “after-party party.” “He said he was done with jury duty!”
Bernardo also snagged a little face time with jury president and three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep.
The Filipino cast and crew were called onstage by Diaz after the awarding. Executive producer Paul Soriano then took them to Streep.
“All I could muster was: ‘Miss Streep, you’re the favorite actress of the Philippines.’ Her eyes lit up, and she said, ‘You were amazing! You were all wonderful!’ That was my chocolate high for the year.”
The Filipinos were in a “delightful daze” on the red carpet, he recalled. They were dressed to the nines—Bernardo in a barong, “a gift from the late German Moreno”; the other gents in suits; and the ladies in gowns. Gil wore a red Oliver Tolentino dress. “I wanted to wear creations by Filipino designers,” she said. At the premiere, she wore an aqua Michael Cinco.
At the postawards party, the jury gave the “Hele” contingent a standing ovation, Bernardo said.
Streep made it a point to chat with the Filipino actors, including Hazel Orencio and Susan Africa, and told them that “Hele” was “fantastic and… rearranged the molecules in her mind.”
She explained that the long scenes allowed her “to appreciate the changes of emotions in the actors’ faces.”
Bernardo reported: “She told Lav that she was drawn to the film… that she became part of the action, and the action became part of her—just like what movies used to do when she was a newcomer. She confessed that she felt sad that this film experience had changed through time.”
Soriano confirmed that Streep was keenly interested in “Hele.”
Recounted Soriano: “She said she enjoyed the film and felt calm as she watched and relished the experience. She was great! She also asked me why I decided to produce an eight-hour film. I simply replied that I wanted to learn from the great Lav Diaz. As a young filmmaker, I always strive to never stop learning and, in this movie, I got to pick the brain of a great storyteller.”
Bernardo remembered that there was only one Filipino waving at them on the red carpet. “He was rain-drenched and cold, but kept cheering us on: ‘Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!’”
Bernardo witnessed how Diaz was worshipped like “a rock star” in Europe. “Autograph seekers hounded him; reporters chased him with cameras; colleagues went out of their way to meet him; critics savored his philosophy and appreciated his aesthetics.”
Bernardo exclaimed, with a tinge of sadness, that their European experience was in stark contrast with the treatment of artists in the Philippines. “It’s a cinematic variation of a well-worn biblical phrase: ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country,’” he said.
Producer Bianca Balbuena asserted that Diaz’s award (named after a film historian and Berlinale stalwart) was “well-deserved.”
“After four years of struggle, and looking for financiers, we finally made it. It’s the first Bear for the Philippines. Lav has sacrificed a lot for his cinema. It’s about time,” she said.
Soriano agreed, “Winning the Silver Bear is an honor for the country. I am so happy for, and proud of, Lav because he deserves this recognition. He stands by his unique way of storytelling and sticks to it!”
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