Lav Diaz’s ‘Ang Babaeng Humayo’ wins Golden Lion in Venice
It’s a historic first for the country.
After earning rave reviews from international critics, Lav Diaz’s “Ang Babaeng Humayo” wins the Golden Lion, or top prize, in the 73rd Venice International Film Festival.
Diaz’s film, which top-bills mainstream stars Charo Santos and John Lloyd Cruz, is the first Filipino film to win the highest accolade in the world’s oldest film festival.
It’s not Diaz’s first time to win in Venice, though.
He previously won special mention in the Orizzonti section for “Death in the Land of Encantos” in 2007 and the Orizzonti award itself for “Melancholia” in 2008. Orizzonti is a special section in Venice devoted to alternative, experimental films, highlighting “new trends in cinema.”
Diaz continues his winning streak with “Ang Babaeng Humayo,” which at three and a half hours is considerably shorter than his earlier works.
Last February, Diaz won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize at the Berlin International Film Festival for the eight-hour historical epic, “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis.”
Diaz’s latest victory in Venice scores another important first for the country: This year, the Philippines has won in the world’s top three A-list film festivals.
Apart from Diaz’s double wins at the Berlinale and Venice, Jaclyn Jose won best actress for Brillante Ma. Mendoza’s “Ma’ Rosa” in Cannes last May.
In 2014, Diaz won the Golden Leopard, the top prize in another A-list event, the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland, for “Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon.”
It is truly a banner year for independent filmmaking in the Philippines.
Santos told the Inquirer: “I feel so honored and proud to be part of this special project.”
“I am so happy that we got to experience all this,” Ronald Arguelles, head of Cinema One (which produced the film), told the Inquirer via Facebook Messenger.
According to early reports, Diaz dedicated the award to the country and the “struggle for humanity.”
In an earlier interview, Diaz told the Inquirer that shooting the film in the island-province of Mindoro was an eye-opening experience for him.
Every time he films in various parts of the country, he explained, he gets to discover different aspects of the archipelago. But in Mindoro, he pointed out, “My faith in the Filipino grew stronger. Old Pinoy values are intact in Mindoro. People are kind. Sobra.”
“Ang Babaeng Humayo” was earlier showered with glowing reviews by critics from major publications like the Hollywood Reporter, Screen International and Variety.
Comparing it to “Hele,” Variety’s Guy Lodge calls “Humayo” a “more emotionally resonant, intellectually satisfying experience all around.”
Lodge hails it as a “thoughtful, far from idealistic meditation on the complex nature of forgiveness and shifting moral accountability.”
Screen International’s Jonathan Romney asserts that Diaz, who also wrote and shot the film, “pulls one of his phenomenal one-man-band acts here.”
Romney states that the narrative of “Humayo” is “tantalizing … frustrating.”
Hollywood Reporter’s Clarence Tsui thinks Diaz’s latest film is “simple, solid and self-contained.”
Tsui sums it up as a “succinct, poignant revenge drama.”
Diaz told the Inquirer that he was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s 1872 short story “God Sees the Truth, But Waits,” in writing his latest movie.
“Humayo” follows a motherly school teacher, wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned for 30 years, as she plots against her nemesis, a former lover.
The performance of Santos, who portrays the avenging convict, was similarly lauded by Hollywood Reporter as “majestic” and by Variety as “remarkable.”
Variety’s Lodge describes Santos’s portrayal as “soft-skinned but seething.”
Screen Daily notes that Santos, former head of ABS-CBN who retired recently, “shows a phenomenal range of shading as the elusive, changeful [heroine], as well as an imposing but gentle authority.”
Hollywood Reporter says Santos’s performance is “majestic … sturdy.”
Santos won best actress at the Asian Film Festival for Mike de Leon’s “Itim,” released in 1976.
In Venice, Emma Stone won best actress for Damien Chazelle’s musical “La La Land.”
The jury was headed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Medes, best known for “American Beauty” and the James Bond movies “Skyfall” and “Spectre.” TVJ
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