Nothing short of astounding: Variety hails 2 PH films in Busan | Inquirer Entertainment

Nothing short of astounding: Variety hails 2 PH films in Busan

/ 02:04 AM October 14, 2016

Scene from “Sunday Beauty Queen”

Scene from “Sunday Beauty Queen”

Philippine cinema continues to make waves at the 21st Busan International Film Festival, which wraps up Oct. 15.

Still riding high on a successful Filipino filmmakers’ night, organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines and attended by various foreign festival programmers and other dignitaries on Oct. 10 at the Westin Chosun, the country scored back-to-back glowing reviews in the trade publication Variety.


Two Filipino productions, Baby Ruth Villarama’s “Sunday Beauty Queen” and Bradley Liew’s “Singing in Graveyards,” merited positive notices from Variety’s resident critics.


In an essay published Oct. 10, Maggie Lee summed up Villarama’s film, which is competing in the documentary tilt along with compatriot Sheron Dayoc’s “The Crescent Rising,” as “a welcome addition to the growing body of work on migrant labor.” Villarama’s docu chronicles the struggles of Filipino domestic workers, who organize an annual beauty pageant in Hong Kong.

Lee lauded Villarama for striking up “a trusting rapport with her subjects…enabling her to catch them in their most expressive and unguarded moments.”

Lee noted that Villarama might not have “hit all the high spots,” but she commended the docu for including the Chinese employers in the “dialogue… (enabling) a more balanced view and a stronger case for the (Filipinos’) value.”

Variety’s chief Asia critic also praised editor Chuck Gutierrez for his “subtle” work, which “cuts back and forth between subjects without interrupting the narration of their stories.”

Cinematographer Dexter dela Peña was hailed for his “bright lensing [which] captures (the subjects’) natural radiance.”

Lee pointed out that the domestic helpers looked so “gorgeous” in the climax, because the docu “shows them in a new light, as individuals, free and having fun for the first time.”


Lee also had good words for Dayoc’s docu, which “offers a rare, knowledgeable study of the grievances and ideals of the Muslim community” in Mindanao.

Although its director is Malaysian-born, “Singing in Graveyards” is lined up with the nine other Filipino films showcased this year at Busan. And for good reason. It topbills a true Filipino original, rock icon Pepe Smith.

In an Oct. 6 review, Variety critic Richard Kuipers called Manila-based Liew’s feature debut (exhibited in A Window on Asian Cinema section) “an engaging existential drama.”

Kuipers said the film was “a tad overlong,” but conceded that it “has the emotional power chords to register with audiences everywhere.”

He described Smith “as a compelling and convincing presence” who bared not just his body, but also “a good deal of his soul” in the movie.

Kuipers also cited the film’s “dreamy qualities…imaginative transitions [that] give the sense that Pepe’s character is walking in and out of his real and imagined past while his present-day dreams crumble around him.”

The critic also applauded cinematographer Larry Manda’s “nicely framed long takes,” along with Benjamin Padero and Carlo Tabije’s production design, which gave viewers “a backstage pass…to every dark corner of a rock ’n’ roll life.”

Needless to say, the soundtrack, which consists of Smith’s original compositions, “rocks.”

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In a nutshell, Philippine cinema, with its 10 entries, is on a roll in Busan. As Lee wrote in an earlier article: “The rate which Philippine filmmakers are cranking out original, challenging, often masterful work is nothing short of astounding.”

Pepe Smith in “Singing in Graveyards”

Pepe Smith in “Singing in Graveyards”

TAGS: Busan International Film Festival, cinema, Entertainment, Film, Film fest

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