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Filipino power in Tokyo fest

/ 02:30 AM October 25, 2016
Lou Veloso in “Shiniuma”

Lou Veloso in “Shiniuma”

Tokyo—Filipino power was pretty much evident on the red carpet of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival, which opens today at the Toho Cinemas in Roppongi.

Five Filipino films are included in the lineup of this year’s Tokyo fete, one of a handful of A-list fests in Asia (along with Shanghai and Goa): Jun Robles Lana’s “Die Beautiful” in the main competition; Mikhail Red’s “Birdshot” and Ivan Andrew Payawal’s “I America” in the Asian Future section; Lav Diaz’s “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” in the Word Focus program; and Brillante Ma Mendoza’s “Shiniuma (Dead Horse),” which is part of the omnibus film, “Asian Three-Fold Mirror 2016: Reflections.”

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It is Lana’s third time in Tokyo, after “Bwakaw” in 2012 and “Barber’s Tales in 2013. “I want to reconnect with the audiences we’ve built in the past,” he told the Inquirer.

Lana brought along lead actor Paolo Ballesteros and producer (and husband) Perci Intalan this year. “Perci and I were married on Oct. 14, 2013, in New York,” Lana recalled. “The day after, we flew to Tokyo to attend the fest.”

De facto honeymoon

Tokyo became their “de facto honeymoon.” “To cap it off, Eugene Domingo won best actress for ‘Barber’s Tales’ that year. That’s why Tokyo will always be dear to my heart.”

The “Birdshot” contingent consists of Red, producer Pamela L. Reyes and actors Arnold Reyes and Mary Joy Apostol. Red related that Tokyo is Apostol’s first trip abroad. “‘Birdshot’ is also her first feature film,” Red reported.

Red previously competed in the Asian Future section with his debut, “Rekorder,” in 2013. He described the fest as “centralized yet festive.” “After our screening, different programmers approached us to ask if they could screen our film in their fests.”

As bonus, Red pointed out, the Tokyo fest is held close to Halloween. “The streets came to life with costumed partygoers. The energy was over-the-top!”

“This city is special to me,” admitted Payawal, who’s a Tokyo fest virgin. “I’ve always been in love with Japan and its cinema—and this is my first time to experience a huge international film festival.”

Debut

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Payawal is sharing his debut in the film fest circuit with the lead stars of “I America,” Bela Padilla, Thou Reyes and Elizabeth Oropesa and producers Andre and Zor Payawal. Just a few weeks earlier, Padilla attended the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival for Joel Lamangan’s “Tomodachi.”

The Tokyo fest features two acknowledged leaders of Philippine cinema: Diaz and Mendoza.

Mendoza said he is honored to be part of the triptych “Reflections,” which also features the works of Isao Yukisada of Japan and Sotho Kulikar of Cambodia. He feels that it’s important for Filipinos to be part of an endeavor like “Reflections,” which was produced by the Japan Foundation and the Tokyo fest.

The Cannes-winning director took note that Southeast Asian cinema has gained considerable ground among critics and viewers—proof are the country’s back-to-back-to-back triumphs at Berlin, Cannes and Venice. “It must be because of our unique stories. If you look at Southeast Asia, each culture is distinct, but we share many commonalities.”

“Shiniuma” lead actor Lou Veloso will grace the omnibus film’s screenings, while Mendoza will take part in a symposium during the fest.

Diaz, who is currently in Harvard for the Radcliffe Fellowship, will attend the Tokyo fest, with actors Hazel Orencio and Joel Saracho and coproducer Bianca Balbuena.

Paul Soriano, “Hele” producer, is elated that the film is still going places—eight months after winning the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlinale.

“That ‘Hele’ is traveling the world is simply amazing,” said Soriano. “It proves that cinema is free and has no limitations.”

Arnold Reyes (left) and John Arcilla in “Birdshot”

Arnold Reyes (left) and John Arcilla in “Birdshot”

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