How ‘Iti Mapukpukaw’ producers plan to snag elusive Oscars nomination for PH
The discussion that led to the decision to make Carl Joseph Papa’s animated film “Iti Mapukpukaw” the country’s representative to the 2024 Academy Awards was the result of over two hours of “complicated discussion,” according to Jose Javier Reyes, who is chair of the selection committee.
“Iti Mapukpukaw,” which bagged best film at the 2023 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival in August, was chosen after ticking off three important considerations: originality of content, universality and largeness of theme, and depiction of Filipino values that foreign audiences can relate to, said Reyes, who’s also an award-winning film and television director and writer.
The Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) is the agency assigned to choose one film from among those released in 2023 to be submitted to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas) for a nomination under the best international feature film category, explained FAP acting officer in charge Manny Morfe.
The six-member selection committee picked seven films that were narrowed down to three, Morfe reported. “In the end, they argued about which of the top two should be the representative,” he began. “They based their discussion on whether or not we have sent something with a similar theme before, and if the story will appeal to a foreign audience or if the film’s producer would be capable of campaigning for a nomination.”
Reyes added: “The other five members were very adamant about what they wanted as the Oscar representative of the Philippines. It was bakbakan to death between the two films that lasted for two and a half hours. It was a split decision with 3:2 votes.”
“Iti Mapukpukaw” is a Filipino-Ilocano rotoscope animated film that follows the story of Eric (Carlo Aquino) as it twists and turns upon the arrival of a familiar alien, and the death of his uncle. Both events force Eric to remember his past and untangle his memories.
The film also features Dolly de Leon as Eric’s mom and Gio Gahol as his best friend. Filmmakers Dan Villegas and Antoinette Jadaone bankrolled it under their production outfit Project 8 Projects.
While Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) chair Tirso Cruz III announced over the weekend that the agency will give P1 million to help in the promotions, Reyes said those who lobby for an Oscar nomination generally spend over $2 million (around P113.5 million).
‘Battle of marketing’
“It’s really the battle of marketing. We’re being very realistic about it. Where will we find a producer who would be willing to spend $2 million to campaign for a film without any assurance that it would get nominated? We really need to strategize,” Reyes told reporters shortly before the announcement that coincided with the closing ceremony of the 2023 Philippine Film Industry Month.
“This needs government support. We need to come up with a long-range plan for this. That’s the problem now—we don’t have any plan. It took Korea decades before they had ‘Parasite’ that won best picture and best director. We have to look to the future and prepare for it now,” declared Reyes, who also serves as FDCP technical consultant. “We will see what will happen. I’m hopeful, but at the same time, I’m not desperate. The point now is that we sent something good.”
Meanwhile, Papa said he worked hard on the film for its Cinemalaya run, but didn’t expect that it would be considered for the Oscars. “This is really an honor. I have already talked with the actors, Carlo and Gio, and they said they are willing and ready to come on board.”
Happy with news
Jadaone said she has yet to personally speak with De Leon about their plans, “But I was told that she was very happy with the news because she really prayed for ‘Iti Mapukpukaw’ to get it. We will consult with her because she has more experience when she campaigned for ‘Triangle of Sadness’ last year,” Jadaone added.
De Leon is one of the cast of Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” which was nominated in three categories at the 2023 Academy Awards: best motion picture of the year, best original screenplay and best directing. It won the Palme d’Or at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, and earned De Leon a best supporting actress nomination at the 2023 BAFTA Film Awards.
Villegas said his team was grateful for the financial aid from the FDCP, “But we need all the help we can get. I think it’s all about meeting and working with the right people to actually get that nomination. Just like what Tonet said, this is no longer the victory of one movie, but the victory of an entire film industry. We’re currently looking for nice people who want to donate,” he began.
“We plan to call for a meeting for alignment. We already have a short list of people we think we could ask help from. Hopefully, they will say ‘yes.’ We feel happy, excited, afraid, nervous and overwhelmed. Rest assured, we will not waste the opportunity given to us. We will do our very best to secure that nomination,” said Villegas.