Spratlys film wins in Warsaw
As far as Adolfo Alix Jr. can recall, this is the first time for the Philippines to bring home a prize from the Warsaw International Film Festival, one of the world’s top 14 A-list festivals, along with Cannes, Venice and Berlin. The list is determined by the Paris-based Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films (FIAPF, organized in 1933).
Alix’s “Kalayaan (Wildlife)” won the Netpac (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) award for best Asian film in the Polish capital on Saturday.
“‘Kalayaan’ was chosen from among the Asian films presented in the festival,” Alix relayed in an e-mail sent to the Inquirer from Warsaw.
The award is significant, he noted, because his film “tackles a controversial political issue in the region.”
He recounted that he started working on the project six years ago. “As early as then, I knew it was worth the risk,” he said, “because the story deserves to be told so that people will understand the soldiers’ dilemma.”
Top-billed by Laotian-Australian superstar Ananda Everingham and Filipino actors Zanjoe Marudo and Luis Alandy, “Kalayaan” is about Filipino soldiers stationed on the disputed Spratly Group of Islands, which is being claimed by the Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Alix recalled that the open forum held after the second screening on October 17 proved to be as insightful as it was interesting.
“It lasted for almost an hour,” Alix related. “There were questions on the Spratlys conflict, among them: Why are different countries fighting over speculated oil in the area when there’s been no formal exploration to date?”
Another viewer asked why Alix chose to focus on the soldiers’ psychological tribulations rather than the political arguments.
“I explained that it was inevitable because the personal is political, too,” Alix said. “The soldiers were primed for war and yet ended up trapped in their own personal purgatories—a veritable open prison.”
In an earlier interview, Everingham told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he found the film’s theme of alienation “fascinating.”
“I play a soldier who stopped talking because of isolation and trauma,” Everingham said.
The Oct. 17 screening was significant for Alix because it fell on his birthday. The director described the honor as a heartwarming “birthday gift.”
After the Warsaw fest, Everingham told the Inquirer via text message: “I am happy that our film is being well-received and gets to travel as much as possible.”
Marudo said, also via SMS: “I am honored to be part of an internationally recognized film that tackles real problems in our country. I hope it will be seen by audiences not only in Asia but all over the world.”
Alandy agreed: “It’s a privilege to act alongside Ananda and Zanjoe and to be part of a well-written, well-directed film.”
The Netpac jurors commended the “director’s impressive vision of a dark journey into the bottom of the human soul, accompanied by outstanding cinematography (by Albert Banzon) and the brilliant (performance) of lead actor Everingham.”
Alix said that the trophy and certificate were handed out at the Multikino Cinema on Oct. 20 during the closing ceremony of the Warsaw fest. “Kalayaan” had competed in the international section.
While in Warsaw, Alix said he visited the grave of Polish director Krzystof Kieslowski (“Double Life of Veronique”).
The Netpac jury was composed of professor Alberto Elena of Spain, Puchon fest artistic director Jongsuk Thomas Nam of South Korea, and critic Janusz Wróblewski of Poland.
Last July, “Kalayaan” premiered at the Cinemalaya fest, winning best sound (Ditoy Aguila, Mark Locsin), production design (Alix) and cinematography in the Directors’ Showcase section. Early this month, it was screened in Busan, where it was picked by Screen International as one of the “10 Hottest Films” in the Korean fest.
Next stop for “Kalayaan” is the Tofifest in Torun, Poland, as part of the program on New Philippine Cinema.
(E-mail: [email protected])
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