Banner year for PH indie films in Cannes
CANNES—Once a year, this sleepy resort town south of France transforms into a “mecca for cineastes,” in the words of internationally acclaimed Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz.
Scattered all over the city are giant black-and-white billboards featuring photos of Oscar winners like filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and actress Cate Blanchett taken on the Cannes red carpet.
The mood on La Croisette, the city’s main thoroughfare, is undoubtedly electrified by Hollywood glamor mixed with touristy bonanza.
On Thursday afternoon, there was a press presentation for Asian martial arts expert Jackie Chan’s latest potboiler, “Police Story 2013.”
The night before, the festival’s jury president, Steven Spielberg, was given a three-minute ovation by guests on opening night, as reported on an English-language radio station in the French Riviera.
According to the Emirates in-flight mag, this year’s festival is “eclectic”—with films top-billed by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (“Behind the Candelabra”), Ryan Gosling (“Only God Forgives”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (the opening film, “The Great Gatsby”) in the lineup.
Hollywood A-listers hog the limelight, but true to the festival’s “mixed bag” nature—even smaller, edgier art house films can vie for the crowd’s attention.
Among these more modest, independently produced films are two from the Philippines—both competing in the Un Certain Regard section, considered the “more artistic” sibling of the Main Competition.
The two Filipino films in the Un Certain Regard race are Diaz’s “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan” and Adolfo Alix Jr.’s “Death March.”
It’s Diaz’s first time in Cannes, although he won twice in Venice’s Orizzonti section in 2007 and 2008.
No festival in mind
Diaz explained to the Inquirer that he doesn’t make films with specific festivals in mind.
“There’s no deliberate plan to make films for festivals. I make films for cinema. They check and invite my works.” Diaz said.
Alix, however, is not a Cannes neophyte, having visited the city both as a participant and observer in the past.
“Cannes is chaotic, crowded and crazy, but it’s a special place where filmmakers and film lovers can celebrate cinema once a year,” Alix said.
Alix first attended the fest to watch Raya Martin’s “Now Showing,” an entry in the Directors’ Fortnight in 2008.
In 2009, Alix’s twin bill “Manila,” which he codirected with Martin, was shown in the Special Screenings section.
That same year was a windfall for the Philippines—when the country had three major entries—Brillante Ma. Mendoza’s “Kinatay,” Alix and Martin’s “Manila,” and Martin’s “Independencia.” To top it off, “Kinatay” won best director for Mendoza in the Main Competition.
This year, the Philippines has four—including Erik Matti’s “On the Job” in the Directors’ Fortnight and the digitally restored version of Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag” in the Cannes Classics section.
“2013 is a banner year for the Philippines in Cannes,” said Briccio Santos, chair of the Film Development Council of the Philippines.
Coming of age
Making the Philippine participation more significant is the inclusion of Matti’s film, which was coproduced by major players in the local film industry Reality Entertainment and Star Cinema.
Does this mark the coming of age of local movies?
Matti himself dubbed his film as a “maindie,” a “collaboration between mainstream and indie filmmaking styles.”
“I envision my film as an ‘event’ movie. I hope it will herald the return of action films in local theaters, too,” Matti said.
Popular actor Gerald Anderson, one of the stars in the “On the Job” contingent in Cannes, told the Inquirer: “At first, I thought it was an indie film. But when we started shooting, I noticed that the equipment, the cameras, the sets, the costumes, were at par with mainstream productions. Direk Erik and the production design team built an entire prison from scratch for this movie.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.