Pinoy docu garners two honors at Tribeca

Edmund Silvestre, Big Apple Correspondent - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino documentary Give Up Tomorrow earned the Heineken Audience Award and Special Jury Mention at the just concluded 10th Tribeca Film Festival, an annual major New York City event co-founded by the legendary Oscar-winning actor Robert De Niro. Give Up Tomorrow, which takes a look at the conviction of Paco Larrañaga, is helmed by American director Michael Collins and produced by Filipino Marty Syjuco.

The docu, under Thoughtful Robot Productions, was one of 12 entries vying in the World Documentary Competition Features category. Give Up Tomorrow was one of the most-talked about entries this year, drawing a huge crowd, including De Niro himself, that many thought it had strong chances of bagging the top prize in the World Documentary category.

Actor Michael Cerra (Juno, Superbad) and Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg were among the jurors.

The top honors for World Documentary were awarded Thursday (April 28) to Bombay Beach, with Pablo Croce winning the New Documentary Director for Like Water.

Give Up Tomorrow tracks what was dubbed as the Philippine’s “trial of the century,” and its subsequent aftermath. The jury described the film as “a powerful work of investigative journalism.”

“We honor the filmmakers’ six years of hard work in illustrating how a society can clash with justice, and the impact on an individual life,” notes the jury.

The film chronicles the case of young culinary student, Paco Larrañaga, who was arrested in 1997 and subsequently tried for the kidnap, rape and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong of Cebu.

“In 1999, Paco Larrañaga was first sentenced to life in prison in the Philippines,” director Michael Collins told indieWIRE. “He appealed to the Supreme Court and his family patiently waited for the decision, confident he would be released. But in 2004, the Supreme Court elevated his sentence to death by lethal injection. This is when I got involved.”

The 90-minute film points to a number of holes in his conviction and suggests corruption and lack of justice, according to Fil-Am community leader Dr. Angie Cruz, who lined up to see the Tribeca entry executive produced by award-winning filmmakers Ramona Diaz and Eric Daniel Metzgar.

“It’s riveting and mind-boggling,” Cruz said.   

Fil-Am writer Ryan Songalia quoted a sister of Larrañaga saying that Paco, who is in a jail in Spain, “hasn’t seen the film yet but is very excited about its release.”

“Paco used four of his eight allowed phone calls [from a Spanish prison] to find out how the premiere had gone,” older sister Mimi Larrañaga told Songalia. “He was very excited to hear that Robert DeNiro had signed a hat for him.”

Paco was transferred to a Spanish jail after he reached out to Spain, his father being a Spanish national.

Consul Elena Maningat was among the Filipino and Filipino-American New York personalities who attended the premiere. 

On behalf of Consul General Mario de Leon, Maningat congratulated the documentary for highlighting, among others, the ability of Filipino filmmakers “to produce such high-quality material, and the strength of the independent film movement in the Philippines.”

Over 5,000 films were submitted this year, resulting in 93 feature films, which included 41 documentaries and 52 narrative fiction films.

Aside from De Niro, the Tribeca filmfest was founded by producer Jane Rosenthal and real-estate developer Craig Hatkoff following the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The festival was designed to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture. Its mission is to help filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enable the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema and promote New York City as a major filmmaking center.










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