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Entertainment

Does Phl ever have a chance at the Oscars?

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Cinemanila festival director Amable “Tikoy” Aguiluz VI believes that the country has better chances of winning at the Oscars if it fields a bet for Best Documentary. For many years, the Philippines has sent official entries to the Best Foreign Language Film category, but none has made the short-list so far.

“We’re all crazy about winning the Best Foreign Film in the Oscars. Every year, we worry about if our entry will win or when we will ever win at the Oscars. We already won the Best Director at Cannes Film Festival (for Brillante Mendoza), but we still want the Oscar. My statement in this kind of programming is that we have a strong chance at winning at the Oscars for Best Documentary because of the subject matter that we have. We have so many stories to tell in the Philippines — strong and compelling,” the veteran filmmaker said during a presscon for the 14th Cinemanila Film Festival, which is again mounted this year in partnership with the Taguig City government from Dec. 5 to 11.

Citing the internationally-acclaimed works of Filipina docu filmmaker Ditsi Carolino (Bunso) and the US-based Ramona Diaz (Imelda and Don’t Stop Believing: An Everyman’s Journey on Arnel Pineda), Aguiluz further said, “Side by side with full-length films, perhaps, we should also concentrate on building an Oscar (documentary) bet. We should actually encourage the Film Academy of the Philippines to get involved in choosing a documentary entry for the Academy Awards.”  

According to Aguiluz, there are plenty of obstacles along the way to snagging the elusive Oscar — or at least, landing a place among the top-tier contenders — from distribution, logistics, to the preference of the American Academy members. 

He said “feature films are won by the big players, we all know that. If you don’t have a distributor in the US, if you don’t have a big star, there’s a very slim chance unless you’re really lucky.”

Aguiluz revealed that the last time the government supported an Oscar entry was during the time of former Pres. Gloria Arroyo when they gave a P2M grant to the Judy Ann Santos-starrer Ploning “so that they can have a (US) publicist and send screeners to the Academy members. They stayed in the States for three months and marketed the film.”

He opined that Brillante Mendoza’s Lola in 2009 (the same year Brillante won at Cannes) might have stood a shot, as its distributor was also the one behind Japan’s Departures that was named Best Foreign Picture at the Oscars that year. “But the home country did not endorse it, so Brillante lost his chance of competing for the Best Foreign Film.”

For the forthcoming 2013 Academy Awards, the Oscar hope lies with the Jun Lana-directed Bwakaw topbilling Eddie Garcia. The official nominations will be announced in January.  

“It’s hard to predict, but Bwakaw might have a chance because it played in European festivals and other fests in the US, and then the subject matter is interesting to the American audiences, and it’s also well-made and well-told. You’ll never know Bwakaw might land in the Top 5 choices,” Aguiluz said.

“I really don’t know how we can make a breakthrough but I feel strongly that at the documentary category, we have a very strong chance. We have to tell our Film Academy to submit a documentary entry,” he reiterated.

Documentary films have been “pushed” by Cinemanila since two years ago. In this year’s docu exhibition line-up are Give Up Tomorrow by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco, Harana by Benito Bautista, Lightness & Weight (In the Time of Nuclear Radiation) by Rey Ventura and The Bladed Hand: The Global Impact of Filipino Martial Arts by Jay Ignacio.   

Aguiluz noted that there aren’t many documentary films being produced amid the prevalent notion that there’s no local market for this genre. “The docu market that we know is the TV documentary, which is very popular, but it’s not the docu that the festival circuit or the foreign audiences understand.”

He, however, said that Give Up Tomorrow has proven that the local market is ready to embrace this genre. The docu, which talks about “Cebu’s trial of the century” — the rape-slay of the Chiong sisters, which led to the conviction of political scion Paco Larrañaga who to this day maintains his innocence — had successful screenings in 15 cinemas in Metro Manila and Cebu after it debuted in the Philippines at the Cinemalaya film festival last July. (Give Up Tomorrow has already made the rounds in international festivals and after Cinemanila, it’s heading to The Netherlands.)

“That was unheard of years ago or even last year. I think nagkakaroon na ng market. I think the audience has gone sophisticated in terms of taste in films, so they’re already ready for documentary films, even the cinema theater-going audience,” Aguiluz said.

For the filmmakers, on the other hand, the budding audience appreciation and the importance accorded by Cinemanila to the docus couldn’t have been more fitting in timing. 

“It’s about time that we showcase documentaries. They are celebrated everywhere else aside from the Philippines, like festivals that are run just to celebrate documentary films, that we must grow and cultivate an audience here. As filmmakers, we want to offer not just the typical fare since the audiences are starting to demand for more,” said Syjuco.   

For Bautista, whose Harana looks into how music is part of the genetic make-up and identity of Filipinos, said: “We’re excited (because) as the more venues that we have, the more growth we will have not only in terms of expressions, but also in terms of audience. Everytime you show any form of cinema, somehow you lift the intelligence of the audience one level at a time. And the audience (becomes) picky and only important cinema will be the ones that will win, seriously.”

Bautista, who’s been shuttling between US and the Philippines to create films, added, “Not only our audiences, but people around the world are paying attention to us. When we came here in July, I was with Ralph Guggenheim, founding member of Pixar, and I asked him why are you here? He said that the Philippines is an emerging resource for cinema. Can you imagine that? That’s powerful. The world is paying attention to whatever we’re trying to prove and express (in) whatever genre, so we’re excited at all that (Cinemanila) has to offer. It’s a struggle (to make films), but we’re excited and inspired.”

This year’s Cinemanila will feature over 40 films from over 20 countries done by established and rising talents of the local indie scene and award-winners from such prestigious festivals as Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Rotterdam, Edinburgh, Tokyo, etc. Leading the world cinema is the Cannes 2012 Palme d’Or winner Amour by Michael Haneke. Cinemanila will also screen Manuel Conde’s 1950 film Genghis Khan and Mario O’Hara’s newlyfound, made-for-TV film Pusang Gala. O’Hara and Marilou Diaz-Abaya will be honored posthumously. Screenings will be at the Market! Market! cinemas in Global City, Taguig.

For details, log on to www.cinemanila.org, like its Facebook/Cinemanila2012 page, or follow @Cinemanila2012 on Twitter.

 

ACADEMY AWARDS

AGUILUZ

BEST DOCUMENTARY

CINEMANILA

DOCUMENTARY

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