John Denver Trending competes in Asia Pacific Screen Awards

Pablo A. Tariman - The Philippine Star
John Denver Trending competes in Asia Pacific Screen Awards
John Denver Trending director Arden Rod Condez (right) receiving the Audience Choice Award, the Jury Prize and the Critics Prize in the Festival International des Cinemas d’Asie de Vesoul in France.

On the eighth month after Arden Rod Condez’s John Denver Trending won Best Picture in the 2019 Cinemalaya, the poignant film about small-town happenings has graced six international film fests, won more awards and is now reaching out to more audiences in ABS-CBN’s iWant attractions.

The good news is that the film is also competing under the Youth Films Category in the 14th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) in Brisbane, Australia in November 2020.

Direk Arden is once again excited as the Australia awards night is considered “Asia Pacific’s highest accolade in film” and “an Oscar-qualifier.”

Moreover, the young director is not in a celebratory mood as his hometown, Pandan in Antique province, was also hit by coronavirus which has infected six of his townmates.

Direk Arden and lead young actor Jansen Magpusao at the Nelly Garden concert in Iloilo City with Mayor and Mrs. Jerry Treñas and Pandan (Antique) Vice Mayor Raymund Gumboc.

While distributing vitamins to senior citizens and raising funds, he is also involved in a daily community prayer. He is truly thankful the first COVID-19 patient finally tested negative. “This gives us hope that everyone after him will also be healed. Prayers really work!”

At the moment, direk Arden’s life looks like another hometown sequel to JDT (John Denver Trending). For the first time, the town fiesta was cancelled and he did a video that attracted donors for the town’s fight against COVID-19.

At this time of the year, he was supposed to be in Sweden to represent JDT in another festival but it was also postponed because of the pandemic.

From Vesoul, France, he got back to Antique just before the lockdown and the long quarantine hours. “It was providential because there was no one my mother could turn to for errands. I do the grocery for her and also in charge of cooking. My Sweden adventure was replaced by domestic chores cleaning fish for cooking and picking out malunggay leaves for lunch. Imagine cooking a perfect pochero and grilling fish have become the highlight of your day to day life.”

Of the six international film fests JDT was invited to, he can only find time to attend to two invitations – Busan in South Korea and Vesoul in France. At the 26th Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema, the film garnered three awards, including special jury prize, audience award and critics citation.

He reflects on his international filmfest exposures: “Smaller film festivals have their own charm. For one, it is more intimate and personal like this one in France.

“It is beautiful in its smallness. In Busan, it was like entering a huge bar where you have chances of meeting very influential people. All the people you need to meet are there. I believe some of our film fest invites materialized because we competed in Busan. It’s like the mecca for festival programmers who are interested to pick up Asian films that they can bring to their countries.”

For the record, JDT has landed in the following international filmfest: Just Film Youth Competition, 23rd Tallin Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia; 3th Cinemasia Film Festival; 37th BUFF Malmö Film Festival; 20th San Diego Asian Film Festival; 2rd Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival; 12th Bengaluru International Film Festival and the  3rd Habitat International Film Festival.

True, the Cinemalaya experience and the subsequent international filmfest invitations allowed him a deeper insight into filmmaking and their audiences. “These filmfests exposed me to what the international film audience is expecting now from the Philippines. First, they are interested to see a different worldview and a local story with a global appeal. Second, they are expecting a new voice after Lav Diaz and Brilliante Mendoza. The challenge here for us new filmmakers is to develop a new and different voice. It’s hard but this really changed my perspective as a filmmaker. At the same time, I don’t want to pressure myself. After all, JDT was just my first film.”

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