Pinoys increase presence at Cannes Film Festival
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - May 22, 2013 - 2:01pm

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino-produced films at Cannes Film Festival this year made the country's movie industry "a filmmaking force to be reckoned with," an American publication said on Tuesday.

The Hollywood Reporter film critic Clarence Tsui noted that the number of entries from the Philippines is enough to make the country's presence felt at Cannes, arguably the most prestigious film fest in the world.

The Philippine contingent to the 12 days-long event is the largest to date, with production staff from three feature films leading the pack.

The films will be screened at this year's festival with director Erik Matti's commercially produced On the Job as a surprise selection at the Directors' Fortnight, a non-competitive sidebar.

“We made On the Job mainly for our domestic market in the Philippines; but, of course, getting into the Director’s Fortnight was a welcome gift for all the hard work we poured into the making of the film – not to mention almost four years of finding a way to get it produced,” Matti, a mainstream director, said in the interview with Tsui.

Adolfo Alix, Jr.'s Death March on the historic Bataan event during World War II and Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan by Lav Diaz, known for his overly long films, are competing under the Un Certain Regard category as part of the official Cannes selection.

The category selects originally styled and unconventional movies from all over the world, having a total of 18 competing films this year including works by Hollywood figures Sofia Coppola and James Franco alongside Diaz's and Alix's productions.

"The diversity of films being shown in the festivals shows the range of Filipino filmmakers in general. I think that it is a testament that there is vitality and movement in the Filipino cinema and the renewed interest is there," Alix said.

His black-and-white picture on the suffering of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers in the hands of Japanese forces and starring mainstream actors as Sam Milby, Zanjoe Marudo and Jason Abalos premiered last Sunday.

Related story: Filipino director takes new look at Bataan march

Diaz's four-hour entry, meanwhile, tackles injustice as a "never-ending cycle of betrayal and apathy" with a character of a simple-minded man being wrongly accused for murder.

Tsui said that the three Filipino films in Cannes makes the country at par with how the global industry now views Indian cinema as a source of both quality commercial and stylistic works.

"The simultaneous presence of Matti, Alix and Diaz at Cannes in the same year marks a seismic shift in how Filipino films are regarded internationally: as more than just a source of avant-garde, independent fare," he sad.

These are not, however, the only things Filipinos can boast of at Cannes this year.

Related story: Yes we Cannes!

Lined up at the Cannes Classics selections is a restored version of Lino Brocka's 1975 masterpiece Manila sa Kuko ng Liwanag, which was shown last week at the festival. It joins cinematic greats such as Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959), Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987) and Joseph Mankiewicz's Cleopatra (1963).

Completing the Philippines' slate are three young Filpino directors set to present their works at the Cannes Court Métrage, a gathering of up and coming filmmakers around short film screenings.

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