TORONTO, Canada --It was a moving sight -- Anita Linda, at 83, atten ding her first ever international film festival, was applauded and cheered enth usiastically by the audience who came to the second screening of "Adela," her m ovie directed by Adolfo Alix Jr. (left)Â and produced by Arleen Cuevas (right), at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival. A âquestion and answerâ wi th the audience followed the screening which reflected the crowd's affection fo r Anita and her performance as a grandmother marking her 80th birthday. I was t old that the first screening of "Adela" was also a success. (Photo by R uben Nepales).
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MY good hunch about our two entries in the ongoing Venice Film Festivalâs sidebar, Orizzonti, âJayâ and âMelancholia,â is proving to be right . (Photo: "Jay" delegation on the Lido [from left]: distributor Ferdy Lapuz, acto r-cinematographer Carlo Mendoza, lead actor Baron Geisler and writer-director-p roducer Francis Xavier E. Pasion) Financial Times came out with the first review of director Francis Xavier E. Pa sionâs âJayâ and it is very encouraging. The London paperâs critic, Nigel Andre ws, cited Francisâ directorial debut which stars Baron Geisler, Coco Martin and Flor Salanga, as one of the standouts so far in the festival on the Lido. Andrews wrote, âOn the Venice fringe there have been two films to cheer: an Ita lian reconstruction and a Philippine satire. Pier Paolo Pasoliniâs 1963 La Rabb ia (âRageâ) was a potion of screen rhetoric, never before seen in the undiluted form the director intendedâ¦Giuseppe Bertolucci (Bernardoâs brother) has re-as sembled the old material, added some never seen, and puts before Italy and the world Pasoliniâs true original rage, a scintillating montage of 20th-century ne ws footage â from Mussolini to Marilyn Monroe â unified and signposted by a gen iusâs vision. âPerfidious media managers; treachery in the name of truth. They are everywhere today, not least in the lies of âreality TV.â Francis Xavier Pasionâs Jay, fro m the Philippines, is an acutely funny tale of intrusive telly reporters, beari ng down on a family bereaved by a gay sonâs murder to make their grief part of a nationâs infotainment. They start by poking a lens at the familyâs faces as t hey learn the news; they end by getting them to act, or re-enact, every emotion al convulsion that needs a second, third or umpteenth take. The remuneration? T he reporters will help find the sonâs killer. By the time they do, even the mur derer, we know, will be signing release forms and hungrily securing his 15 minu tes of fame.â Congratulations to the âJayâ delegation now in Venice! Next, Lav Diaz unveils h is âMelancholiaâ on Saturday. I have high hopes for Lavâs second consecutive Or izzonti (Horizons) entry too.
THE SE are exciting times for Philippine independent cinema. Pinoy indie films are being selected left and right as official selections in major film festivals ar ound the world. (Photo: RP pride on the red carpet in the Venice Film Festival where "Jay" open ed Orizzonti, a competition sidebar: actor-cinematographer Carlo Mendoza, lead actor Baron Geisler, Venice Film Festival director Marco Mueller, selection com mittee member Paolo Bertolin, writer-director-producer Francis Xavier E. Pasion and distributor Ferdy Lapuz). I just heard via e-mail from director Francis Xavier E. Pasion, whose Cinemalay a winning entry, âJay,â just opened the Orizzonti (Horizons) sidebar of the ong oing Venice Film Festival. While Francis sounded ecstatic about the reception of âJayâ at the PalaLido and PalaBiennale in the festival on the Lido, he also expressed his wish that the Philippine government and the private sector would support more enthusiasticall y the fledging indie film industry which has been reaping honors for the countr y. The director of the film which stars Baron Geisler, Coco Martin and my long-tim e friend Flor Salanga wrote in his email to me, âI am extremely happy for Phili ppine cinema's participation in the Venice International Film Festival, but at the same time, I feel that there is more to be done to be more competitive in t he world stage. I envy some of the films that are given full support by the gov ernment and private sectors in their respective countries.â He clarified, âWe are grateful for the FDCP (Film Development Council of the Ph ilippines) for their support for our film, but we hope that the government woul d give more funding to the agency because more films are getting invitations fr om festivals abroad, and there is a resurgence of independent films that need f unding from the agency.â Lav Diaz, whose âMelancholiaâ closes the Orizzonti on Saturday, September 6, ha d earlier expressed similar sentiments but in, let me say, colorful Tagalog ter ms. The filmmaker who is going places with his first feature film added, âFDCP and the NCCA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts) are the two government institutions that are directly involved with the funding of independent films. â He shared, âThe international audience in Venice could hardly believe that we c an produce a good film in 10 days with a budget of only 1.5 million pesos (25,0 00 euros). Speaking about the subject matter of âJay,â Francis said, âSome of the Italian documentary film directors and media practitioners said that they can relate wi th the strong message of media manipulation and the prevalence of infotainment in Italy.â Both he and Francis have a chance of shouting âMabuhay ang pelikulang Pilipino! â from the podium come awards night on Sunday, September 7.
IT seems like only yesterday when we interviewed Brillante "Dante" Mendoza and took pictures of him on Cannes' famous Croisette last year. Now, we just learne d the happy news that Dante is returning to Cannes this year but this time, his entry, "Serbis," is in the major event -- the in-competition category. We are so proud that another Pinoy filmmaker is following the Cannes path blazed by th e late great Lino Brocka. Dante is in great company. Just ponder the list of filmmakers whose films are a lso in competition this year: Clint Eastwood, Charlie Kaufman, Wim Wenders, Wal ter Salles, Atom Egoyan, Jia Zhangke, Steven Soderbergh and Arnaud Desplechin. Mabuhay ka, Dante!
A FILM on a Pinoy transvestite won Thursday the top prize at the Berlinale's Teddy Que er Film Awards. "The Amazing Truth about Queen Raquela," which stars Raquela Rios of Cebu, bagg ed the Best Feature Film Award in the sidebar of the Berlin International Film festival. "Queen Raquela" was cited by the jury "for its ability to address race, gender and poverty in an entertaining way, while also playing with audiences' expectat ions of form." Filipino director Auraeus Solito won the same award in 2006 for his acclaimed " Ang Pagdadalaga ni (The Blossoming of) Maximo Oliveros." The prize includes a 3,000 Euro endowment to the film's director, Olaf de Fleur Johannesson. Arlene Cuevas co-produced "Queen Raquela" which also features act ors from the Philippines and Iceland, including Olivia Galudo, Brax Villa, Amor Alingasa, Raniel Dave Balasabas, Ren Christian Balasabas, Stefan C. Schaefer, Edith Galudo, Luis Labandero, Archie Modequillo, Reynaldo Palatulon and Alexis Yap. "Queen Raquela," which also tapped a Pinoy crew that includes Alexis, Butch Mad dul, Ragnar Santos, and Beverly TaÃ±edo, was shot in the Philippines, Thailand, Iceland, Denmark, France and the US. Olaf wrote the plot summary in the film's IMDB.com entry: "Raquela is a poor la dyboy prostitute who dreams of escaping to Paris, France to supposedly find her knight on Champs-Elysees, marry and have a familyâ¦ But she has little chance of getting a French visaâ¦ "When Raquela is discovered by a photographer, she gets a job working as a webc am host on a popular ladyboy website. Within six weeks, she becomes the first F ilipino online porn star and earns ten times the average salary in the Philippi nes. Wanting to escape, she tries over the Internet to find that special guy wh o will take her to Paris but she is not fortunate: she is stood-up month after month at the airport. "Things change when she meets online Valery, the only ladyboy in Iceland lookin g for friendship and who promises to help Raquela with her visa so she can fina lly go to Paris."
WE'VE st ored the parka, mittens, thermal underwear and snow boots in the closet. But th is moment remains fresh in our mind. Following the second screening of Filipina filmmaker Joanna Vasquez Arong's (in pink) "Neo-Lounge," which was in Slamdanc e 2008's Documentary Feature Competition, she was toasted by new and old friend s. Among those celebrating Joanna's achievement in Park City, Utah are Pinoy filmm akers Ramona Diaz (left, in green) and Marty Syjuco (beside Joanna). Cheers indeed to the Philippines' rising crop of indie filmmakers! They're maki ng waves in the international film scene. Best of all, they are invigorating th e moribund Filipino movie industry. Editor's note: Photo by Ruben V. Nepales
PARK CITY, Utah--Robert Redford welcomed the opening night crowd of Sundance 20 08 last night (Thursday) with an extemporaneous speech. The theme of change was on the mind of Sundance Institute's founder, who took o ver this festival in the late 1980s. He told the crowd before Colin Farrell's d ark comedy, "In Bruges," began: "Artists are really agents of change. They are the first responders. They document change as it is occurring in the world arou nd us." Editor's note: Photo by Ruben V. Nepales
FILIPINO thespians Marife Necesito and Martin de los Santos join Gael Garcia Be rnal, the star of such acclaimed films as "Babel," "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Y tu Mama Tambien" and "Amores Perros," and Michelle Williams ("Brokeback Mounta in") in a movie being filmed in Subic and Morong. In the film titled "Mammoth," Marife plays the nanny of Gael and Michelleâs chi ld. The story involves Gael's character, a successful New Yorker, who decides t o radically alter his life while he is on vacation in Asia with his family. Mar ife Necesito's credits include a memorable performance in Lav Diaz's "Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino." Martin de los Santos was in the movie, "Mga Mata ni Anghelita." Other Pinoys working in the Philippine segment of the shoot are Oli Laperal Jr. , line producer; Awel Galang, production manager; Julie Ysla, casting manager; Criz Soriano and Elmer Santos, location managers; and Tess Marin, production co ordinator. "Mammoth" is the first English language film of Swedish director Lukas Moodysso n, who has several noteworthy films to his credit. Gael, who started acting in his native Mexico, has become an internationally recognized actor. Michelle, wh o split with her "Brokeback Mountain" co-star Heath Ledger this year, earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her performance in the film.
MY recent two-part column about our interview with director Francis Coppola elicited a reaction from a reader , specifically on this quote from the filmmaker about making "Apocalypse Now," his landmark Vietnam War film in the Philippines: "I'm thrilled that we did all that in the Philippines. I'm grateful that we did nât lose lives because, as I think back, what we did was far more dangerous: We were up in helicopters flying around. The Filipino people were generous and wo rked so hard for us! We did that dangerous production with honor, so I'm gratef ul. Salamat po!" Rene Ontal, whose e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and who describes himself as a "writer and fi lmmaker" with a day job as a "media specialist for the City University of New Y ork," wrote: "Mr. Coppola evidently purged the deaths of several Ifugao extras from his consciousness. Playing Montagnard tribesmen, they were crushed to deat h when the Kurtz temple set collapsed during a typhoon. They went unlamented as well in 'Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse,' his wife Eleanor's doc umentary on the making of the film. "As 'apocalyptic' as the shoot was for the filmmaker, I suspect he wouldn't wan t to trade places with the communities affected by his film. Pagsanjan is home to a thriving child prostitution trade which some of his crew members are alleg ed to have engendered. Please see Greta Aiyu Niu's study below in Continuum, a media studies journal at UH (University of Hawaii): Easy_Money_in _Male_Prostitution__An_Imperialist_ Apocalypse_Now_in_the_Philippines.pdf "The Luzon villagers and townspeople were affected by the Philippine military's counterinsurgency campaign in the '70s; did Mr. Coppola consider the dismal an d well-publicized human rights record of the Philippine military before funding and maintaining its helicopters? "When Mr. Coppola proclaimed 'This (film) is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam,' I doubt he had any idea how tragically accurate that statement was. As a film buff, I will always be enthralled by 'Apocalypse Now.' But as a Filipino-Americ an, the poisonous legacy his film left behind has always struck me as metaphor for the obliterated narratives, such as the Philippine-American War, which haun ts US-Philippine relations. "In the US film school of my dreams, a history of the film's creation would anc hor an ethics class on location shooting in the developing world. It should sta nd as an object lesson on how one Western filmmaker's artistic struggle trigger ed a literal, moral and still-reverberating apocalypse in his host country. I w ould be interested to hear if others have their own perspectives on the 'Apocal ypse' shoot."
AFTER many years of visiting the set of Hollywood movies, it was refreshing to see a Filipino director, Yam Laranas, at the helm, so to speak, of "The Echo," now in production in Toronto. It was also a novel experience for us to hear the cast and crew raving about th e Philippines' Chocnut and dried mangoes. Credit goes to Iza Calzado, who repri ses her role in the American remake of Regal Entertainment's horror thriller, " Sigaw." She brought plenty of Chocnut and dried mangoes to share on the set. Yam also did a good deed -- he fought for Iza to get the role. Loud cheers of " Mabuhay!" to these two! Editor's note: Photo by Ruben V. Nepales