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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 23, 2013

Singapore & U.K. Send Philippine-Themed Films To The Oscar, The Philippines Sends Film Shot In Israel

THE CINEMALAYA best picture winner in the New Wave category, “Transit”, was selected by the Film Academy screening committee to be the country’s representative in the Oscar Awards’ best foreign language film category. The directorial debut of 26-year old Hannah Espia (the only female director in the entire Cinemalaya 2013 who bested out all her male rivals), the film is a well acted story about the life of Filipino overseas workers in Israel, crafted with fine technical values. The lines are in Tagalog and Hebrew.

Two of its competitors are films featuring the Philippines and with Filipino actors, but made by foreign directors. First is “Iloilo” from Singapore, also helmed by a first time director, Anthony Chen, about a boy’s relationship with his Filipino nanny. It won the Camera D’Or (best first film award at the last Cannes International Filmfest and led to Chen eventually finding his long lost Ilonga nanny, Teresita Sajonia (played by Pinay actress Angeli Bayani in the movie) in San Miguel, Iloilo.

Then there’s “Metro Manila” from the United Kingdom, directed by another first time director, Sean Ellis, and set totally in Manila with Tagalog as the main dialogue, starring local actors Jake Macapagal, Althea Vega and John Arcilla. It won the best drama award at the last Sundance Filmfest.

Will it not be ironical if “Iloilo” or “Metro-Manila” would win (or at least makes it to the short list of the five nominated films) and “Transit”, with the story set totally in Israel, won’t, when it’s the one that’s truly made by a Filipino? The edge of “Transit”, though, is that there are many Jews among the academy members so it might have some attraction for them as the Hebrew characters in “Transit” are portrayed as kind and sympathetic, especially the man who played Ping Medina’s boss.

On the other hand, the edge of a Filipino film like Erik Matti’s “On the Job” is that it already has an established American distributor, Well Go Entertainment USA, and will soon be shown in legitimate Cineplexes all over America. The distributor can certainly help push the movie since the Philippine government does not give any support at all to local films sent to compete in the Oscars. All the Film Academy does is choose which film will be sent as our entry and after that, it’s up to the producer and director to campaign on their own.

“On the Job” does not only have an American distributor to campaign for it, but it’s also produced by the biggest and most active local film company today, Star Cinema, which can certainly help in fostering awareness about the film among prospective academy voters and even with the Golden Globe Awards that antedates the Oscars.