‘Hele’ director believes audience will survive 8-hour ‘challenge’
When news broke out that Star Cinema—the movie production arm of ABS-CBN Corp.—will distribute the Berlinale Film Festival Silver-Bear-winning movie Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery) in local cinemas, many were quick with the quip that doing so would be a “challenge” indeed.
In fact, Star Cinema has picked up on the catchy idea, thus promoting the Lav Diaz Masterpiece as such. By now, viewers have most likely seen top ABS-CBN artists like Dawn Zulueta, Sam Milby, Maja Salvador, Billy Crawford, and love teams Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla (KatNiel), Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil (LizQuen), and Kim Chiu and Xian Lim (KimXi) pledging to take the “Hele Challenge,” that is, watching the independent films 485-minute run.
But Diaz shrugged off naysayers, and confidently declared Filipino moviegoers can appreciate his critically acclaimed film.
“Wag ho natin i-underestimate ang masa—ang bayan—kaya ho nila yan. Matatalino ang Pilipino lalo ho tungkol sa kasaysayan natin,” Diaz stated at the grand press conference of Hele at ABS-CBN’s ELJ Building.
The cast led by the top leading men of Philippine cinema Piolo Pascual and John Lloyd Cruz, along with Hazel Orencio, Alessandra De Rossi, Joel Saracho, Susan Africa, Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil and Angel Aquino came in full force to the panel interview and did not think twice in seconding Diaz’ assertion. This is especially so because they all professed they have long dreamt of working for the man they refer to as “Master.”
Also present at the news gathering were the film’s producers Bianca Balbuena and Paul Soriano.
Hele is not the first lenghty movie made by the 57-year-old director. His 2013 film Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Norte, the End of History) had a total running time of 4 hours and 11 minutes. In 2008, he directed the eight hour-long Melancholia; and finally, Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino (Evolution of a Filipino Family) in 2004, which clocked in at 10 hours and 30 minutes.
“Yung eight hours ho, wala po yun. Pag pumasok kayo sa cinemas, pag pinasok niyo na sarili nyo sa pelikula, sandali lang ho iyon, hindi niyo na mararamdaman,” the award-winning director assured.
Before his triumph at the Berlinale, Diaz had won the 2014 Golden Leopard in Locarno International Film Festival for Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What Is Before), and the Best Picture in Images Festival of Toronto for Florentina Hubaldo, CTE.
Meanwhile, Hele, besides running for eight hours, is filmed entirely in black and white, in a 4:35 square frame, and shot with German expressionism and dark perspective technique. What this means, according to the cast, is that every scene in the film noir comes off a “movie portrait.”
As of this writing there are 20 cinemas across the country, which have already signed on in showing the movie on Black Saturday, with tickets prices that range from P150 in Davao to P500 in most theaters in Metro Manila.
Ayala Cinema’s Glorietta and Trinoma, for example, will be screening the movie for P500, while Market! Market! and Fairview Terraces will be for P400.
Over at the SM Cinemas in North Edsa, Megamall, Sta. Mesa, Manila and Fairview, tickets are priced at P410 each.
The rest of the venues and prices are as follows: Greenhills Cinemas (P400), Newport Mall Theaters (P500), Lucky Chinatown (P400), Uptown Cinemas (P400), Robinsons Metro East and Galleria (P300) and provincial movie houses KCC Gen. Santos (P300), Robinsons Bacolod (P300) and Iloilo (P300), NCCC Davao (4300), SM Cebu (P410), and Gaisano Davo (P150).
Producer/director Soriano further related that most movie houses agreed to show the movie in three parts, with 30-minute intervals after three-, two-, and another three hours.
Moreover, Hele has been given a guaranteed one-week showing at the said cinemas, with the option of extending if the audience turnout exceeds expectations.
Finally, to encourage Filipino viewers to commit to their film, lead star Pascual said, “To experience a Lav Diaz film, you really have to condition yourself. As much as it’s a moving art, the film has a really good flow. It’s real-time so you would be really hooked. I think, more than getting mesmerized, you wouldn’t want to miss a scene because it’s important.
“There was never a moment that I got bored when I watched it,” Pascual promised.