High hopes for ‘Ma’ Rosa’ at the Oscars



The heat continues to rise as Philippine moviedom pins high hopes for the nth time via Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa—the country’s official entry to the 2017 Oscars Foreign Language category.

Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) director general Leo Martinez said that lobbying alone at the Oscars would cost a fortune, discounting yet the prohibitive cost of reproducing more than a hundred thousand copies of the film including project briefs for distribution to all Academy voting members throughout America.

Comes the next big question arguably hissed by local film critics and aficionados: Is Ma’ Rosa Oscar-worthy material?

We have to ask ourselves in hindsight as a way to forecast how will it fare in the US considering that Ma’ Rosa has created quite a stir in the last Cannes Film Festival where Jaclyn Jose was adjudged Best Actress.

We had no way of knowing the criteria used in the selection of the most worthy Oscar entry. All we knew is that the screening committee was chaired by movie director Edgardo Vinarao with members Jose Carreon, Mike Sandejas, Lee Briones-Meily, Eddie Rocha, Cherie Gil and Michael De Mesa.

The short list included Tuos of Roderick Cabrido, Hermano Puli of Gil Portes, Pamilya Ordinaryo of Eduardo Roy, Jr. and Ang Babaeng Humayo of Lav Diaz, Honor Thy Father of Erik Matti, Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan of Jun Lana, Felix Manalo of Joel Lamangan, Dukot by Paul Soriano, and Diaz’ Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis.

Film aficionados/movie reporters moderated by Tony V. Aguilar and Johnny Maranan with panelists Fernan De Guzman, Ed De Leon, Roel Villacorta and Roland Lerum among others, passionately dissected what really could have been the most “Oscarable” of them all while at their watering hole where they eat, drink, and sleep movies so to speak.

Aguilar named Ma’ Rosa earlier as his top contender, but after watching Cinemalaya entry Pamilya Ordinaryo he made a full turn relegating instead Mendoza’s film to second place, followed by Anino Sa Likod Ng Buwan. Tailing behind in his ranking are Dukot and the two longish films of Lav Diaz.

Why the change of mind? As we both agreed, Pamilya Ordinaryo is much more nuanced, thick and organic in terms of story and plotting than Ma’ Rosa.

While both films bordered on the blase theme of poverty porn, the characters of Pamilya Ordinaryo were much more engaging and insightful as they were in their effective portrayals as victims of poverty without begging for self-pity and apology to themselves and sundry for being so poor and miserable.

In any case, it’s a go for Ma’ Rosa in the forthcoming Oscars. But here’s the rub, a very telling rub: a survey of top 10 films shown in the last three prestigious filmfests held in Telluride, Venice, and Toronto unfortunately did not include Ma’ Rosa which was exhibited in Toronto including Ang Babaeng Humayo which even bludgeoned the rest of the world’s A-list directors in Venice.

In another post-festival survey of top 10 best films initiated by leading industry magazines like Hollywood Reporter, Variety, etc. to have emerged from the last Toronto International Film Festival which also exhibited the two films in issue, Ma’ Rosa and Ang Babaeng Humayo again did not at all figure in said survey.

This is very telling particularly for Ma’ Rosa because the Toronto filmfest has long been considered the gateway or harbinger for the potential Oscarables in all categories including Best Foreign Language.

It is disturbing to note that Ma’ Rosa and Ang Babaeng Humayo were totally ignored in the two aforementioned surveys when in fact they had earlier on caught the attention of the jurors in Cannes and Venice respectively.

For now, it is “que sera sera” for Brillante’s Ma’ Rosa. Let our hopes spring eternal (again) in the forthcoming Oscars.


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