The golden age of independent films continues to flourish as the 36th Gawad Urian Awards on Tuesday night teemed with victories for the young and contemporary filmmaker.
The gap between mainstream and independent films virtually disappeared at Fort Bonifacio’s NBC Tent in Taguig City when actors and directors of both genres came together to celebrate the art of moviemaking. The excitement was sky high as everyone anticipated the program proper.
At exactly 8 p.m., a grand opening act featured songs from the late, great rapper-artist, Francis Magalona. A medley of “Kaleidescope,” “Mga Kababayan Ko” and “Ito ang Gusto Ko” jolted Filipino pride among the audience, and served as a reminder that the Philippines is truly a land of talent.
Tito Valiente, head of the film critic group Manunuri ng Peli-kulang Filipino, which is behind Gawad Urian, then fittingly acknowledged the flourishing craft of independent filmmaking in the country, which, he said, is an effective tool to communicate stories from the countryside and far-fetched islands in the country.
“Naisasalarawan ng mga filmmakers ang mga lugar na malalayo. Mga malalayong rehiyon ng Mindanao, mga lugar na hindi abot ng ating pananaw,” he eloquently put.
Even the program’s hosts, Richard Gomez, Cherie Gil, Butch Francisco, Iza Calzado and Xian Lim, all spoke highly of the “indie film phenomenon” that is sweeping Philippine Cinema.
“Maraming mga artista ang nasa indie ngayon kasi dito nila nahahanap ang creative and artistic fulfillment nila,” said Iza Calzado, who has also starred in a number of independent herself.
The first major award for Best Supporting Actress went to Alessandra de Rossi, who in fact had two nominations for the category, in addition to her Best Actress nomination. De Rossi won for her role in the film, Sta. Niña.
“Nagulat ako na kalaban ko ang sarili ko,” the spirited actress joked as she claimed her trophy.
Stage actor Art Acuña bagged the Best Supporting Actor Award for his role in Posas, who, after claiming the award, laughed along with the room, as Cherie Gil teasingly quipped, “Now that he’s won, he can find himself a stylist.”
Blips and tributes
The night carried on with a few blips and bumps, especially when the Short Film’ category winner was up. One of the presenters, Mae Paner of Juana Change the Movie was handed the wrong envelope, apparently for the Best Documentary category, stopping her big reveal midway.
“Ngayon palang may switching of envelopes nang nagaganap!” she joked.
As the production team sorted out the mistake, the Short Film Award was given to Renton Zuasola for Ritmo, and while Benito Bautista won Best Documentary for Harana.
Meanwhile, the Natatanging Gawad Urian was awarded to 90-year-old Mila del Sol, who first starred in the 1939 LVN movie Giliw Ko.
Looking as graceful as ever, she said, “In this autumn phase of my life, I am happy na pinapahalagahan ang work ko. To the new artists, it is important to hone your craft and take care of your name.”
Besides del Sol, the Gawad Urian also paid tribute to members of the entertainment industry who had passed on in the last year. They were: Linda Estrella, Luis Gonzales, Angelo Castro Jr., Nita Javier, Mario O’Hara, Dolphy, Ike Jarlego, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Celso Ad Castillo, Linda Casimiro, Danny Zialcita, Daisy Avellana, Bella Flores and National Artist for Film Eddie Romero.
The main event
Out of the 13 nominees for Best Director, Adolfo Alix bagged the award for his critically acclaimed film, Mater Dolorosa.
The Best Actor Award went to Jericho Rosales for Alagwa, who looked as handsome as ever he went up the stage. “First time ko sa Urian. Hindi ko alam dito ko pala matatanggap ang galak bilang isang aktor,” he gushed, adding that the feeling cannot even compare to the nominations he received in foreign awards.
The NBC Tent soon went wild as the eternally loyal Noranias of Superstar Nora Aunor cheered their idol as she accepted her Best Actress trophy for the Brillante Mendoza film, Thy Womb.
“Ito ay ang pagpapatuloy ng paggawa ng pelikula na nabibigay ng aral at inspirasyon sa mga Pilipino,” Aunor said as she thanked the Gawad Urian for yet another Best Actress award.
For the grand finale, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and Nora Aunor presented the award for Best Film to Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim.
Directed by Arnel Mardoquio, the dark film about violence in the remote communities of the far south, impressed the Manunuri, especially since it was entirely produced by a small 15-man crew.
Indeed, the Gawad Urian Awards was more than just a night of glitz and glamour. It was a testimony that artistry is alive and well in the Philippines and that there are still a countless stories left untold in these 7,107 islands.