The Gawad Urian: In praise of fearless films

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Indies dominate nominated works anew

The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP), the oldest and most respected film awards institution in the country that chooses the nominees and winners  for the annual Gawad Urian Awards, admitted partiality  to independent films.

‘On the Job’

‘On the Job’

On Tuesday, the MPP announced this year’s nominees for the 37th Gawad Urian, and like in previous years, presented a list dominated by indie titles.

The group of critics led by MPP president Grace Javier Alfonso, journalist Mario Hernando, and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera expressed they are firm on their decision.


Lumbera declared, “Sa pagsusuri sa mga pelikula na pipiliin, higit na nagugustuhan ng mga kasapi ng Manunuri ang mga indie films na pinapalabas.”

‘Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan’

‘Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan’

Hernando agreed and explained, “Ang Manunuri, kinikilingan ang mga pelikulang kakaiba, orihinal at experimental. Yung tinatawag nating mainstream movies, marami rin ang magaganda sa kanila. Ako man ay nanonood nito at naaliw din, pero mas formula ito, mas predictable, kumbaga mas ginagawa ng maraming filmmakers.

Hindi tulad sa indie, sila ay nagsisimula ng isang landas para tahakin ng ibang filmmakers.”

‘Porno’

‘Porno’

Despite this admittance, Alfonso assured that all films, be they commercial or independent, are given equal chances in the selection process. She said, “Lahat po ng pelikula ay pinapanood namin kaya lahat po ay nako-consider.”

Like her peers, Alfonso praised indie films for “talk[ing]about the complex life idea” and “deliver[ing]a message effectively.” She added she is happy that the genre is significantly gaining ground and appreciation from the film industry and the general public.

Fearless films

The Manunuri ng Pelikula ng Pilipino members (from left) Bienvenido Lumbera, Grace Javier Alfonso and Mario Hernando, with Cinema One head Ronald Arguelles

The Manunuri ng Pelikula ng Pilipino members (from left) Bienvenido Lumbera, Grace Javier Alfonso and Mario Hernando, with Cinema One head Ronald Arguelles

The nine films nominated for Best Picture this year are Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, On the Job (OTJ), Transit, Ekstra, Riddles of My Homecoming, Badil, Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, Porno, and Dukit.

Of these, only OTJ was produced commercially by ABS-CBN Films and Star Cinema for public theaters nationwide. The film presented a very “independent” vibe as it also tackled issues of corruption in the Philippine society.

Directed by Erik Matti, OTJ revolves around the story of inmates released from prison to assassinate enemies of influential and powerful government and military officials.

According to Alfonso, OTJ was not the only film to expose and explore this issue. She said Porno by Adolf Alix Jr. and Norte by Lav Diaz portrayed characters with similar roles.

She noted, “Ang mga pelikulang ito ay matatapang . . . This issue of prisoners [as guns for hire], ngayon lang natalakay sa pelikulang Pilipino.”

The directors of the three fearless films are nominated for Best Direction together with Jeffrey Jeturian (Ekstra); Peque Gallaga and Lorie Reyes (Sonata); Arnel Mardoquio (Riddles of My Homecoming); Hannah Espia (Transit); Alvin Yapan (Mga Anino ng Kahapon); Whammy Alcazaren (Islands); Mes de Guzman (Ang Kuwento ni Mabuti); Armando Lao (Dukit); and Chito Roño (Badil).

Meanwhile, Ronald Arguelles, head of all-Filipino film cable channel Cinema One, this year’s partner of the MPP for Gawad Urian, shares the critics’ confidence in the rise of independent films. He observed, “The year 2013 had the most number of digitally produced films.”

Arguelles also shared why Gawad Urian, to this day, remains the most credible film award giving body in the country. He explained, “If you see the nominees of other award giving bodies, I don’t think they really monitor what’s out there. You can tell that others have biases, yung mainstream lang or yung client lang. But in terms of honoring the films that should really be honored, I think Gawad Urian takes care of that.”

The 37th Gawad Urian awards night will take place on June 17 at Studios 9 and 10 of ABS-CBN’s ELJ Building. To be hosted by Piolo Pascual and Bianca Gonzalez along with MPP’s Butch Fran–cisco, the ceremonies will be aired on the same night at 10 p.m. on Cinema One.

Nora vs. Vilma

Tight competition is expected among this year’s nominees beginning with the acting categories, which will see the rivalry between revered actress Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos renewed.

Both will vie for the Best Actress trophy, with Aunor for Ang Kwento ni Mabuti, and Santos for Ekstra.

Asked to comment on this, Lumbera admitted that even within the MPP, there is tension between Noranians and Vilmanians.

Hernando added, “Even yong mga ibang artistas, kapag nominated na yung dalawa parang takot na sila. But that doesn’t rule out naman the possibility that other actresses could turn out a more fantastic, complicated performance. Kaya everyone here has equal chances.”

Nominated alongside the legendary actresses are Angeli Bayani (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); Cherie Gil (Sonata); Eugene Domingo (Instant Mommy); Rustica Carpio (Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap?); Agot Isidro (Mga Anino ng Kahapon); Vivian Velez (Bendor); Lorna Tolentino (Burgos); and Teri Malvar (Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita).

For the Best Actor plum, the nominees are Joel Torre (OTJ); Mark Gil (A Philippino Story); Mimi Juareza (Quick Change); Sid Lucero (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); Ping Medina (Transit); Jhong Hilario (Badil); and Alex Medina (Babagwa).

As independent films continue to dominate this year’s noted works, Norte and Dukit specifically lead the pack with 10 nominations each. OTJ and Porno closely follow with nine nominations each. Transit counts eight, while and Riddles of my Homecoming and Ekstra are tied with six nominations each.

Below is the complete list of nominees for the remaining major categories:
Best Supporting Actor: Junjun Quintana (A Philippino Story); Art Acuña (Kabisera); John Arcilla (Metro Manila); Joey Marquez (OTJ); Yul Servo (Porno); Carlo Aquino (Porno); Victor Basa (Lauriana); Cesar Montano (Alamat ni China Doll); Archie Alemania (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); and Bor Ocampo (Dukit)
Best Supporting Actress: Angel Aquino (Ang Huling Chacha ni Anita); Angel Aquino (Porno); Mitch Smith (Angustia); Ruby Ruiz (Ekstra); Jasmine Curtis-Smith (Transit); and Raquel Villavicencio (Dukit)
Best Screenplay: Lav Diaz and Rudy Vera (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); Michiko Yamamoto and Erik Matti (OTJ); Rody Vera (Badil); Giancarlo Abrahan and Hannah Espia (Transit); Jason Paul Laxamana (Babagwa); Ralston Jover (Porno); Rody Vera (Death March); and Armando Lao and Honeylyn Joy Alipio (Dukit)
Best Production Design: Junjun Montelibano (Sonata); Perry Dizon (Riddles of My Homecoming); Richard Somes (OTJ); Ericson Navarro (Ekstra); Adolfo Alix Jr.

(Porno); Kip Oebanda (Shift); Leo Abaya and Olga Marie Marquez (Dukit)
Best Music: Nonong Buencamino (Lauriana); Perry Dizon (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); Gauss Obenza (Riddles of My Homecoming); Emerson Texon (Sonata); and Armando Lao (Dukit)
Best Cinematography: Arnel Barbarona, Bordie Carillo and McRobert Nacario (Riddles of My Homecoming); Ber Cruz and Lyle Nemenzo Sacris (Transit); Francis Ricardo Buhay 3rd (OTJ); Lauro Rene Manda (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); Albert Banzon (Porno); Sasha Palomares (Islands); Diego Marx Dobles, Triztan Garcia, Jeffrey Icawat and Bruno Tiotuico (Dukit)
Best Editing: Jay Halili (OTJ); Chuck Gutierrez (Riddles of My Homecoming); Lav Diaz (Norte, Hanggangn ng Kasaysayan); Aleksander Castañeda (Porno); Banjamin Tolentino and Hannah Espia (Transit); and Diego Marx Dobles (Dukit)
Best Sound: Corinne de San Jose (OTJ); Addiss Tabong and Wild Sound (Ekstra); Albert Michael Idioma (Porno); Arnel Barbarona (Riddles of My Homecoming); Corinne de San Jose (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan); Mes de Guzman (Ang Kwento ni Mabuti); Mark Locsin (Death March); and Armando Lao (Dukit)

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