Tokyo Int’l Film Fest winners eye MMFF next
Filipino pride was high at the conclusion of the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival on November 3 when Jun Robles Lana’s entry, Die Beautiful, scored an impressive double victory. The dramedy on the life of a fabulous transgender woman bagged the Audience Award and Best Actor Award for its lead Paolo Ballesteros, placing Filipino artistry in the global spotlight anew.
On Monday, Regal Entertainment’s mother and daughter tandem Lily and Roselle Monteverde hosted a homecoming party for the triumphant team who were still overwhelmed over Die Beautiful’s success at Asia’s most prestigious film festival.
Excited to share their experience in Tokyo, Lana and his co-director, executive producer and life partner Perci Intalan recalled how Die Beautiful was already the talk of the festival from the opening, especially after Ballesteros walked the red carpet made up as Hollywood A-Lister Angelina Jolie.
This initial buzz only became louder following the movie’s premiere and screenings, so much so that several other international film festivals from Europe and the United States extended their invitations to the team prior to the awards ceremony.
Intalan further shared that he is in the process of closing a deal with a Japanese entertainment company for the theatrical release of Die Beautiful across Japan in 2017.
Amid all these exciting prospects for the Philippine movie industry’s latest pride, what is foremost in the minds and hearts of Lana and company is for the film to be selected as a finalist to the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival.
“The MMFF rules clearly indicate that an entry is still eligible for selection even if it has already been shown in other international film festivals,” noted the multi-awarded director who also won for Eugene Domingo a Best Actress award in Tokyo for Barber’s Tales in 2013. “As long as the Philippine premier of the movie is held for the MMFF only, and not other local film festivals, the movie can be submitted for selection.”
The MMFF committee will reveal this year’ finalists on November 18. Following tradition, the selected movies will be shown nationwide beginning Christmas Day.
With high hopes, especially after Die Beautiful’s triumph in Tokyo, Lana expressed the team’s gratitude to the Monteverdes for signing up for the commercial release of the movie on the home front.
“Mother Lily and Roselle have always been very supportive, way before Die Beautiful. I’ve made films that Mother also released before just like Dementia,” Lana related.
Intalan meanwhile shared how the Japanese audience themselves are rooting for the successful showing of Die Beautiful in the Philippines.
“At a Q&A [for the film in Tokyo], one audience member raised his hand just to say, ‘Filipinos will get to see [such]a beautiful film’,” he recalled.
“It is an important story to tell because it will help people understand the complexities of the lives of transgender individuals. And the Metro Manila Film Festival is our biggest opportunity to reach a wide audience for this story,” Lana rejoined.
Also the writer of Die Beautiful, the director further talked about the particular event, which inspired him to make the movie.
“It was in 2014 when I was in New York with Perci, and we learned about [Filipino transgender] Jennifer Laude’s brutal murder at the hands of a US marine,” Lana revealed.
“I immediately felt the need to make a film about transgenders because most people don’t understand the topic to begin with. I mean, when Laude was murdered, there were comments like, ‘Good thing she died,’ or ‘She deserved to be murdered,’ which was a clear signal that it was time to make a film about the Filipino transgender woman and her struggles, so society will be kinder to her.”
Attune to the Filipino audience, Lana then decided to take the comedic route in presenting the transgender reality, explaining, “At the same time I wanted it to be a celebration of life and to be a very positive [movie]. I didn’t want to tell this reality only to make the audience depressed when they go and watch it. I want them to be inspired even if the story involves the topic of death,”
In Die Beautiful, Ballesteros plays transgender woman Trisha who suddenly dies while being crowned in a beauty pageant. Known to her friends, her wish when she dies is to be dressed as a different celebrity throughout every night of her wake. Conflict arises when Trisha’s conservative father demands she be buried her as a man.
Finally the Best Actor’s turn in the spotlight, Ballesteros quipped, “I didn’t expect to win Best Actor; I thought I’d win Best in Long Gown!”
The Eat Bulaga mainstay went on to say that competition was stiff at the festival, which all the more made the long hours of makeup and shooting worth it.
“In Tokyo, more than 1,500 films were submitted including many other Filipino films. From that 1,500, only 200 made it to the festival, and only 16 for the main competition. So simply to be included among the 16 films is already huge deal,” Ballesteros elaborated.
“But I don’t expect to win the same prize in any film fest here in the country, even if I hope to,” he humbly added. “More than anything else, what we only hope for is for Filipinos to come and watch the movie, because if the Japanese and all the other nationalities who saw it in Tokyo appreciated the movie’s humor, what more our own people? They’ll really enjoy watching it.”
With a screenplay by award-winning writer Rody Vera from a story by Lana, Die Beautiful also stars Joel Torre, Gladys Reyes, Luis Alandy, Albie Casino, Lou Veloso, Christian Bables, IC Mendoza, Cedrick Juan, and several surprise cameos. It is a proud production of IdeaFirst Company and Octobertrain Films.