With too many movie award-giving bodies around today, the Gawad Urian thankfully makes a difference. True to its name—the Filipino term “gawad,” which means to hand out, and urian, a kind of stone used to appraise the value of a gem–the critics behind it known as the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) is arguably the most discerning and credible award giving body in the industry.
In its 39th year of recognizing the best of 2015’s cinematic yields, the Urian has scored yet another radical selection of nominees and final winners.
In the Best Film roster of contenders alone, only two out of the eight nominees came from a more established film company–Solar Entertainment’s Imbisibol and Bambanti. There were no outputs in this category from big studios like Star Cinema, GMA Films, Viva Entertainment, Regal Films, Imus Productions, M-Zet or Octo Arts, save in some part for Honor Thy Father of Reality Entertainment, which is affiliated with Regal Films.
For other awards groups, maybe except for the Young Critics Circle (also an interesting and exciting academe-based arts critics to note), a film as remote or unpopular as ARI: My Life with a King about the immortality of poetry, and produced by academic institution Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies might not even merit a first look, but at the Urian, it warranted multiple nominations.
The rest of the nominees, Heneral Luna (winner, Best Direction for Jerrold Tarog); Taklub (Best Film); Anino sa Likod ng Buwan, and Da Dog Show, were made by relatively small but significant industry players, namely Artikulo Uno Productions, Centerstage Productions, Octobertrain Films/Idea Films, Sans Cinema, and Germany/Queen B Productions, respectively.
Even the big name star who won Best Actor, John Lloyd Cruz did so for an indie in Honor Thy Father. The same with LJ Reyes, Best Actress for Anino Sa Likod ng Buwan; Bernardo Bernardo, Best Supporting Actor for Imbisibol; and Ana Abad Santos, Best Supporting Actress for Apocalypse Child.
Cruz himself expected, according to an interview, a John Arcilla win for Heneral Luna in his place, but keeping Urian’s unexpected twists and turns of choices, it could have been Francisco Guinto for ARI, but that would have been too anticlimactic.
Nevertheless, since the founding of the Manunuri in 1976, there has been this notion that it bestows awards to “non-stars” who would soon become big stars. Take for example Best Actress Beth Bautista in Hindi Sa’yo ang Mundo, Baby Porcuna (1978), Anita Linda and Rustica Carpio in Lola (2009), and Fe Gingging Hyde in Sheika (2010); Best Actor Lou Veloso in Colorum (2009); Best Supporting Actresses Yvonne in Ligaw na Bulaklak (1976), Angela Ruiz in Tirador (2007), Aleera Montalla in Yanggaw (2008), Sue Prado in Himpapawid (2009), and Santos for this year’s awarding; and Best Supporting Actor Ruel Vernal in Insiang (1976), Menggie Cobarrubias in Jaguar (1979), Raul Arellano in Batang Westside (2001), Ketchup Eusebio in Sa Aking Pagkagising Mula sa Pagkamulat (2005), Soliman Cruz in Himpapawid (2009); and Art Acuña in Niño (2011).
It is a fact that a Gawad Urian is the most aspired award by most if not all actors in the local film community because it is perceived as the most credible and scandal-free awards organization. But mind you, the Urian is not without its share of controversies, such as the year Lino Brocka refused his Best Director award for Jaguar (1979); or the cancellation of an awards night in 1987 because the Manunuri deemed there were neither any film nor talent that deserved recognition from the previous year.
Given this rich history, I see the Urian as the testament of the continued excellence in the Filipino filmmaker’s “truthful portrayal of the human condition,” to borrow the words of the the Manunuri. And that makes all the difference in this industry.