On an early Friday morning at the McDo branch on Quezon avenue across Mercury Drug and National Book Store, light-hearted banter between Direk Gil Portes and this writer tried to draw up a fool-proof formula to finally give the country at least an Oscar nomination in its foreign language film category.
A chance encounter—I just came from Quiapo’s Nazarene shrine and Gil was on his way to lay in English subtitles to his new Cinemalaya film, Two Funerals—paved the way for that happy conversation.
“A good film is not enough. And good means your film is not only distinctly Pinoy but must have a universal theme and appeal as well. But that is just one half of the equation,” Gil enthused.
And the other half, it turned out, is an effective campaign to at least let AMPAS voters know that such a film exists. That means having your film’s DVD copies find their way to the 500 voters who are assigned to come up with the final five nominees of the best foreign language film category.
But no one knows who these 500 special voters are, Gil explained, so you end up giving DVDs to the 5,000 AMPAS voters there.
He said that a good Hollywood-based PR can really help. He remembered that for Mga Munting Tinig, they hired an agent who was responsible for helping this year’s Argentine film winner.
In the years 1999, 2001 and 2002, films directed by Mr. Portes were the country’s entry to the Oscar’s best foreign language film derby.
He achieved this through Saranggola, Gatas…Sa Dibdib ng Kaaway and Mga Munting Tinig, in that order. In all films, he collaborated in the screenplay—the first two with Jose Butch Dalisay and the last with Senedy Que.
“Ma-swerte naman ako kasi in all three instances, my films made it to the semi-finalists bracket. I was in LA during all of those three Oscars. Alam mo naman my family lives in the States and I direct films here,” Gil recounted.
But it was Mga Munting Tinig which was just an arm’s length away from barging into the Lucky 5, he continued. It occupied the seventh slot.
But luckily, his film was selected for the unofficial audience award after the screenings of the semi-finalists in a tie with a German film, Nowhere in Africa. It was this German film which won the best foreign language film trophy eventually.
Gil has high hopes for the film he has just finished shooting in nine days with a P2 million budget. This is Two Funerals which was selected with four other films for the new Open Category of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.
(The four other veteran directors whose projects were selected are Joel Lamangan for Sigwa; Mark Meily for Isang Pirasong Buhay; Mario O’Hara for Ang Paglilitis ni Bonifacio; and Jay Altarejos for Pink Halo Halo —editor)
It is a black comedy about two families whose loved ones’ corpses got interchanged after a massive vehicular accident and their frantic efforts to set things right and get back the right corpse ASAP.
“I am now laying in the English sub-titles. Mabuti na yung maagap. My film will be shown during the Cinemalaya 2010 Filmfest in July and then get a commercial run. Para mag-qualify sa next Oscar,” he smiled, crossing his fingers.
He was very confident that the Philippines will finally be nominated in the best foreign language film category of the Oscar before 2015. “Hopefully, hindi lang nomination. Yung best foreign language film trophy na sana,” he laughed.
Our working hours soon began. Gil left for the post-production of Two Funerals. I at once crossed the overpass to the other side of Quezon ave. to prepare this Friday’s upload of the weekly articles for the website of the Film Academy of the Philippines.
But before I got started on this article, I asked the FAP secretariat— Raquel and Lorna—for a listing of the Filipino films which were submitted as official entries to the Oscar’s best foreign language film category eversince the Academy was tasked to select the country’s annual entry in 1996.
I got the list in a jiffy and realized that the data are interesting enough for a follow-up article.
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