Focus on the Philippines: The Woman Who Left conquers Toronto after winning in Venice

Plus: Historical biopic Heneral Luna earns 11 Luna Awards nominations, while Sarah Geronimo and Darren Espanto lead Star Awards for Music nominees.
Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left). Courtesy TIFF
Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left). Courtesy TIFF

Fresh from winning the Golden Lion — the top prize at the recently concluded Venice International Film Festival — Lav Diaz’s Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) is screening at this week’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The film, about a woman released from prison 30 years after being framed and wrongly convicted, runs for four hours and was shot in black and white. After its premiere in Venice, Diaz and his cast — led by Charo Santos-Concio and John Lloyd Cruz — received a standing ovation. The film marked 60-year-old Santos-Concio’s return to the big screen after a 20-year break.

Arriving at the Toronto airport on Monday for the film’s North American premiere, Santos-Concio was met by a crowd of Filipino fans. Several of them rushed to hug the actress and handed her bouquets of flowers.

“I’m so proud,” Santos-Concio told ABS-CBN News. “I’m very happy for Lav Diaz — he really deserves this. When we were planning the film back in March, we told each other we were just going to have fun. This really is a most unforgettable moment.”

The Woman Who Left was the only Asian film among the 20 films in the Venice festival’s main competition. It beat out star-studded features including Damien Chapelle’s La La Land (starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone), Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans (Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander) and Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals (Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams), which won the runner-up Jury Prize.

Asked why she chose to work with an art house filmmaker for her cinematic comeback, Santos-Concio says: “Everyone was expecting me to do a mainstream movie. I thought, why not do a small movie? I wanted to do something different.”

This week a spokesperson for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement: “This triumph of Lav Diaz is the latest addition to the Philippines’s biggest ever haul of awards in this year’s A-list film festivals. Berlinale, Cannes and now Venice. The lustre of the world-class Filipino talent has continuously shone.”

Earlier this year, Diaz took home the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for his eight-hour historical epic Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery), while Jaclyn Jose won the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her performance in Brilliante Mendoza’s gritty urban drama Ma’ Rosa.

Heneral Luna earns 11 Luna nominations

The historical biopic Heneral Luna leads a slate of nominees at this year’s Film Academy of the Philippines Luna Awards. Based on the real-life story of General Antonio Luna, who led a revolutionary army during the Philippine-American War in 1899, the film earned 11 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director for Jerrold Tarog and Best Actor for lead star John Arcilla.

Apocalypse Child, a fictional story about a man suspected to be the illegitimate son of Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola, was awarded nine nominations, including Best Director for Mario Cornejo.

Notably, four of the nine nominees for Best Picture are romantic dramas — The Breakup Playlist, Crazy Beautiful You, The Love Affair and That Thing Called Tadhana (Destiny) — a first in the awards show’s 34-year history.

In the acting categories, veteran actor Arcilla is competing against younger talents like John Lloyd Cruz (Honor Thy Father), Sid Lucero (Apocalypse Child) and Dennis Trillo (Felix Manalo). The two female leads of The Love Affair, Bea Alonzo and Dawn Zulueta, were both nominated for Best Actress; they are competing against Angelica Panganiban (That Thing Called Tadhana), Merryl Soriano (Honor Thy Father) and Gwen Zamora (Apocalypse Child). The Luna Awards ceremony will be held on September 18.

Sarah Geronimo leads Star Awards nominees

This week the Star Awards for Music, another esteemed award-giving body in the Philippines, also revealed their list of nominees for the year.

Actress, singer and presenter Sarah Geronimo is favoured to win Best Album for her record The Great Unknown. The 28-year-old was nominated for six other awards, including Best Song (Tala), Best Pop Album (The Great Unknown), Concert of the Year (From the Top) and Female Performer of the Year.

Darren Espanto, a 15-year-old singing wunderkind who rose to fame after appearing on The Voice Kids Philippines in 2014, received nine nods, including Best Album for Be With You.

Another newcomer, Bailey May, 14, received an unexpected nomination for Song of the Year for his debut track Gusto Kita (I Like You).

The other contenders for Best Album are Jolina Magdangal (Back to Love), Bamboo (Bless This Mess), Marion (Marion), Alden Richards (Wish I May) and Willie Revillame (Nando’n Ako).

artslife@thenational.ae

Published: September 14, 2016 04:00 AM

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