Indie films the big winners at Filipino 'Oscars'

This year's Gawad Urian Awards honour young stars and low-budget movies.

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Independent, low-budget films beat out mainstream blockbuster fare at the Gawad Urian Awards, considered the Oscars of the Philippines, which were held on Wednesday night in Manila.

The 23-year-old Maja Salvador won her first best actress trophy, for her role in the independent drama Thelma, about a provincial girl who becomes a national track athlete. "So this is how it feels to win," said Salvador, who couldn't hold back her tears on stage.

Another young actor triumphed: Paulo Avelino, 24, was awarded best actor for his performance in Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa. The small independent film, about a student falling in love with his dance teacher, was the night's big winner, receiving seven of the 12 major awards, including best film, best director, best screenplay for the writer and director Alvin Yapan, and best supporting actress for Jean Garcia.

The best supporting actor award went to the theatre actor Art Acuña, for his debut film performance in the operatic family saga Niño. The Gawad Urian also honoured the veteran cinematographer Rody Lacap for his work in many Philippine classics.

The ceremony was hosted by the actress Angel Aquino and the beauty queen Venus Raj, and featured performances by Frenchie Dy, Eric Santos, Bituin Escalante and Jed Madela.

The awards, held since 1977, are judged by a 10-member panel composed of film scholars, critics and industry members.