Baler wins most of filmfest awards


By NICKIE WANG/ Manila Standard Today

What can a moving tale of forbidden love in the middle of a war do to change the landscape of Philippine Cinema? The awards and the accolades are just frosting on the cake, what is more important is for a film to highlight social issues and promote cinematic excellence by raising the benchmark in filmmaking.

Baler, the historical love epic produced by Viva Films, walked home with not one but 10 awards including Best Picture in the recently concluded 34th Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night on Dec. 27 at the Harbor Garden Tent of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City.

The film that depicts the Siege of Baler in 1898 won Best Director for Mark Meily, Best Supporting Actor for Philip Salvador, Best Screenplay for Roy Iglesias, Best Cinematography for Lee Meily, Best Production Design for Aped Santos, and Best Editing for Danny Anonuevo.

“I’m so excited. This is the second time I joined the festival. I’m so happy that there are people who made aggressive move to produce this film,” Mark Meily, director of the runaway winning movie Baler, told Standard Today.

Meily first joined the filmfest in 2003 with the entry Crying Ladies starring Sharon Cuneta. The film received multiple awards including Best Picture. When asked about his feeling outshining other veteran directors this time, the humble filmmaker said: “ Hindi ako 100 percent sure na mananalo kasi there are film directors na magagaling talaga like Joey Reyes, we are just blessed and lucky lang talaga.”

On the other hand, it’s a sweet victory for Anne Curtis who portrayed a convincing role of a young Filipina who professes her forbidden love to a mestizo soldier played by Jericho Rosales. Curtis received her very first acting award after being declared Best Actress.

“The feeling is unexplainable. I’m speechless, ’di ko alam ang sasabihin ko but I’m just so happy. I can’t fathom the happiness that I feel. This is my first acting award,” Anne, who wore a striking red Filipiniana dress, told us on her way out of the hall.

Anne dedicated the award to the members of her family who have been very supportive to her career. The Dyosa star bested other actresses like Dawn Zulueta, Maricel Laxa, Jean Garcia, Marian Rivera, and Ai Ai de las Alas.

“I know that the people I was up against were veteran and amazing actresses, nakasama ko pa sila backstage. I was just surprised and forever thankful. All the hard work of the whole team of Baler got recognized here on the awards night. We couldn’t ask for more except for the people to keep on watching sana,” Anne remarked.

Baler also won the Award for Gender Sensitive Film of 2008 and the coveted trophy for the Gatpuno Antonio J. Villegas Cultural Award. The jurors for the Gender Sensitive Film Award cited Baler as a film that highlighted gender-sensitive issues of love, parenting, and war translated by the intuitive direction of Mark Meily under a well-written script by Roy Iglesias.

Receiving the single award for the Rudy Fernandez tribute film Magkaibigan was Christopher de Leon. He made another history for being the most decorated actor of the festival. De Leon holds the record of most wins of the Best Actor Award in the 34-year history of the MMFF. He now has eight Best Actor trophies courtesy of the MMFF alone.

While Boyet marked another cinematic feat, the country’s first all-digital full-length animated feature film Dayo: Sa Mundo ng Elementalia under Cutting Edge Productions won four awards (mostly in the technical category) including Best Visual Effects for Robert Quilao, Best Musical Score for Jessie Lasaten, Best Theme Song for “Lipad” composed by Jessie Lasaten and Artemio Abad Jr. and performed by Lea Salonga, and Best Sound for Albert Idioma and Wally Dellosa.

Sexy comedy flick One Night Only won two awards courtesy of Jose Javier Reyes (Best Original Story) and Manilyn Reynes (Best Supporting Actress).

According to Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, the two-day gross of this year’s festival exceeded the last year’s gross over the same period by 37 percent.

Top grosser Ang Tanging Ina Ninyong Lahat (Star Cinema) that won Second Best Picture has accumulated ticket sales amounting to more than P41 million on its second day while the festival’s Third Best Picture Iskul Bukol: 20 Years After (OctoArts Films and APT Entertainment) has grossed P37 million at the box office.

Meanwhile, the sequel of Desperadas that stars Ruffa Gutierrez, Rufa Mae Quinto, Iza Calzado, Marian Rivera, and includes Ogie Alcasid got the Best Make-Up plum for Noli Villalobos. Regal Films’ Shake Rattle ‘n Roll X received its single trophy courtesy of Best Child Performer Robert “Buboy” Villar.

The awards night was hosted by Boy Abunda with Phoemela Barranda and Tim Yap as segment hosts. Tony Gonzaga was the trivia host while Sitti, Richard Poon, Karylle, Yeng Constantino, and Sheryn Regis were among the performers who added splendor to the event which had a taped telecast on C/S 9.

The last part of the award’s night, which was exclusive to the people who bought pricey tickets, was a nostalgic presentation of Katy the Musical with maestro Ryan Cayabyab on the piano, and Jericho Rosales and KC Concepcion in the lead roles. The musical featured other performers like Mitch Valdez, Dulce, Eugene Villaluz, Rachel Alejandro, Bituin Escalante, Jonalyn Viray, Ayen Munji-Laurel, Aicelle Santos, Maricris Garcia, Frenchie Dy, Gian Magdangal, Sitti, and Gab Valenciano.

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