Thursday, June 6, 2013

Filipino entry wins best film at Jeonju Fest

SEOUL, 4 May 2013 – The lone Philippine entry to the International Competition of the 14th Jeonju International Film Festival was chosen as Best Picture among the 10 films in competition at the recently concluded nine-day festival, the Embassy said on Saturday.
Director Dwein Baltazar shows off the 2013 Woosuk Award for Best Picture at the JIFF Awards Night (Photo courtesy of Mamay Umeng producer Joenathann Alandy).
Mamay Umeng, the first full-length feature film helmed by Dwein Baltazar, was chosen by the four-member jury for the Woosuk Award, in a tie with Japanese film Remiges by Masato Ozawa. Baltazar, who had worked as a film stylist for different indie films, received a trophy and shared the USD10,000 cash prize.

According to festival organizers, the jury – composed of Kazakhstan film director Darezhan Omirbayev, Cornell University film professor Don Fredericksen, Korean director Ryoo Seung-wan, who helmed this year’s Berlin File, the all-time highest-grossing Korean action film, and Korean actor Jung Woo-sung – “had to go through days of long discussion and eventually decided the awardee with vote” due to the varying standards of the eight feature and two documentary film entries to the International Competition.

The Grand Prize (JBBank Award) went to French entry Lost Paradise, directed by Eve Deboise, which received a cash award of USD18,000, while the Special jury prize went to Practical guide to Belgrade with Singing and Crying by Bojan Vuletić from Serbia. 

Mamay Umeng, which debuted at the Cinema One Originals festival in November 2012, tells the story of an 84-year-old man living in a secluded village in Batangas province. Feeling the burden instead of the blessing of a long life, Mamay looks forward to the long-awaited end of his journey – death. As a Catholic devotee, he struggles between dreary waiting and thoughts of suicide until he decides one fine quiet day to end everything on his own terms and go out to find “Death” itself.

The Philippines was also represented in the Stranger Than Fiction category by veteran John Torres, now on his fourth JIFF outing with Lukas Nino (Lukas the Strange), and newcomer Shireen Seno, with Big Boy. The two directors gave a talk on Philippine independent cinema together with Philippine film critic Francis Cruz.

The last time the Philippines was awarded the Woosuk Award (sponsored by Woosuk University) was in 2009, when Sherad Anthony Sanchez was recognized for Imburnal (Sewers), which also won the prestigious NETPAC Award (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) 

Philippine films do well in Jeonju, with one or more films getting recognition in the festival. Last year, Jet Leyco’s Ex Press received the Special Jury Prize and Lav Diaz’ Florentina Hubaldo CTE was recognized in the NETPAC Prize as the best Asian feature film screened in World Cinemascape and Stranger than Cinema section.

The Jeonju International Film Festival or JIFF, is a nine-day spring outing focusing on unique voices of independent films from all over the world. While not as well-known as the Busan International Film Festival, JIFF is now being recognized as one of the most important film festivals in Asia and a window of independent and experimental films around the world. Since its establishment in 2000, a number of new filmmakers have been introduced to the world stage through JIFF. The awardees of JIFF resulted in getting acclaimed internationally, and the efforts and accomplishments of JIFF have been well recognized by film professionals and cineastes in the world. 

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