Pinoy film wins at Sundance

Posted at 01/27/13 1:09 PM

Filipino actors John Arcilla and Jake Macapagal in a scene from the movie "Metro Manila"

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) A Filipino-British co-production took home on Saturday the Audience Award for Best Film in the world cinema category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, which has been dubbed the premier showcase for independent films.

“Metro Manila”, which stars Filipino actors Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla and Althea Vega, had its world premiere at the Robert Redford-founded film fest, which will run from January 17-27, 2013 in Park City, Utah.

The movie, which is credited to both the Philippines and the United Kingdom, was among the 12 films vying in the annual festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition, which also included films from South Korea, Indonesia and Afghanistan.
Shot in the Philippines, “Metro Manila” is directed by Sean Ellis, who also co-wrote the script with Frank E. Flowers.

According to the Sundance website, the movie is about Oscar and his family, who, searching for a better life, move from “the poverty-stricken rice fields to the big city of Manila, where they fall victim to various inhabitants whose manipulative ways are a daily part of city survival.”

The movie also stars theater actors Miles Kanapi, Ana Abad Santos and JM Rodriguez, according to its entry on the movie website imdb.com.

Trade publication The Hollywood Reporter praised the film's actors, saying "much of the film’s effectiveness is attributable to the lead actors’ well-modulated performances."

"More of a slow-burner than an outright actioner, Metro Manila reveals how the pitfalls of surviving urban life can drive even a principled family to the ends of desperation. Although it doesn’t have the action muscle of other recently distributed titles from the region, like Indonesia’s The Raid or Thailand's Chocolate, internationally oriented fests will do well to consider programming the film, and it could also prosper in home entertainment formats," The Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe said in his review.

In his Facebook page, Arcilla posted photos of the cast, including Macapagal, Abad Santos and Rodriguez at the victory party.

"We won the audience award, for our film 'Metro Manila' in the Sundance world dramatic competition!" Arcilla wrote in his post on Sunday afternoon, Manila time.

Arcilla also reported that the movie was nominated in seven categories and was "well-received."

World cinema winners

In the other world cinema categories, South Korean drama "Jiseul" picked up the grand jury drama prize. The film, directed by Muel O, follows the residents of a small town who were forced to hide in a cave for 60 days after the military attacked their village.

Cambodian documentary "A River Changes Course", about three young Cambodians struggling with adversity in a country ravaged by war and debt, picked up the world cinema grand jury award.

"Events like these really bring our communities together to share in the beauty of the world and the beauty of our future," director Kalyanee Mam said.

"Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer", which follows the story of three members of a Russian feminist punk band jailed for performing a "punk prayer" in a Russian Orthodox church, picked up special jury prize in the world documentary category.

Co-director Mike Lerner said the three members of the band had "started a feminist revolution that we hope will continue around the world."

'Fruitvale,' 'Blood Brothers'

Drama film "Fruitvale" and documentary "Blood Brothers" won the top awards, giving them a big boost to reach independent movie audiences this year.

"Fruitvale", starring Octavia Spencer and Michael B. Jordan and directed by 26-year-old, first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler," picked up the US drama jury and audience awards for its "moral and social urgency."

The film is based on the true story of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, who was killed by police in Oakland, California, on New Year's Eve in 2008 and whose death sparked riots against police brutality. Movie studio The Weinstein Company purchased distribution rights for the film.

"This film had a profound impact on the audience that saw it ... this award goes out to my home in the Bay Area where Oscar Grant breathed, slept, loved, had fun and survived for 22 years," Coogler said in his acceptance speech.

Oscar-winning documentarian Davis Guggenheim awarded the US documentary jury prize to "Blood Brothers," saying it shook the voting panel to their core.

The documentary follows an American man who moves to Africa and works with children suffering from HIV at an orphanage, and through his work, the children gain a voice.

"It is so encouraging for the kids ... their lives are so encouraging, and they die and no one remembers their name ... To take their story so that everyone sees it, it's so awesome," director Steve Hoover said."

Young actress Shailene Woodley, praised for her performance in "The Descendants" last year, and her co-star Miles Teller won the Special Jury acting prize in "The Spectacular Now."

Actress Lake Bell, who made her directorial debut in the US drama category with quirky comedy "In A World," picked up the drama screenwriting award.

Hosted by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who premiered his raunchy directorial debut "Don Jon's Addiction" this year, the Sundance Film Festival Awards pick winners at the top gathering for independent movies made outside of Hollywood's major studios.

"Sundance is a community of people of filmmakers and film lovers who all believe together that there's more to movies than glitz and glamour and money and the box office. In Hollywood, you can feel like a freak if you talk about movies as art, and here, you don't have that," Gordon-Levitt said.

The Sundance Film Festival, now in its 35th year, is backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. The 10-day gathering of the independent film industry is held in snowy Park City, Utah.

In previous years, films that win the top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival often go on to achieve Hollywood awards success as well.

Last year, mythological drama "Beasts of the Southern Wild" won the top prize at Sundance and is now nominated for four Oscars in major categories.

The award winners are voted for by special juries of industry professionals and by the audience for the audience favorite awards.

List of winners

Following is a list of winners at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, the top gathering for independent movies made outside of Hollywood's major studios.

The competition categories are grouped for drama films and documentaries in sections for US films and world cinema.


Best Film, Jury Prize - "Fruitvale"
Best Film, Audience Award - "Fruitvale"
Directing - Jill Soloway, "Afternoon Delight"
Screenwriting - Lake Bell, "In A World"
Cinematography - Bradford Young, "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and "Mother of George"
Special Jury Prize, ensemble acting - Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, "The Spectacular Now"
Special Jury Prize, sound design - Shane Carruth, Johnny Marshall, "Upstream Color"


Best Documentary, Jury Prize - "Blood Brother"
Best Documentary, Audience Award - "Blood Brother"
Directing - Zachary Heinzerling, "Cutie and the Boxer"
Editing - Matthew Hamachek, "Gideon's Army"
Cinematography - Richard Rowley, "Dirty Wars"
Special Jury Prize - "Inequality for All" (tied), "American Promise" (tied)


Best Film, Jury Prize - "Jiseul"
Best Film, Audience Award - "Metro Manila"
Directing - "Crystal Fairy," Sebastian Silva
Screenwriting - "Wajma," Barmak Akram
Cinematography - "Lasting (Nieulotne)," Michal Englert
Special Jury Prize, artistic vision - "Circles"


Best Documentary, Jury Prize - "A River Changes Course"
Best Documentary, Audience Award - "The Square"
Directing - Tinatin Gurchiani, "The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear"
Editing - Ben Stark, "The Summit"
Cinematography - Marc Silver, "Who is Dayani Cristal?"
Special Jury Prize, film - "Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer"


Shorts, Jury Prize - "The Whistle," Grzegorz Zariczny
Shorts, Audience Award - "Catnip: Egress To Oblivion," Jason Willis -- With a report from Reuters