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PH 8-hour epic movie wins Alfred Bauer Prize in Berlin

FILIPINO director Lav Diaz won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize for his eight-and-a-half hour epic film “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mysteries) during the 66th Berlin Film Festival in Germany recently.

The black-and-white movie, which tackles the 1896 Philippine revolution, stars John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, Hazel Oriencio, Alesandra de Rossi, Joel Sarancho, Susan Africa, Bernardo Bernardo, Cherie Gil, and Angel Aquino. It is produced by Bianca Balbuena and Paul Soriano.

The Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize is given to “a feature film that opens new perspectives.”

Oscar awardee Meryl Streep was president of the international jury. Other members of the jury include Lars Eidinger, Nick James, Brigitte Lacombe, Clive Owen, Alba Rohrwacher. and Małgorzata Szumowska.

This year’s Golden Bear for Best Film went to “Fire at Sea” from Italy while the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize was awarded to “Death in Sarajevo,” an entry from France/Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Other winners were Mia Hansen-Love, “Things to Come” (France/Germany), Silver Bear for Best Director; Trine Dyrholm, “The Commune” (Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands), Silver Bear for Best Actress; Majd Mastoura, “Inhebbek Hedi”
(Tunisia/Belgium/France), Silver Bear for Best Actor; and Tomasz Wasilewski, “United States Of Love” (Poland), Silver Bear for Best Script.
Mark Lee Ping-Bing, Cinematographer, “Crosscurrent” (China), Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution; “Inhebbek Hedi” Tunisia/Belgium/France Dir: Mohamed Ben Attia, Best First Feature; Balada De Um Batráquio,” Portugal, Dir: Leonor Teles, Golden Bear for Short Film; “A Man Returned,” UK/Denmark/Netherlands, Dir: Mahdi Fleifel, Silver Bear Jury Prize (Short Film); and “Jin Zhi Xia Mao,” Taiwan, Dir: Chiang Wei Liang, Audi Short Film Award.

At the sold-out screening of the movie in Berlin, Diaz defended the long movie with an hour-long break.

We’re labeled ‘the slow cinema’ but it’s not slow cinema, it’s cinema. I don’t know why … every time we discourse on cinema we always focus on the length,” Diaz said, in an article published by “The Guardian.”

“It’s cinema, it’s just like poetry, just like music, just like painting where it’s free, whether it’s a small canvas or it’s a big canvas, it’s the same … So cinema shouldn’t be imposed on,” Diaz added.

“The Berlinale gave us the freedom, they didn’t ask us to cut down the length of the film. Thank you, Berlin,” Balbuena said.

“Hele” was among 19 films which competed for the top Golden Bear prize.