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MULTI-awarded film director Gil Portes has said that the Philippines needs a unique Filipino movie with a universal message in order to notch a nomination or even win a trophy at the prestigious Oscars in the US.
“Hindi mo talaga alam kung paano ma-nominate or manalo sa Oscars pero if you look at the film, yung mga nakakapasok at nananalo, they are very simple, but at the same time, they are very complex. Ang importante, the film is distinctly and uniquely Filipino but with a universal message,” said Portes, during a press conference for the movie “Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli” held at Limbaga 77 Café, Morato, Quezon City recently.
Produced by T-Rex Entertainment and written by Enrique Ramos, “Hermano Puli” stars Aljur Abrenica in the title role of the almost forgotten early 9th century preacher from Lucban, Quezon, who led a movement for equality and religious freedom against the Spanish colonial government half a century before the martyrdom of Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Juan Luna.
Portes, 70, said that modesty aside, his movie “Mga Munting Tinig,” the Philippines’ entry to the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film category in 2002, was ranked No. 7. Only five films are nominated in the category every year despite submission from more than 80 countries. The Filipino drama stars Alessandra de Rossi.
“Hindi sa pagmamayabang, kami lang ang nakapasok sa Top 10… ang ‘Mga Munting Tinig.’ We were No. 7,” said Portes.
Several Filipino movies which should have been nominated in the Oscars foreign film category were “The Flor Contemplacion Story” starring Nora Aunor and “Ploning” topbilled by Judy Ann Santos.
“‘Flor Contemplacion’ should have been nominated. It’s not a perfect movie but it is an issue movie kaya dapat nakapasok,” Portes said. “Yung tinalo nilang Best Picture sa Egypt Film Festival, yun ang nanalong Best Picture sa Oscar.”
“Nung sumali ang ‘Mga Munting Tinig,’ yung Best Picture during our time, nag-tie kami sa audience award sa Palm Spring Film Festival, yung ‘Nowhere in Africa.’ It’s a German film, nag-tie kami;
“Kung meron lang kaming pera to promote the film, siguro we can enter the Magic 5. Pag nakapasok ka na sa Magic 5 (sa Oscars), you have a very strong chance to win,” Portes added.
Portes said that a big budget would help in campaigning for the movie with some 4,000 members of the Academy.
“Kami sa ‘Mga Munting Tinig’ noon, we had only $30,000 dollars. Hindi kasya yun! You need a promotion na lalabas sa ‘Variety,’ ‘The Hollywood Reporter,’ and three other journals. Then you are given two free screenings ng Oscar.
Kailangan mag-rent ka pa ng theaters at magdagdag ka ng screenings;
“Pero ang pinakamahal is you have to produce DVDs na ipapadala mo sa mga members ng Academy na boboto kaya mahal yun. Around 400 lang ang boboto sa Best Foreign Language film but there are 5,000 members of the Academy or more. Hindi mo kasi alam yung 400 na yun, so you have to hit all the members of the Academy,” Portes said.
“You really need big budget. Ang sayang itong ‘Ploning’ nuon. Ang dami nilang na-raise na funds but I don’t know how they spent the money. It’s really a mystery how you will make it in the Oscars,” he added.
Portes said that “Hermano Puli” nearly took 20 years to be completed. In 2014, the historical drama pulled out of the Metro Manila film festival due to lack of funding.
“That was the real challenge to me… where to get the budget for the film,” Portes said. “It started in 1995, not the shooting but the search for financing and writing the script.”
To cut a long story short, Portes asked the help of actor Aljur Abrenica in finding financiers for the movie. Asked how much budget was infused into the movie, Portes refused to reveal the cost. “Huwag n’yo ng tanungin. Maiinggit lang kayo,” he laughed.
Portes revealed that they have to build a mini-studio similar to Universal Studios in Hollywood where they shot many of the important scenes.
His latest masterpiece, he said, is ready to be screened in various film festivals abroad soon.
But Portes said that he is proud of Abrenica in this movie where he turned him into a serious actor.
“I would like to believe that I made Aljur a serious actor in this film,” Portes added.
“Ang Hapis at Himagsik ni Hermano Puli” will have its commercial run in September. It is produced by T-Rex Entertainment and written by Enrique Ramos.
Prior to that, “Hermano Puli” has been chosen as the closing film of the 2016 Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Aug. 13.