Filipino stars, films shine in inaugural Manila International Film Festival

In the glittering, glamorous gala and awards ceremony evoking Hollywood’s major awards shows, GMA Pictures’ fantasy drama “Firefly” won four awards—Best Picture, Best Director (Zig Dulay), Best Supporting Actress (Alessandra De Rossi) and Best Screenplay (Angeli Atienza)—in the successful inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles last February 2.

GMA executive Annette Gozon-Valdes accepted the Best Picture Award and Best Director Award on behalf of Zig Dulay while “Firefly” actress Ysabel Ortega accepted the Best Supporting Actress Award on behalf of Alessandra De Rossi. Screenwriter Angeli Atienza thanked the Manila International Film Festival organizers and the jurors of the inaugural MIFF.

Jesuit Communications Foundation, Inc. and MQuest Ventures, Inc.’s historical drama “GomBurZa” bagged Second Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Carlo Canlas Mendoza) and Audience Favorite Award, voted by the festival moviegoers who attended the screenings at the TLC Chinese Theatres from January 29 to February 1.

Historical drama “GomBurZa,” directed by Pepe Diokno (second from right) bagged Second Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Carlo Canlas Mendoza, right) and Audience Favorite Award, voted by the festival moviegoers who attended the screenings at the TLC Chinese Theatres from January 29 to February 1. At the inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in LA. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador

Historical drama “GomBurZa,” directed by Pepe Diokno (second from right) bagged Second Best Picture, Best Cinematography (Carlo Canlas Mendoza, right) and Audience Favorite Award, voted by the festival moviegoers who attended the screenings at the TLC Chinese Theatres from January 29 to February 1. At the inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in LA. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador

The IdeaFirst Company and October Train Films’ “Becky and Badette” was honored with the Special Jury Prize for its LGBTQIA cultural sensitivity and awareness, effectively combining these themes with humanity and humor.

Vilma Santos romped off with the Best Actress Award for her portrayal of an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) finding love in Japan in JG Productions’ “When I Met You in Tokyo.”

In a tie, Dingdong Dantes and Piolo Pascual bagged the Best Actor prize. Dantes was honored for essaying a husband hoping for a second chance and redemption in ABS-CBN Film Productions and APT Entertainment, Inc.’s “Rewind.”

Pascual triumphed in his delineation of three different characters, including Father Severino Mallari, a 19th-century Filipino priest who was charged with murdering 57 people.

Alessandra De Rossi’s take of a mother inspiring and guiding her young son, especially through stories, in “Firefly” garnered Best Supporting Actress.

For his nuanced performance of God in the guise of a regular guy in “Rewind,” Pepe Herrera cinched Best Supporting Actor.

In a tie, both Piolo Pascual (left, for “Mallari) and Dingdong Dantes (“Rewind”) won Best Actor in the inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in LA. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador

In a tie, both Piolo Pascual (left, for “Mallari) and Dingdong Dantes (“Rewind”) won Best Actor in the inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in LA. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador

A jury of accomplished Filipino American professionals voted on the 10 awards – Marie Jamora, filmmaker (head of the jury), Mari Acevedo; CEO of Birns & Sawyer which will give a $200,000 co-producing package to “Firefly,” the Best Picture winner; Leah Anova, cinematographer; Reggie Lee, actor; David Maquiling, filmmaker and film school educator; and Sumalee Montano, actress and producer.

Veteran actress Hilda Koronel received MIFF’s first Monty Manibog Lifetime Achievement Award, which was previously announced, in recognition of her outstanding work in films directed by Philippine cinema’s finest filmmakers, including the late great Lino Brocka. Actress Pinky De Leon presented the award, named after the late pioneering community leader Manibog, to Koronel.

MIFF presented Trailblazer Awards to Filipino American actor Mark Dacascos; Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr., the Philippines’ Secretary of the Interior and Local Government; and Romando “Don” Artes, overall chairman of the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF). Rochelle Ona, MMFF executive director, received MIFF’s award of recognition.

The hosts, presenters and performers included Kaladkaren, Eisel Serrano, Mark Dacascos, Janella Salvador, Piolo Pascual, Alden Richards, Eugene Domingo, Dingdong Dantes, Dessa, Janice Javier, Troy Laureta, Lisa Lew, Winston Emano, Janet Nepales and Ruben Nepales.

The 10 films that debuted in America at the MIFF were entries in last December’s MMFF, the most successful, box office-wise, in MMFF’s almost half a century of existence.

At the MIFF screenings in Hollywood, many of these movies were shown to sold-out or packed theaters: Jun Robles Lana’s “Becky and Badette,” starring Eugene Domingo and Pokwang; Lemuel C. Lorca’s “Broken Heart’s Trip” (Christian Bables); Nuel Naval’s “Family of Two (A Mother and Son Story)” (Sharon Cuneta and Alden Richards); Zig Dulay’s “Firefly” (Alessandra De Rossi and Euwenn Mikaell); Pepe Diokno’s “GomBurZa” (Enchong Dee, Dante Rivero and Cedrick Juan); King Palisoc’s “(K)Ampon” (Beauty Gonzalez and Derek Ramsay); Derick Cabrido’s “Mallari” (Piolo Pascual and Janella Salvador); Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Penduko” (Matteo Guidicelli and Kylie Verzosa); Mae Cruz-Alviar’s “Rewind” (Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes); and Conrado Peru, Rommel Penesa and Christopher de Leon’s “When I Met You in Tokyo” (Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon).

Other talents who flew from Manila to introduce their films and participate in after-screening Q&As and informative and fruitful panels conducted throughout the five-day festival were John Arcilla, the first Filipino actor to win the Volpi Cup for best actor in the 2021 Venice Film Festival (for Erik Matti’s “On the Job: The Missing 8”), Cedrick Juan, Enchong Dee, Beauty Gonzalez, Ysabel Ortega, Christian Bables, Marvin Yap and Christopher de Leon.

Veteran actress Hilda Koronel, who received the previously announced Monty Manibog Lifetime Achievement Award, with actor Christopher de Leon, her costar in their iconic film, Mike de Leon’s “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream).” At the inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in LA. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador

Veteran actress Hilda Koronel, who received the previously announced Monty Manibog Lifetime Achievement Award, with actor Christopher de Leon, her costar in their iconic film, Mike de Leon’s “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream).” At the inaugural Manila International Film Festival held at the Directors Guild of America in LA. Photo by Sthanlee B. Mirador

Key figures from Manila included Film Development Council of the Philippines’ (FDCP) Tirso Cruz III and Jose Javier Reyes, chairman and consultant, respectively; Boots Anson Roa-Rodrigo, actress and MMFF executive committee member; and Noel Ferrer, MMFF spokesperson. Metro Manila mayors, who were in Los Angeles for a study tour, also graced the gala.

MIFF, the first and biggest celebration of Philippine cinema in the US, was highlighted by the largest gathering of Filipino and Filipino American stars and filmmakers. It was a huge undertaking organized by the LA-based MIFF founders–Omen Ortiz, chairman; Ebradu Udarbe, president; Lisa Lew, executive producer; Ruben Nepales and Janet Nepales, media relations consultants; and Celia Abaya Dy, ticketing manager.

Also on the MIFF team who went all out to make the historic festival happen are Leo Dela Cruz, chief financial officer; Erickson Ilog, chief operations officer; Ron Ramores, chief marketing officer; Meriden Angeles, coordinating producer; and Winston Emano, consulting producer.

MIFF, hailed for championing and showcasing Filipino cinema in the United States and beyond, thanks its sponsors and volunteers for helping make that possible. More information at www.manilainternationalfilmfest.com.

—MGP, GMA Integrated News

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