Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s debut feature film Verdict has claimed the NETPAC Award at this year’s Hainan Island International Film Festival. It was one of three Filipino films that screened at the 2nd HIIFF, alongside Brillante Mendoza’s Mindanao and Grace Simbulan’s documentary A is for Agustin.
Verdict, which also competed in the HIIFF’s ‘Best Feature Film’ category, has made its rounds in film festivals worldwide. It made its North American premiere at the 44th Toronto Film Festival last September and has enjoyed critical success since its premiere at the 76th Venice Film Festival last August. Verdict won the latter's special jury prize and competed in its ‘Best Film’ section. The film also screened at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and the Singaporean International Film festival where it was a nominee for "Best Asian Feature Film."
Alongside the film's success, Verdict was selected as the Philippines’ submission for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category in the upcoming Academy Awards.
Produced by Brillante Mendoza’s Centerstage Productions, the crime-drama stars award-winning actors Max Eigenmann and the late Kristoffer King as their characters undergo a lengthy legal process through the difficulties of domestic violence. The pair have received recognition for their performances with Eigenmann winning "Best Performance by an Actress" at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and King winning posthumously for "Best Performance" at the Singapore International Film Festival.
Gutierrez's film has been viewed as a piece tackling the timely problems of domestic abuse addressed within the flawed Filipino legal system. Writing for Variety Magazine, Tomris Laffly described Verdict as a “sure-handed debut” that explores the “nightmarish labyrinth of Filipino bureaucracy.” While Amber Wilkinson of Screen Daily writes of Gutierrez’s “watchful camera” throughout a “no-nonsense domestic abuse drama that whips along with the pace of a thriller.”
FilmPhilippines Executive Director David Fabros and Hainan Island International Film Festival Director Roger Garcia
The NETPAC Award, given by the Network for Promotion of Asian Cinema, spotlights notable Asian films at various film festivals globally. Past winners from the Philippines include Lav Diaz, Raya Martin, and Brillante Mendoza.
The HIIFF, only in its second year, took place on December 1-8 at the Mangrove Tree Resort World Sanya Bay. Aside from the screenings, the festival also featured the H!Market and H!Action Project Market where the FDCP participated for the first time, represented by FilmPhilippines Executive Director David Fabros.
Cover Photo from Max Eigenmann's Facebook Page
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