The coming-of-age drama film “John Denver Trending” by TV writer-turned-director Arden Rod Condez competed at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF)’s New Currents section, the festival’s main competition section.
“John Denver Trending” follows the tale of a student who is wrongly accused of theft. He then becomes a victim of cyberbullying after a video of him getting violent to his accuser goes viral.
To further globalize Philippine cinema, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) led the participation of the Philippine Delegation in BIFF this year after it oversaw the Philippines as Country of Focus in 2018. Producer Sonny Calvento, lead actor Janzzen Magpusao, and actress Meryll Soriano attended the opening ceremonies of BIFF.
A Facebook post from the film’s official page stated that the jury waived the rule stating that films should have a world premiere status to qualify to compete. The post says, “Requiring a world premiere status most of the time, the festival made an exception of allowing our film to compete even if it has already premiered in the Philippines. This is also the first Filipino film to be selected in the section after five years.”
Meanwhile, a ScreenDaily film review emphasized the dark reality the characters face in the era of social media. It says, “As the story darkens towards the fatalistic, we are immersed in easy outrage, fake news and doctored footage that makes one teenager’s plight chime with events in the wider world. The defiance in Soriano’s mother and the anguish of Jansen Magpusao’s demonised, ostracised teenager lend real heartache to a film that speaks to a generation who live by social media.”
Conducted by FDCP last April, “John Denver Trending” was also a featured project at the First Cut International Film Lab, an international project development and editing lab dedicated to improving feature fiction films in the editing stage.
The film brought home six awards during the 15th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival last August, including best film and best actor for Magpusao’s award-winning performance.
The 24th Busan International Film Festival ran from October 3 to 12, 2019.