In another victory for Philippine Cinema in the international scene, Filipino director Rafael Manuel’s short film Filipiñana bagged the prestigious Silver Bear Jury Prize in this 70th Berlin International Film Festival during its Closing and Awards Ceremony last March 1, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
Filipiñana, which made its world and festival premiere under the Berlinale Shorts programme, was written and directed by Rafael Manuel while attending the London Film School. It is a Philippine and United Kingdom coproduction and received further funding online through Kickstarter. Using the hierarchical structures of the golf course as a setting and through the narrative of a tee-girl named Isabel, Manuel’s film explores the broader problems of marginalization and exploitation as they manifest in Philippine society.
The Silver Bear Jury Prize is the second-highest award given by Berlinale for the films in competition. It was introduced in 1956 to recognize individual achievements in direction, acting and short films in competition. Since then, the Silver Bear has expanded to include categories in feature films, scriptwriting, and music.
Speaking on Filipiñana’s victory, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño said: “We are so proud of Filipiñana’s victory in Berlinale. The film which portrays a microcosm of Philippine society is affecting and poignant in its themes and message and FDCP is proud to have supported Manuel and producer Kyle Nieva in their participation in Berlinale. Filipiñana’s victory underscores the importance of supporting Philippine cinema, and the FDCP is proud to continue such support in the future.”
Photo from Berlinale Facebook page
In the official Berlinale award winner press conference, Manuel spoke of how he saw the film as tackling principally political issues. For starters, the Philippine golf course is colonial in origin: “When you look at the history of golf courses in the Philippines...they were given to us by Americans. The first golf courses in the Philippines were actually in American military bases.” Manuel explained. Partly due to such a history, the vast inequality that plagues Philippine society makes itself known within this smaller world of the golf course.
Describing the film as a compact version of a narrative that he plans on expanding into a full-length feature, Manuel spoke of a particular crowd found in golf courses and country clubs—those elite spaces occupied by the country’s economic elite—that he hopes to explore in the future: “In [Filipiñana] we contained the milieu in the golf course, but beyond that there’s a whole country club milieu that would be interesting to explore as well. Their ballrooms, their swimming pools—I see absurdities there as well.”
Writing for Southeast Asian film journal ‘Sindie,’ film critic Matthew Chan commends Manuel’s technical and cinematic skills: “Manuel,” Chan writes, “shows himself to be as adept at crafting indelible images as he is at incisive social commentary.” Through these indelible images, “Manuel creates a clear distinction between how he portrays the rich and poor” and communicates “the theme of economic disparity...through visual metaphors.”
Still from Filipiñana
Manuel’s film was one of three Philippine entries to the Berlin-based film festival. Raya Martin’s Death of Nintendo competed in Berlinale’s “Generation Kplus” program and Alex Piperno’s Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine competed in the “Forum” program.
Writing in a Facebook post following his film’s victory, Manual thanked his cast and crew and gave special thanks to his funders from Kickstarter who helped fund the film’s production.
Cover photo from Ram Manuel's Facebook page
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