Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreaming of Oscar and other Stories

by Jay Fermin

On my last visit to the Philippines, we were in a room at L’Fisher Hotel celebrating. The Governor of Negros Occidental, Gov. Alfredo Maranon just announced an initial funding of a film about ‘Cinco de Noviembre’, (The 5th of November), a story of an event that happend 112 years ago on November 5, 1898 when the Katipuneros led by General Aniceto Lacson of Silay and General Juan Araneta of Bago successfully bluffed the Spanish forces.

The story revolves around two generals who converged from both north and south of Bacolod and led an offensive march to the residence of Spanish Governor Isidro de Castro. The Spanish reinforcements have not yet arrived from the nearby island of Panay. The Spanish Governor, thinking that they were outnumbered by the Katipuneros, finally signed the surrender at 5 p.m. of November 5, 1898.

What the Spanish Colonist didn’t know, the two forces that maneuvered to ‘attack’ were armed with ‘paltik’ firearms made with Nipa stalks with attached shiny knives. The numerous horse-towed cannons were actually rolled ‘sawali mats’ rolled into barrel shape and painted gloss black! It was all like Hollywood props.

Indeed a good story to tell on the wide screen. Governor Maranon provided an initial funding to start the film. Actor Joel Torre (his movies include Jose Rizal, Anak, and the famed Oro Plata Mata) happily expressed that the film project is good ‘because we have a good story’. The only contraint would be the budget. Ronnie Lazaro, a multi-talented professional actor and director( won Best Production Design: Manila by Night: City after Dark; 1981) who was also in the room, was just as excited. After all, independent film requires talent, a good story, and most importantly, funding.

This week, the media were invited to view a private screening of ‘The God of Love’, the short film by Luke Matheny, which is nominated for the 2011 Academay Award for Best Live-Action Short. It is a comedic short film directed by Luke and produced by Fil-Ams Gigi Dement, Stephen Dypianco, and Stefanie Walmsley, whom we talked to after the screening.

The story follows the quest for love of a lounge-singing darts champion Raymond Goodfellow, whose prayers are answered when he receives a package of passion-inducing darts. The film climaxes when he was left with his last dart of love. However the open ending continues with the black and white fadeaway scene of Raymond riding a motorbike slinging a pouch of even larger passion inducing arrows to spread the love that always escape from all of us. While I was watching the film, I understood deeply why cupid carries an arrow.

Indeed a strong contender for the Oscar Awards that is airing on Sunday, February 27, 2011 at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. It is also exciting because three of the producers are Filipino-Americans namely New York based Gigi Dement (who is originally from Baguio) and Stephen Dypiangco (filmaker and Producer of Marketing and Distribution PMD) who grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He earned his BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his MFA in Film Production from NYU. The other producer also based in New York is Stefanie Walmsley, who stated that being nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures is like a ‘Cinderella’ story for her. She used to host the Philippines’ top rated variety show ‘Eat Bulaga’ and has appeared in theatre, TV shows, and numerous commercials. She is working as production coordinator for HBO but she talks about going back to the Philippines ‘ to chase the ultimate dream of mine’ which is to assist in getting independent films funded and produced in the Philippines.

This is a historic moment when there are growing number of Fil-Am nominees voted to the Oscar awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Good luck to the Filipino Oscar Nominee/Contender Class of 2011:
Hailee Steinfeld, Best Actress, TRUE GRIT
Matthew Libatique, Cinematography, BLACK SWAN
Gigi Dement, producer, Best Live Action Short, GOD OF LOVE
Stephen Dypiangco, producer, Best Live Action Short, GOD OF LOVE
Stefanie Walmsley, producer, Best Live Action Short, GOD OF LOVE

The Red Carpet is being rolled out. The Gold Drape is furnished. The stage is set. Let us support the Fil-Am nominees at the 83rd Academy Awards. And after the glitz and glamour and parties, let us continue our support as they and countless others in cinema and theatre endeavour to tell the ‘story’ which we all can connect to.