TOKYO — Over a dozen Filipino filmmakers and stars walked the red carpet here as the 32nd edition of the city’s international film festival kicked off Monday.
The Philippines has a strong presence at the prestigious industry gathering, running until November 5, with eight productions making world or Japan premieres in four categories.
"Mañanita," directed by Paul Soriano and starring Bela Padilla, leads the pack as a Main Competition entry, making its world debut.
The Lav Diaz-penned project, which had been kept under wraps prior to the announcement of its inclusion in the Tokyo film fest, was described as a "transcendental, journey film" by Soriano. Padilla, meanwhile, said the project is a first for her as an actress, noting that its "arthouse" treatment was drawn from an eight-page script.
Also making its world premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), via the Asian Future section, is the horror film "Motel Acacia." Directed by Philippines-based Malaysian director Bradley Liew and starring JC Santos, the collaboration with Filipino producer Bianca Balbuena aims to pave the way for more co-productions among Southeast Asian countries.
Two Philippine films are joining the World Focus section this year: "Mindanao" from TIFF regular Brillante Mendoza, with Judy Ann Santos in the lead role; and "Food Lore: Island of Dreams" from Erik Matti.
Another Matti film, "Kuwaresma (The Entity)," is being screened in the Crosscut Asia section, alongside fellow Philippine entries "Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay" from Antoinette Jadaone, "The Halt" from Lav Diaz, and "Untrue" from Sigrid Bernardo.
Jadaone said she was "super happy" not only because of the Japan premiere of "Six Degrees," eight years after its original release, but also because her project is in "great company" with other local films in the festival.
Actresses Mara Lopez and Pinky Amador represented "The Halt" at TIFF. Diaz, they told ABS-CBN News, was at that time en route to the Vienna International Film Festival, where the film is also participating.
"Makikita mo talaga 'yung laki ng respeto ng mga juror, ng mga co-directors, producers pagdating sa isang Lav Diaz na pelikula," Amador said, with Lopez agreeing that it is an "honor" to be a part of a film from the director.
Bernardo, meanwhile, expressed confidence that Filipino filmmaking will continue to make strides in the international scene, contrary to the impression that the industry has been "struggling."
"Ang daming emerging filmmakers, ang daming new, exciting ideas na hindi lang natin nakikita. I think the real problem is the distribution in the Philippines, kasi ang nakikita lang nila ay 'yung usual. We have lots of films and lots of new ideas," she said.
'Motel Acacia' actor JC Santos, production designer Benjamin Padero, producer Bianca Balbuena, and director Bradley Liew attend TIFF 2019. ABS-CBN News
'The Halt' actresses Mara Lopez and Pinky Amador attend TIFF 2019. ABS-CBN News
'Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay' director Antoinette Jadaone attends TIFF 2019 with partner, filmmaker Dan Villegas, and actor Carlo Cannu. ABS-CBN News
'Mañanita' director Paul Soriano and actress Bela Padilla attend TIFF 2019. Alfredo Ruzol, ABS-CBN News
'The Entity' actor Kent Gonzales attends TIFF 2019. Alfredo Ruzol, ABS-CBN News
'Untrue' director Sigrid Bernardo and cinematographer Boy Yñiguez (with wife Mitos Yñiguez) attend TIFF 2019. Alfredo Ruzol, ABS-CBN News