Friday, September 16, 2011

Philippine Oscar Entry: Ang Babae sa Septic Tank


The Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP), which has been officially deciding on the Philippines's entry to the Academy Awards since 1984, has selected Ang Babae sa Septic Tank this year (official press release here). I believe that this is the best choice among their options (which includes Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington, which I otherwise loved) because of the following:

- The film pokes fun at the common trappings (or tropes, if you will) of local indie films, from the slow takes and lack of dialogue to the urban poor setting. In this way, the film does not take itself or its own identity as an indie film too seriously, while still paying homage to the efforts of indie filmmakers past and present. The international community has seen many of our indies and may be over-saturated with the tropes, so it's refreshing to have a film that revels in its own indie sensibilities while otherwise scrutinizing its predecessors.

- It is a film about filmmaking, and a film targeting the Oscars at that! Academy voters may like the reference to their institution, as they had shown in such instances as awarding Best Actress in 1979 to Dame Maggie Smith for playing an Oscar-nominated actress in California Suite (though this didn't work too well for the 2006 film For Your Consideration). Similar foreign-language films on the industry, like Francois Truffaut's Day for Night (winner of Best Foreign Language Film in 1974) and Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso (winner of the category in 1990), have been well received. This year, the French film The Artist, which is about an actor facing the potential demise of silent cinema in the wake of the introduction of sound, is being significantly buzzed as a potential Best Picture nominee.

- The film is extremely well acted, from the principal actors to the minors. Eugene Domingo is, as usual, excellent, and one of her key scenes here is the "Three Types of Acting" scene (you can see it here). Voters might eat that up. Generally, acting showcases are highly regarded by the Academy.

The problem with Zombadings, which I imagine would have been among the other top choices of the FAP Oscar committee given its critical and box office performance, is that a lot (or all) of the fun of it will be lost in translation. How can non-Filipino speakers know the difference between normal Filipino and the gay lingo?

I personally love the choice that FAP has made this year and commend them for it. Hopefully, the film gets at least a limited run in US theaters so as to make it eligible for the Golden Globes and other pre-Oscar awards, so that the momentum takes it to a place where no other Filipino film has gone before.

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