‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’ leads QCinema 2017 winners

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A scene from 'Balangiga: Howling Wilderness.'

Despite a ratings dispute with festival organizers, Khavn dela Cruz’s wartime drama, “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” won four Pylon awards to lead all winners at the QCinema International Film Festival’s awards night held Thursday at Novotel Manila Araneta Center.

In winning the Circle Competition Best Picture award, “Balangiga” was cited for its “solid vision, with sensitive performances paired with strong visual, aural and poetic narrative. It is an elegy to the tragic history of the Philippines as seen through the eyes of a boy that is both a celebration and a lamentation of humanity.”

The film also won Best Director, Best Actor for child performer Justine Samson and Best Supporting Actor for Pio del Rio, who Khavn said he discovered during the film’s location shoot.

Set against the backdrop of the infamous Balangiga massacre of 1901 during the Philippine-American war, “Balangiga” became controversial when its self-imposed rating of GP or General Patronage was changed by QCinema to R-13 after only two screenings. Festival organizers later explained that the rating was “due to the film’s mature theme and to several scenes depicting nudity, violence, gore, and frequent use of mature language and expletives.”

Khavn himself received the awards on behalf of his film’s winners and was mostly calm and thankful to those involved in the making of “Balangiga” but lamented, “I wish I could receive this award under better circumstances” during his Best Director acceptance speech.

In an interview with InterAksyon and other media after the awards ceremonies, the maverick director dubbed as “the father of digital filmmaking” and known for his unconventional style reiterated his desire to have “Balangiga” seen by young children.

Khavn dela Cruz and co-producer Edong Canlas accepting the Best Film award for ‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’. (Photo courtesy of producer Achinette Villamor)

“We want this film to be seen by the kids, the Waray kids, mga taga Samar, pati mga taga Manila, buong Pilipinas, mga anak ko, sa mga kaklase ng mga anak ko. I want kids to see this as we intended this to be a children’s film. We don’t think Filipino children are stupid,” he pointed out.

In its post-review of “Balangiga,” QCinema noted that the film’s “gory scenes in context with the mature theme may be too disturbing and traumatizing for young children. Therefore, only viewers 13 years old and above can be admitted into the theater.”

Khavn added that with only two days left in the festival, he and his producers have already given up hope of regaining the original GP rating of “Balangiga.” They, however, vowed to appeal for a GP or PG (Parental Guidance) rating with the Movie and Television Review Classification for the film’s regular theatrical run that they will soon announce.

QCinema honors the filmmakers of The Circle Competition entries. At center is Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte and QCinema festival director Ed Lejano. (Photo courtesy of QCinema)

Aside from “Balangiga,” three other entries won two awards each. James Robin Mayo’s tribal comedy-drama, “The Chanters” won Best Screenplay for Andrian Legaspi and John Bedia and Best Actress for Jally Nae Gilbaliga.

Emerson Reyes’ ensemble dramedy, “Dormitoryo (Mga Walang Katapusang Kwarto)” won Best Supporting Actress for Sheenly Gener and the festival’s Gender Sensitivity Award for “its ensemble gathering of various characters with diverse sexual leanings and preferences that hilariously portrays acceptance of reversals in stereotypes.”

The cast and crew of “Dormitoryo’ pose with their trophies at the QCinema awards night Thursday. (Photo courtesy of QCinema)

Mikhail Red’s gritty film noir, “NeoManila” won the Audience Choice award and Best Artistic Achievement for cinematographer Mycko David.

“Dapol Tan Payawar Na Tayug 1931 (The Ashes and Ghosts of Tayug 1931)” by Christopher Gozum won the NETPAC Jury Award for “making aware how important it is to recognize and acknowledge a people’s history to develop their identity and the nation as a whole.”

The other Circle Competition entries were Dominic Lim’s “The Write Moment,” Pam Miras’ “Medusae,” and Jobin Ballesteros’ “Kulay Lila Ang Gabi Na Binudburan Pa Ng Mga Bituin.”

The Circle Competition jurors were composed of director Erik Matti, actress Bela Padilla, Malaysian new media content strategist Najwa Abubakar, French-Cambodian filmmaker Davy Chou and international film festival organizer Axel Estein.

In the QC Shorts roster, “Babylon” by Keith Deligero, won Best Picture, “Gikan Sa Ngitngit Nga Kinailadman” by Kiri Dalena won the Jury Prize while Phyllis Grande’s “Kun ‘Di Man” was presented with the Audience Choice Award.

QCinema also raised a toast to foreign female directors as it presents an all-women slate of winners for its international categories.

“Close-Knit” by Naoko Ogigami was recognized as the Rainbow QC Best Picture while the
Jury Prize” went to Eliza Hittman’s “Beach Rats.” In the Asian Next Wave section, Mouly Surya’s “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” won Best Film while Kiki Sugino collected the “Jury Prize” for “Snow Woman.”