‘Birdshot’ earns rave review from Hollywood bible Variety

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Mary Joy Apostol in 'Birdshot.'

Mikhail Red’s “Birdshot” has been making the rounds of international film festivals since last year.

According to producer Pamela Reyes, the film has graced 15 film festivals to date, including the ongoing Cinemalaya Film Festival where it was invited to be its opening film and the coming Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino where it is one of 12 official entries.

It also won Best Film in the Asian Future section of the Tokyo International Film Festival and was cited with a Special Mention award in the Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival.

The film has likewise generated thumbs-up reviews from the Asian American Press, The Knockturnal, Genkinahito, Comicsverse and ScreenDaily.

Not surprisingly, Hollywood trade publication Variety took notice of “Birdshot” and posted its own review last Monday, August 7.

“Tenderness and brutality exist side-by-side in “Birdshot,” the impressive second feature by young Filipino filmmaker Mikhail Red (“Rekorder”). Intertwining the stories of a farm girl who unwittingly kills a protected bird and an idealistic rookie cop who succumbs to corruption during a missing persons investigation, Red delivers a compelling study in the loss of innocence while also offering potent commentary on the state of things in the Philippines,” wrote reviewer Richard Kuipers.

In addition to being impressed with “Birdshot” as a whole, Kuipers also raved about Red’s direction and cited individual members of the film’s cast and crew.

“Filmed in earthy tones with splashes of red in significant items of clothing and set decoration, “Birdshot” is wonderfully well directed and performed. Impressive newcomer Apostol has a magnetic screen presence and holds her own in the company of reliable pros Reyes and Arcilla. Haunting soundscapes by composer Teresa Barozzo, a frequent collaborator of Brillante Mendoza, rounds out the film’s classy technical presentation,” Kuipers concluded.

Following the film’s well-received Cinemalaya screening, the film also held another advanced screening at the Shangri-La Cineplex Tuesday night. Red says the film was inspired by a 2008 shooting of an endangered Philippline eagle.

‘Birdshot’ cast and crew members pose onstage at the CCP Main Theater during the film’s Cinemalaya opening night screening. From left, Ku Aquino, Mary Joy Apostol, Mikhail Red, John Arcilla, Pamela Reyes, Arnold Reyes and TBA president Vincent Nebrida.

“Rangers started searching for clues on the missing bird’s whereabouts. They eventually found the deactivated transmitter as well as the feathers and severed leg of the national bird. The culprit was a young farmer who lived near the conservation,” the young filmmaker recalled.

Red added that under the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (RA 9147), killing a critically endangered species is punishable by 6 years and 1 day to 12 years in prison or a fine of P100,000 up to P1 million.

“As a storyteller and filmmaker, the news article fascinated me and had me pondering on the layered problems that modern Philippine society faces. It forced me to question our priorities as a third world nation and how conserving the wildlife and protecting a national symbol, a national bird, fit in the whole picture,” he further pointed out.

Red has been working on the film shortly after finishing his debut feature “Rekorder” back in 2013. In 2014, Reyes applied for several grants to help finance the project. The following year, she caught a break when the Doha Film Institute agreed to give Red a grant, the first time the Qatar-based organization helped fund a film by a Filipino filmmaker.

That same year, Red and Reyes held a casting call for the young female lead that was won by relative newcomer Mary Joy Apostol, whose previous big screen credit was Reyes’ own short film “Unawa” in 2012.

Apostol’s performance has been widely praised as well as that of fellow cast members John Arcilla, Arnold Reyes, Ku Aquino and Dido dela Paz.

Other international organizations that helped made the project possible are the Asian Project Market and the Produire au Sud. Officially, “Birdshot” is a PelikulaRed Productions presented by TBA Studios and Globe Studios.

Globe Studios will provide marketing support for the film when it opens nationwide on August 16.

Watch the official trailer here: