THERE IS much excitement and buzz in Filipino film circles these days following the announcement that a local movie has made it to the shortlist of films under consideration for the Oscar awards’ Best Foreign Film race.
The film is Donsol, and is the story of a lonesome BIO, or Butanding Interaction Officer and a widowed breast cancer survivor who meet and connect during the butanding (whale shark) watching season in Donsol, Sorsogon. It stars Sid Lucero and Angel Aquino and is directed by Adolf Alix, Jr., whose latest work, Tambolista, is a finalist in this year’s Cinema One Originals film festival. Donsol was a finalist in the 2006 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival where it won Best Actress and Best Cinematography honours. The film was screened in several international film festivals abroad and garnered Special Jury prizes in the Asian Marine Film Festival in Japan and in the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in the US before being chosen as the Philippines’ official submission to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film race.
Each year, five films are chosen to compete for the coveted Oscar trophy. The Philippines has come close to the final list of five several times, but has never made it. This year, the latest report coming out of Hollywood is that Donsol has made it past the first round. There were 60-plus films submitted for consideration; the number was cut down by about half, and the films that made it are now being screened at Palm Beach, at a pre-Oscar event. The five films that will compete in the Oscars in January 2008 will be chosen from among those being screened at Palm Beach.
Alix is pleased that his film has made it past the first round, but says that getting into the final five is a long shot. “It depends on a lot of factors, like being able to promote your film, for one thing,” says the director. “The Academy has thousands of members, and you have to send screener copies of the film to all of them, not to mention mount an aggressive marketing campaign to get it noticed.”Despite this, Alix continues to make his mark in the independent film scene. Billed as one of the “new voices” in Philippine cinema, Alix graduated from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila with a degree in Mass Communications. After graduating, he worked as an apprentice to director Gil Portes, whose film Mga Munting Tinig, which Adolf co-wrote — won Best Picture honors at the Star, FAMAS and Urian awards. It also earned Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Director nods at the Palm Beach International Film Festival in 2003. The film was eventually bought by Warner Brothers for distribution.