AS the dust settles on the 39th edition of the highly esteemed Gawad Urian, it’s time for a few thoughts about the show and a night of both the expected and the unforeseen.
Coming into the awards night, there were already a few glaring omissions on the list of nominations. There was even a filmmaker who was nominated even if his film did not score any citation in any of the other categories, and some reckon that he made the shortlist because he is somehow considered a film icon.
But as one nominee so eloquently mentioned in a preawards interview, it all boils down to taste and preference, plus a whole lot of other “human factors” in how a voting member will cast his or her vote. “Awards remain to be a collective decision of a very small group of people. Excellence in one’s art remains unquantifiable and immeasurable, perceived and received differently in varying degrees from person to person. I believe in awards and the help it can give to a person or a group, but I also acknowledge that it is subject to preference, taste, and the collective emotions of a group of people within a specific period of time,” a recent nominee was quoted as saying. This nominee did not win in his category.
After the awards ceremony, people got into the business of talking about the show, the celebrities and who they were wearing, and, of course, the results. There were discussions on who deserved their trophies, who were just lucky, and so on and so forth.
Many asked why Taklub, Brillante Mendoza’s film about survivors of the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon Yolanda, bagged the top award for Best Picture, when the film did not score any win in any other category.
Well, it’s not the first time this happened at the Urian. In 2013 Arnel Mardoquio’s Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim also did not win in any other category but still romped away with Best Film from the critics’ group. Perhaps the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino has its own criteria in selecting which film it is going to honor with the top plum, and it is not Mendoza’s fault at all that his film won as Best Picture. Mendoza, as a filmmaker, has time and again made the country proud with the films he makes, and we can never underscore his capacity as a leading filmmaker of our times.
Those who are more opinionated, however, were one in saying that, logically, the Best Film honor should have gone to Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna,which won the plums for direction, cinematography, editing and sound. Well, that didn’t happen.
More interesting is the Urian’s decision to give its Best Actress award to LJ Reyes. Let me be clear that we don’t question the performance the winner gave in Jun Lana’s Anino sa Likod ng Buwan. Again it’s not her fault she was declared the best among the eight actresses nominated.
But most of the questions revolved around the citation that Manunuri Chairman Gigi Javier Alfonso read during the announcement of winner, which we quote in part: “ Si LJ Reyes, sa pelikulang ito, ay na-sustain niya sa buong pelikula ang pagiging interesado ng manonood sa daloy ng istorya. Kinakailangan niyang isaulo ang lahat ng linya at i-master nang tuluy-tuloy na halos dalawang oras na performance mula umpisa hanggang dulo, one long take, actual time. Napakita niya ang whole range mula sa tahimik na pag-ganap, sa pagkulo ng tensyon at pagsabog ng lahat ng paninibugho ng dibdib.”
The truth is, Anino sa Likod ng Buwan was not shot in one whole take. From very reliable sources, the film was shot in five days, so therefore, the premise of the voting members that the film was shot in one long take and that Reyes delivered her lines for almost two hours, one long take, actual time, is inaccurate. And if it was the basis of why the members voted for her, then she might have won for the wrong reasons.
In recent film history, only two Filipino full-length films were shot in one whole, long take, and both were directed by Visayan filmmaker Remton Zuasola. The first, Ang Damgo ni Eleuteria, won big at the 2011 Urian, taking the trophies for film, music. cinematography and direction. Last year, Zuasola also finished a film titled SWAP, which won the Silver Hanoman Award at the Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival.
We also observed some interesting sidelights in the proceedings. When Sheron Dayoc’s The Crescent Rising was announced as Best Documentary, a woman went up the stage to receive the award on his behalf. But she did not introduce herself in her emotional acceptance speech, perhaps overwhelmed by the film’s victory. So the audience thought that she was the filmmaker.
Big winners John Lloyd Cruz (for Honor Thy Father) and LJ Reyes arrived shortly before the top acting categories were handed out. Perhaps this has become a practice in local awards ceremonies. We clearly remember during the 2013 Urian, eventual best actor winner Jericho Rosales arrived at the NBC Tent in Taguig a few minutes before the Best Actor segment was to be announced. Were they told they would win? The reason they attended the event and came just in time for the announcement? Only the winning actors and their handlers would know for sure, and they’d never ever admit to this.
Even if he was quoted in a post-awards interview that he was not expecting to win, and he thought John Arcilla of Heneral Luna was going to win, Cruz came with a prepared thank-you speech. Arcilla was a no-show.
We also noticed that even for a highly regarded and prestigious awards ceremony, most of the big-name nominees will not show up if they’re not tipped to win. This year, there were eleven lead actors, eight lead actresses, eight supporting actors, seven supporting actresses, and we can easily count how many showed up. It’s just sad this has become the norm in the Philippine entertainment industry.
On a cheerful note, we like the fact that past winners made time to come back to serve as presenters in the same categories they won the previous year. It has become an Urian tradition and this year, last year’s top acting winners Eula Valdes, Allen Dizon, Martin del Rosario and Gladys Reyes all came to uphold it.
Despite the raised eyebrows in some of the results, the omissions and the flaws, the Urian trophy still remains the most aspired award to take home in the local film industry. It has a premium that other trophies don’t have.
Until the next Gawad Urian.