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PIA Press Release

Davao film wins best picture in Cinema One film festival

by RG Alama

Davao City (28 November) -- "Huling Balyan sa Buhi" (The last priestess of Buhi) a Davao-made film and one of the entries in the second Cinema One Originals film festival won major awards including the coveted best picture during the festival's awards night held last November 25 at Teatrino Greenhills in San Juan, Metro Manila.

A story about a tribal priestess and her people set in the backdrop of a raging communist insurgency in the hinterlands, the film aside from the best picture plum also copped best screenplay, best director for 21-year old Sherad Anthony Sanchez and special jury citation for best ensemble acting.

The special jury acting citation was in recognition for the outstanding acting performance for the whole neophyte cast of the movie, a mix of Davao City-based actors, Matigsalog indigenous community and residents of Barangay Napalico in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato of where major parts of the film were shot.

The film's major cast of first-time actors and actresses included former Radyo ng Bayan Anchorwoman Marilyn Roque, elementary school teacher Jelieta Ruca Phd. Ed., and Marahan resident Ronald Arquelles.

Amidst its star-studded competition, Huling Balyan's unconventional casting made it as one of the festival's unique entries.

It was a sweet victory for the film, which faced budgetary problems prompting it to overhaul and reshoot the entire movie using guerilla filmmaking techniques. Racing against time, the movie's post-production was completed hours before its premiere last November 23.

Director Sanchez said that the film was perhaps the first ethnographic piece about an indigenous people in southern Mindanao. Sanchez spent months immersing in a Mandaya community in Maragusan, Compostela Valley researching about the balyan or a Mandaya tribal priestess whose practices is slowly disappearing in the advent of modernity.

The film's triumph is a testament to the filmmaking potential of Davao. The movie was basically made in the city. Post-production from non-linear editing to musical scoring was done at the state-of-the art Alchemy of Vision and Light studios. The film also utilized local crew members for the film's production process.

Cinema One Original film festival is a project of ABS-CBN's Creative Programs Inc. (CPI) geared in promoting alternative filmmaking. The participating entries were given a seed money of P700,000 to complete the production of their films.

The other entries included Ruelo Lozendo, Wilfredo Galila and Dennis Impalmado's Pandanggo, Rome and Juliet by Connie Macatuno, Lawrence Fajardo's Raket ni Nanay, Cris Pablo's Metlogs, Rekados by Paolo Herras and Seroks of Ed Lejano.

The film festival's jury was comprised of film director Olivia Lamasan, film actress Gina Alajar, film critic Miguel Rapatan and film historian Teddy Co and an international film festival programmer.

Aside from the awards it gotten, "Huling Balyan ng Buhi" was also nominated for best sound, production design, cinematography and audience award for the best picture.

Huling Balyan ng Buhi is presented by Salida Davao and the Alchemy of Vision and Lights Film and Television Productions with the support of Gov. Manny PiƱol and the Provincial Government of North Cotabato. (PIA XI) [top]

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