‘MANA’ IS BEST FEATURE FILM, CHERIE GIL BEST ACTRESS IN MADRID INTERNATIONAL FILM FEST
by Pablo A. Tariman
Cherie Gil’s winning streak in the international film fest circuit continues when she won Best Actress in the film, “Mana” directed by Gabby Fernandez in the recently concluded Madrid International Film Festival in Spain Saturday night (July11).
She earlier won Best Actress in the film “Sonata” directed by Peque Gallaga and Lore Reyes in the ASEAN International Film Festival in Jakarta.
Cherie won over seven other actresses from other countries namely Susie Porter (Is This The Real World), Rachelo Hurd-Wood (Highway to Dhampus), Tilda Cobham-Hervey (One-Eyed Girl), Lily Rabe (Reemption Trail), Mary Krohnert (Nocturne), Ira Dubey (M Cream), Carlotta Elektra Bosch (The Amateur).
The Cherie Gil-starrer “Mana” directed by Gabby Fernandez was also declared Best Feature Film winning over 14 other entries from all over the world.
In his award-winning film, Fernandez zeroes in on a family quite unsettled on what to do with a family secret. The result is a beautiful film with old-world charm. “I think I managed to portray two lifetimes in Mana,” reveals Fernandez who was art director in the Peque Gallaga-Lore Reyes film, Magic Kingdom (1997), Gangland (1998) and Puso ng Pasko (1998). “I was (and still am) fascinated by the sophisticated culture and the strong sense of folklore that is inherent in modern Negros society.”
He admitted he came up with Mana for the reason that sibling relationships and family dynamics have always been a part of his art. He is the eighth of nine children with some 40 plus first-degree cousins. “In Mana, I wanted to capture the complex nature that goes into the structure of big families — something very common with Filipino families in the earlier days.”
Like it or not, Mana has the resonance of Oro, Plata, Mata but the story is focused on family ties and ends in a shocking revelation of a family secret.
The Madrid International Film Festival brochure says the festival prefers film selections that is “neither too traditional nor too sophisticated, a selection that is the most international in the world, open to all film types and yet never forgetting our over-riding passion- that of the love of film, a selection that is attentive to the arrival of new generations and which combines all the necessary conditions for the films to be hosted and honoured in the great tradition of film makers around the world.”
Carl Tooney, president of the Madrid International Film Festival says the film fest encourages film selection that “seizes the best of the moment, a selection that creates desire, that triggers curiosity, that carries that certain vitality which currently fills film today and gives a hint of the film of tomorrow, a selection that helps these films, cinema, its creators and artists to exist and to continue their work.”
The Philippine Star in its earlier review of “Mana” by this writer noted the superb ensemble of actors who blended with the mysterious story of the film. The actors who portrayed the siblings were a remarkable lot from Cherie to Mark, from Jaime to Epi, and specially the politician in Ricky. Cherie delivers an acting coup in all her confrontation scenes with members of the family.
Moreover, the ensemble acting was at its best in the performances of Archie Adamos, Dwight Gaston, Bart Guingona, Leo Rialp and Joel Saracho. Who can forget the image of Joe Gruta who gives you more mysterious clues about the goings-on in the house? Even Rene Durian as the family doctor looks like the old-world physician indeed. Fides Cuyugan Asencio as the matriarch has a commanding presence in the film with close-ups of her ailing body. Wailing day in and day out, Fides carves a portrait of a matriarch trying to settle a family issue. Her speaking and wailing voices are simply operatic and as she rises from the bed to finally part with her inheritance, you get to know the family’s best-kept secret. It is a distinguished piece of acting from La Asencio.
Throughout the film, you see the superb production design of Rodell Cruz and the competent cinematography of Lee Briones–Meilly, giving the film an overwhelming layer of grace and patent old world-charm.
Of course, the film’s other most engrossing features are the film editing of Lawrence Fajardo and the musical score of Von de Guzman.
Asked what was special working with Gil even as she eludes Manila’s award’s giving bodies, Fernandez said: “Cherie brings such a level of sophistication and subtlety to her character and to her preparation that is unmatched. I think the reason why she is not as appreciated and honored by industry as much as she deserves is because she doesn’t ‘go for the result’ — no stereotypical, over-the-top acting. Even when she is required to portray such roles, she does it with certain truthfulness. She never delivers caricatures or cardboard characters. And let’s face it — Pinoy audiences love caricatures and stereotypes.”
Gil is presently working on a new Lav Diaz film shot in Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon.