‘Balangiga: Howling Wilderness’ leads FAMAS winners

A scene from FAMAS Best Picture winner 'Balangiga: Howling Wilderness'

Khavn dela Cruz’s “Balangiga: Howling Wilderness” won five awards to lead all winners at the 66th Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences or FAMAS awwards held Sunday, June 10 at The Theatre at Solaire in Pasay City.

The controversial wartime drama won Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay (for Dela Cruz, Khav, Achinette Villamor and Jerry Gracio), Best Cinematography (Albert Banzon), Best Production Design (Marija Vicente, Timmy Harn and Zeus Bascon), and Best Original Song (“Katurog Na”).

“Balangiga” was originally an entry in last year’s QCinema Film Festival where it won four awards including Best Picture and Best Director. At the time of its original theatrical run at QCinema, the film was embroiled in two separate controversies regarding the sudden re-classification of its original General Patronage rating to Restricted (R-13) and the outrage made public by the Philippine Animal Welfare Society over alleged scenes of animal cruelty.

Despite these controversies, “Balangiga” went on to be regarded by critics as one of the year’s best movies and was nominated for 11 awards in this year’s FAMAS race. Moreover, it was also nominated for 10 awards in the coming Gawad Urian derby, the winners of which will be announced this June 14.

Another FAMAS big winner this year is Dan Villegas’ “Changing Partners” which won Best Actress for Agot Isidro and Best Adapted Screenplay for Vincent de Jesus and Lilit Reyes based on the acclaimed musical by Vincent de Jesus. “Changing Partners” was also a big winner when it made its big screen debut last year at the Cinema One Originals Film Festival. It won six awards including Best Actress for Isidro.

Arnel Barbarona’s riveting lumad drama, “Tu Pug Imatuy (The Right to Kill)” won 1st Place Grand Jury Prize and Best Director while Treb Monteras’ “Respeto” which led all nominees with 15 nominations won 2nd Place Grand Jury Prize and Best Musical Score for Jay Durias.

Indie favorite Allen Dizon won Best Actor for his performance in Ralston Jover’s “Bomba” as expected but the supporting acting wins of Mon Confiado (Best Supporting Actor for “Mga Gabing Kasinghaba ng Hair Ko” and Odette Khan (Best Supporting Actress for “Bar Boys”) were some of the night’s biggest surprises.

Victor Tagaro and and Toshihiko Uriu’s “Yield” won Best Documentary Film and Best Editing while another Cinema One Originals entry, Shireen Seno’s “Nervous Translation” won Best Sound for Mikko Quizon, Jason Conanan, Kathrine Salinas and John Perez.

Jason Paul Laxamana’s “Instalado,” an entry in last year’s ToFarm Film Festival won Best Visual Effects for Ian Arondaing. PR Patindol’s “Hilom” was adjudged as Best Short Film while Karl Gleen Barit’s “Aliens Ata” and Beverly Anne Ramos’ “Dory” won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Film.

If this year’s winners were dominated by indie productions compared to previous years where the FAMAS was the domain of mainstream movies, it’s because the FAMAS, once considered as the most prestigious award-giving body for film comparable to the Academy Awards of the United States, has undergone a major facelift.

For the first time in its history, the FAMAS winners were chosen by an independent jury composed of movie practitioners, academicians and critics headed by award-winning screenwriter Ricky Lee. The involvement of The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) as its official government partner for this year’s awards also helped the FAMAS in regaining some of its lost prestige during previous years.

Special awards were also distributed to the following:

Comedy King Dolphy Memorial Award: Vice Ganda

Male and Female Celebrity of the Night: Joshua Garcia and Julia Barretto

Lifetime Achievement Award: Lav Diaz

Fernando Poe Jr Award: Coco Martin

German Moreno Youth Achievement Award: Awra and Julie Anne San Jose

Male Face of the Night: JC Santos

Female Face of the Night: Max Eigenmann