I arrived home yesterday from Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia. I attended the AIFFA (ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards) as a representative of Sonata. I was with other filmmakers and actors and actresses from the Philippines including Cherie Gil, Allen Dizon (representing Magkakabaung), JM Rodriguez, and Mercedes Cabral (both representing Red).
It is my first international film festival and I had no idea what to expect. We met a lot of industry players from different countries around the ASEAN region and I made friends with producers, directors, and actors and actresses from Malaysia and Singapore and Vietnam. It was an amazing experience.
And Cherie Gil and I came thinking Sonata was just on exhibition and had no idea that it was up for competition and it had managed to garner three nominations — Best Actress for Cherie Gil, Best Cinematography (Mark Gary), and Best Screenplay (uhm… that’s me!).
Not only did Sonata receive three nominations, but several Filipino films received multiple nominations and there was a Filipino nominee in every category! There were 17 nominations total for the Philippines, the most from any ASEAN country. The Best Actress category was dominated heavily by Filipinas with four of the nominees coming from the Philippines. The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award is Nora Aunor, who is being celebrated for her dedication and craft to the film industry and for being recognised for her significant contributions to ASEAN films in having been in countless of movies that have been seen internationally.
After they announced the nomination night, the Philippine delegation went to the bar Drunken Monkey were we celebrated and closed the bar and just so happy to have our films recognised, especially because not one single jury member is from the Philippines. The jury members were composed by distinguished filmmakers and critics from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and India. So, we believe there really was no favouritism on the part of the judges. It felt really good.
At the awards night, we came home with several awards including Best Director (Joseph Israel Laban, Nuwebe), Best Editing (Benjamin Tolentino, Bendor), ASEAN Spirit Award (Purok 7), and Best Actress (Cherie Gil, Sonata).
It was a great feeling to be part of the delegation that brought home the most awards and nominations. We were all feeling so great and, this time, the post-award party celebration had us hanging out and celebrating with members from different countries and just having a great time. It was a lovely, lovely evening.
It was a lovely, lovely time in Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia.