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24 August 2013

Our Entry for the 2014 Oscars Best Foreign Language Film Category: "Nora or Vilma?"

Oscar image
(Property of AMPAS)
*First Update, August 28, 2013 (9:00 P.M., Manila Time)
*Sept.11 Update: "Transit" is showing in Ayala Cinemas from Sept. 11 to 17. Seven days exactly. This will make the movie eligible for selection
*Sept 18 Update: FAP chose "Transit" as official entry

It is Oscar Season! Well, it is not the Hollywood kind but the Philippine Oscar season.  In a month or so, the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) will select the Philippine’s entry to the 86th Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Category.  According to the Oscars rules:

The motion picture must be first released in the country submitting it no earlier than October 1, 2012, and no later than September 30, 2013, and be first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater for the profit of the producer and exhibitor. (Source:

Accordingly, the FAP has approximately 35 days to make a final choice.  On August 16, the FAP Oscar committee released their shortlist of eight films, which included some critically panned films like "El Presente," "Supremo" and "Dance of the Steel Bars." "Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles" received fairly good reviews, but, is it really the kind of film that will impress Academy voters? The FAP's list may actually explain why we will never win an Oscar any time soon. The problem may be the selection process and the industry's neglect of more outstanding independent films that never even get distributed commercially. 

Brun Philippines has decided to make its own shortlist. Of all the Filipino films commercially released from October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013, the following seven films are strong contenders based on accumulated positive reviews from many local film critics. However, this is not the final list yet. Other more noteworthy films can catch up if politics does not get in the way.

  • Aparisyon” (Dir., Vincent Sandoval) Released on March 20, 2013
  • Boses” (Dir., Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil) Released on July 31, 2013
  • Ekstra” (Dir., Jeffrey Jeturian) Released on August 14, 2013
  • "OTJ" On the Job (Dir. Erik Matti) Released on  August 28, 2013
  • Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay” (Dir., Antoinette Jadaone) Released on October 31, 2012
  • Sana Dati” (Dir., Jerrold Tarog) Scheduled released on September 25, 2013
  • Thy Womb” (Dir., Brillante Mendoza) Released on December 25, 2012


Boses” is actually a 2008 film and it has already been exhibited in many film festivals in other countries but it only just had its commercial run in the country last July 31.  Rule 13 of the Academy Award specifies that a film must be “first publicly exhibited for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater.” This is also the case of “Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay, (2011)” which only had its commercial release on October 31, 2012. (I still need to verify if it completed its 7-day run.)

Erik Matti's "On the Job"
was screened in Cannes and
was reported to have a US
Unfortunately, many other outstanding independent films were produced in the last quarter of 2012 and in the first to second quarter of 2013 but most of them have yet to be released in commercial cinemas.  As such, the number of quality films to choose from is limited.  Among the lucky few, “Aparisyon” managed to squeeze in a play date during the lean days of the Holy Week. (Again, I still need to verify if the film completed its 7-day run.)

"On the Job," which was included in the Directors' Fortnight in the 66th Cannes Film Festival, was finally shown on August 28 and I think it will complete its 7-day run so it will be eligible.  Sana Dati,” which won Best Film (Directors Showcase) in Cinemalaya is scheduled to be released on September 25.

Interestingly, critically acclaimed films like “Debosyon,” “Quick Change,” and “Transit,” which took most of the major awards in the 9th Cinemalaya Film Festival, are not yet eligible for selection unless these films get released commercially before the October 1, 2013 deadline. Gawad Urian's Best Film for 2012, "Ang Paglalakbay ng mga Bituin sa Gabing Madilim" is yet to be distributed in mainstream cinema.

Nora Aunor in "Thy Womb" and Vilm Santos in "Ekstra"

For those die-hard fans of Nora Aunor ("Thy Womb") and Vilma Santos ("Ekstra"), it is interesting that the two giants of Philippine cinema will once again go face-to-face because their two highly acclaimed films are strong contenders as our Philippine entry.  Who will be going the Oscars? Will it be Nora or Vilma or will Irma Adlawan and the rest of the “Transit” team manage a miracle at the eleventh hour?  I guess we will have to wait until the powers-that-be in Philippine cinema make a move. After all, everything is politics.  

In a perfect world directed by Steven Spielberg, any of the following films would be chosen to represent the country in the 86th Oscars, that is, if moneyed distributors gave these films a chance to have, at least, a 7-day run in commercial theaters.  In the end, we have to realize that the Oscar is not the sum total of world cinema. 


National Artist Manuel Conde
(Genghis Khan, 1950)
Released in the U.S. in 1953

1. The Oscar statuette does not really go to the director of the winning film.  The director only receives the award in behalf of the country.  The director does not personally win the award.  Most Oscar statuettes are displayed in museums of the winning country.  For example, Akira Kurosawa has directed two Best Foreign Language Film award-winning pictures but his 1990 Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement was the only Oscar personally attributed to him.

2. The language of the film does not necessarily have to be one of the official languages of the submitting country as long as the language used in the film is not English.

3. The Philippines has only submitted 24 films since 1953.  The closest we have gotten was in 1953 when Manuel Conde’s “Genghis Khan” was a strong contender for the Honorary Award for Best Foreign Language Film, which was not a regular category at that time but a special award not given annually.  Amusingly, the Oscar did not select a winner in 1953.

4. Some classic Filipino films were never submitted or never qualified to the Oscars for reasons most of us have yet to know.  They are:
  • Lino Brocka’s two films, “Maynila… Sa Kuko ng Liwanag,” (1975) and “Jaguar,” (1979, and our 1980 entry to the Cannes Film Festival)
  • Ishmael Bernal’s “Manila By Night,’ (1980), and “Himala,” (1982, and our 1983 entry to the Berlin international Film Festival where Nora Aunor was nominated for Best Actress)


I think the best way to know what kind of film will get the attention of Oscar voters is to look at some notable nominees and winners in the last five years.  Since I did not watch all the nominees and winners from 2007 to 2012, I cannot gauge accurately the taste of the selecting body but two films may provide some insights. 

Amour” (Austria) Winner, 2012
Directed by Michael Haneke
The narrative focuses on an elderly couple, Anne and Georges, who are retired music teachers with a daughter who lives abroad. Anne suffers a stroke, which paralyses her on one side of her body. (1) The setting is simple and Haneke’s direction is minimalist.  The entire story just took place in the couple’s apartment but Haneke’s vision is grand.  He explored beyond the mundane definition of love. His style is distinctive and he is not mimicking anyone.

Dogtooth” (Greece) Nominee, 2010
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
The film is about a husband and wife who keep their children ignorant of the world outside their property well into adulthood (2).  Once again, the story is contained just within the compound of a house and the characters are just the immediate members of the family but Lanthimos use the family dynamics as his venue to deconstruct what is fundamentally wrong in human society.

Both Haneke and Lanthimos are visionary directors. They are not in the center; their works are against the grain and so they get the attention of international critics and viewers.  It may be a false notion that making epic films, quirky films, overtly experimental films, and feel-good inspirational films is the vehicle to international accolades.  Bottom line, the filmmaker’s intelligence, his vision and his style of expression are the factors that count. If the three are weaved together perfectly in a film, the film shines.

But then again, we also have to consider the politics and economics of the Oscars. You need money to launch a campaign, and I guess only the major studios have the means so perhaps we cannot blame if a film made or distributed by a major local studio gets to be selected as our entry to the Oscars.

However, in my opinion, screw the Oscars.  I said it before and I will say it again. Filipino films should engage the local moviegoers not the international jurors. Films should open our eyes and posit the right questions. All these Oscar excitements may just be about the money.  An Oscar nomination will mean international distribution, which means more money. Let us just stop pretending film is art. Let us just call it business. 

(1) “Amour,”, accessed 08/25/2013
(2) “Dogtooth,”, accessed 08/25/2013



  1. How can Thy Womb qualify? Was it able to stay with it's commercial run in theaters for at least 7 days, as stated by "Rule 13 of the Academy Awards" ?

    1. The people behind the selection process will not include the movie in the list if it didn't get a 7-day commercial run. They're not dumb and idiots.

    2. The film that will be chosen will represent the Phils., never mind it's commercial run but QUALITY. THY WOMB has PROVEN it's MERITS in IFF (aside from meeting all the requirements) so the BIGGEST question is WHO in their right mind to even suggest or include a Cannes Reject film in the list?

  2. I think it had a 7-day theatrical run. Thanks for visiting. You helped our charity project by just being a reader.

  3. 7-day theatrical run? with nobody watching!

    1. how can the movie (produced with a 2M budget) earned 8M after the MMFF if nobody watched it? do your own Math,for God's sake.

  4. di ata kayo nag-iisip bago sumagot, nagbubulag bulagan lang talaga kayo,ang hirap sa inyo dakdak kayo ng dakdak, think again,actually thy womb earned a lot already more than there budget, remember it's been running in different countries & different places in philippines and even become school educational topic for almost a year now, sa tingin mo dipa talaga kumita ang THY WOMB kong tutuusin tubong lugaw na ang producer, & international organizers are really like to invite thy womb, because it's really ineteresting, how about your Vilma's Ekstra walang gustong mag invite kahit na pinaka cheap na international festival, kasi hindi interesting, napanood kona wala talagang kakwenta kwenta, para ka lang nanood ng TV series, subukan mong ulitin gawin ang Ekstra ni Vilma na walang kilalang artista, basta si vilma lang at mga artista na hindi kilala, ano kaya ang kalabasan, di tulad ni Nora kahit siya lang ang kilala, nagiging makabuluhan ang movie niya, isipin mong mabuti yan bago ka mag comment, wala kasi kayong common sense, basta makasagot lang kayo tama na sa inyo........mag-isip bago sumagot ok

  5. actually, kahit sino ang tatanungin mo kong sino talaga ang magaling kong si Nora or Vilma, ang sasabihin nila si Nora Aunor talaga, kahit mga director or critics agree diyan, tanggapin niya na lang kasi, kaya nga star lang ang tawag kay Vilma at ang Nora ay SUPER STAR, GETS NIYO BA, acceptance ang dapat niyong gawin ok, in reality si nora talaga ang pipiliin ng karamihan na mas magaling.............

  6. i watched Thy Womb... and personally I was bored to death...

  7. I don't blame you, if you did get bored over watching an outstanding movie such as Thy Womb. But don't expect that everybody else would felt the same way as you did. Others may have deeper understanding and appreciation of a great and unique story and what superb acting should be. Obviously that's not you, maybe because you're shallow or even ignorant.

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