The elusive Uncle Oscar

Published January 14, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Robert Requintina


Robert Requintina

Many Filipino filmmakers have dreamed of winning an Oscar trophy for the Philippines. Unfortunately, the prestigious recognition remains elusive.

Come March this year, the 94th Academy Awards, popularly known as the Oscars, will honor outstanding cinematic achievements. But the Film Academy of the Philippines, tasked to select a film for the Oscars, did not pick any entry for the best international feature film category of the Oscars. Movie fans were disappointed. But this is another point of discussion. The bigger topic here is the failure of the Philippines to get an Oscar nod since we started sending entries in 1953.

Will a Filipino ever win an Oscar?

Five years ago, I had the chance to interview Filipino director Gil Portes who shared his thoughts on our chances of winning the Oscars. Portes directed the critically-acclaimed movies “The Mourning Girls,” “Merika,” “Miss X,” “Mga Munting Tinig,” and a lot more. He passed way in 2017 but his opinion on chasing Uncle Oscar is still relevant today.

Portes said that modesty aside, his movie “Mga Munting Tinig,” the Philippines’ entry to the Oscar’s Best Foreign Language Film category in 2002, was ranked No. 7. Only five films are nominated in the category every year, despite submission from more than 80 countries. The Filipino drama stars Alessandra de Rossi. “If we only had the money to promote the film, for sure we will enter the Magic 5. If you make it to the Magic 5 at the Oscars, you have a very strong chance to win.”

According to Portes, Filipino movies which should have been nominated in the Oscars foreign film category were “The Flor Contemplacion Story” starring Nora Aunor and “Ploning” top-billed by Judy Ann Santos. “Flor Contemplacion should have been nominated. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s an issue movie.”

A big budget would help in campaigning the movie for some 5,000 members of the Academy.

“For ‘Mga Munting Tinig,’ we had only US$30,000 dollars, and it’s not enough! You need to promote in popular US trade publications such as Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and three other journals. Then you are given two free screenings by the Academy. You will rent out theaters and add more screenings.

“But the most expensive part is producing the DVDs that will be sent out to the members of the Academy who will vote. That’s very expensive! Around 400 members will vote for the best foreign-language film, but there are 5,000 members of the Academy or more. You don’t know who these 400 members are, so you have to hit all the members of the Academy.

“You really need a big budget. I was disappointed ‘Ploning’ failed to make the cut in 2008. They were able to raise funds, but I don’t know how they spent the money. It’s really a mystery how you will make it in the Oscars,” Portes added.

The Philippine cinema is oozing with talented artists and filmmakers who have contributed to the success of all facets of motion picture production. Indeed, we never run out of amazing talents. Our dream is still alive! An Oscar statuette, a symbol of filmmaking achievement, would surely catapult the Philippine movies to greater heights.

(Robert R. Requintina is the Entertainment Editor of Manila Bulletin)