Martika Ramirez Escobar on Sundance award: 'Our spirits are smiling'

Published January 30, 2022, 6:45 AM

by Manila Bulletin Entertainment

‘Leonor Will Never Die’ (Carlos Mauricio/Sundance Institute)

A “World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Innovative Spirit” was presented to Martika Ramirez Escobar, writer/director of “Leonor Will Never Die,” the jury of the Sundance Film Festival announced on Jan. 29.

“Leonor Will Never Die” is Escobar’s directorial debut.

A Manila native, Escobar has previously remarked about her unique film style. “Not so long ago, a famous action star with no background in law and governance became the 13th President of the Philippines. I was six years old then and as a young girl, it felt natural for somebody famous to get elected. Today, decades later, after having two more “action star” presidents, I find myself questioning this absurd reality and am surprised by how easy it can be understood once I place it in parallel with our love for movies.”

About the Sundance award for Innovative Spirit, Escobar said: “Films can speak and films can be heard, and today I’m glad that our film is felt by the jury. Thank you so much Sundance; our spirits are smiling.”

The jury citation reads: “Switching in-between genres, this film within a film follows an ailing screenwriter who enters her unfinished screenplay of a gangster film to experience and edit her own creation. Constantly shifting in tone, the film is a playful display of the love of cinema. Its innovative and risk-taking spirit is especially commendable.”

‘Leonor Will Never Die’

Presenting Juror: La Frances Hui Producer Monster Jimenez, who, along with partner Mario Cornejo produced the film under the banner of their company Arkeofilms, added: “It’s not just the recognition that I’m smiling about. We are thankful for the incredible warmth that we’ve received from the Sundance team, and the messages we’ve been getting from viewers all over the world! The Philippines is about to enter the 3rd act of a bad action movie. Just like Leonor, I hope to get our story back — the one without the need for violence, corruption, and heroes. I hope we find the one where we get a happy ending for all of us.”

Escobar recorded an emotional thank you from Manila for the Awards, in which she noted her great gratitude for the launch of the film.

“Hello Sundance jury, thank you so much for recognizing our team’s labor of love! This is special to us, coming from a set that felt like one giant friendship film. I would like to say thanks to the entire Sundance team for treating us like family and thanks to everyone who have shown their love and support. You are proof that after 8 years, our film is alive.

“I would like to share this award with our amazing team led by Mario and Monster. It is because of all of them that this film exists. Thanks to my parents for allowing me to be a filmmaker and lastly, I would like to share this award to all the young female filmmakers out there. The dreamers. I am like you and I am with you. I hope this shines a bit of light in our difficult path. May we all make the films we want to make in life because we can. I love you, Sundance. Rawr.”

Founded by Robert Redford in 1981 with the mission of fostering new voices in American storytelling, the nonprofit Sundance Institute is a champion and curator of stories for the stage and screen.

Today, its staff of 180 employees works year-round to offer 25 residential labs, grants exceeding $3 million, and ongoing mentorships that support more than 900 artists each year.

Each January, the Sundance Film Festival brings artists and audiences together for the premieres of groundbreaking work, and year-round, the Institute hosts a variety of public programs to amplify original voices, inspire new ideas, and rally our community in support of independent storytelling.