Film also nabs nods for director, actor; given an A rating

MANILA — “Crying Ladies” — Unitel Pictures’ first venture into the film fest arena, scored big points at the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night in late December at the capital city’s Philippine Intl. Convention Center.

Pic took best film, beating entries of frequent fest dominators Regal Entertainment and Viva Films. Grand-scale movies “Mano Po 2″ (Regal) and “Filipinas” (Viva) came in second and third, respectively, to the comedy produced by the Unitel.

“Crying Ladies” also took home awards for best director (debut helmer Mark Meilly), actor (Eric Quizon), supporting actress (Hilda Koronel) and child performer (Julio Pacheco).

It was also the only film entry given an A Rating by the Cinema Evaluation Board. This gave its producers a 100% tax rebate incentive from the Philippine government — part of a scheme to encourage local filmmakers to produce quality material.

“We don’t need big budgets to make good films.” says Unitel CEO Tony Gloria. “We should learn to work with limitations. What we need is good content and good storytelling.”

The movie is a lighthearted but touching look at three ladies from the back streets of Manila’s Chinatown who cry at funerals for a living. Fantasy pics “Captain Barbell,” about the adventures of a local superhero, and “Fantastic Man,” another special effects-studded pic aimed at the kiddie audience, were the top grossers at the fest, with “Crying Ladies” taking the No. 3 spot.

Overall, fest’s entries were well-liked by critics. Besides “Crying Ladies”, lauded pics included “Mano Po 2,” an epic tale of a Filipino-Chinese family; “Filipinas,” an allegorical story of a Filipino family that reflects the nation’s own story; “Homecoming,” about the SARS epidemic; “Malikmata” (Mirage), a paranormal tale; sex comedy “Bridal Shower”; “Captain Barbell”; “Fantastic Man”; and “Gagamboy” (Spider Boy).

This edition relied less on its previous fascination with sex and violence.

The fest pics ran for two weeks in theaters nationwide, providing Filipino movie fans with a smorgasbord of all-Filipino films, sans the usual competition largely provided by Hollywood movies.

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