MANILA — The execution of national hero Jose Rizal in 1896 sparked the Philippine Revolution two years later, leading to independence from Spain, even though the Philippines fell under American rule in the early 1900s.
On the centennial of that independence, GMA Films’ “Jose Rizal” made Philippine cinema history by virtually sweeping all awards but one Tuesday in the Metro Manila Film Festival Awards Night.
Fest from Christmas Day to Jan. 3 is an annual exhibition of the best Filipino films in all Metro Manila theaters and cineplexes.
“Jose Rizal” — directed by multi-awarded Marilou Diaz-Abaya and produced by two of the industry’s young, visionary risktakers, Butch Jimenez and Jimmy Duavit — ran away with 17 of the fest’s 18 awards. The only award it did not get was for best actress, which went to Alice Dixson of “Sambahin Ang Ngalan Mo” (Hallowed Be Thy Name) — an action-drama.
Big bucks budget
“Rizal,” which also made cinematic history because it is the biggest-budgeted Filipino film ever ($2 million), had no nominee for the category.
Two other movies, “Babae Sa Bintana” (Woman In the Window) and “Puso ng Pasko” (The Heart of Christmas) won kudos, as well, for second and third best pics, respectively.
Actress in huff
An interesting sidelight during the awards night was the walkout staged by screen siren Rosanna Roces, leading lady of “Babae,” who showed her indignant, teary-eyed dissatisfaction, when Dixson (who was not even a dark horse for the category) was named the winner. The buzz had been that La Roces was the shoo-in winner. She and her coterie left in a huff.
Walkout notwithstanding, President Joseph Estrada’s presence as special guest added glitter to the occasion. The president, whose own contributions to the film industry were no minor achievements (he is a five-time best actor winner), reiterated his support for the industry and made the following commitments :
- Fifty percent of the amusement tax will now go to the film development fund;
- Producers will again be given cash incentives to motivate them to produce more quality films;
- Movie fund benefits will be expanded to include minor and support staff in the cinema industry.