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Filipino films make history at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival

The year has only started, but Filipinos are already bringing pride and making history in the film scene! Last January 29, two Filipino-directed films have bagged major awards at the recently concluded 2022 Sundance Film Festival. 

The first film is Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan’s The Headhunter’s Daughter, which won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize. The Headhunter’s Daughter tells the story of aspiring country singer Lynn (played by Ammin Acha-ur), who goes to Baguio City from the Cordillera region to audition for a televised singing contest. The film was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic and with a very tight crew consisting of four to eight members, as per Igorotage

In an interview with Inquirer, Eblahan shared that he hoped that the film could be a medium to “draw attention to Igorot identities, stories and bodies in our collective Filipino narrative.” 

He then went on to say what winning the award means to him. “Winning the award means that our stories do seem to resonate not just within ourselves, but to a much more vast international landscape.”

Eblahan continued, “Something in the film resonated to folks outside of our region, cultural understanding, and unique ethnographic identity. And to realize that really warms my heart in such a profound way. I’m so deeply thankful for this win.”

Eblahan is born of Ifugao and Visayan descent and is an independent filmmaker. The Headhunter’s Daughter is set to have its European premiere at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival on January 28 – February 5. 

Meanwhile, Martika Escobar’s Leonor Will Never Die (Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago) took home the World Cinema Dramatic Jury Award: Innovative Spirit. The film follows the story of retired filmmaker Leonor Reyes (starring Sheila Francisco) who becomes an action hero in her own unfinished screenplay. 

In her acceptance speech, Escobar thanked Sundance for “recognizing the team’s labor of love.” “This is special coming from a film set that felt like a giant friendship film. I’d like to say thanks to the entire sundance team for treating us like family.” 

She then went on to thank everyone who showed their love and support for the film, her team, her producers Mario Cornejo and Monster Jimenez, and her parents. She also dedicated the award to young female filmmakers. “Lastly, I’d like to share this award with all the young female filmmakers out there: the dreamers. I’m like you, I’m with you, and I hope this shines a bit of light on the difficult paths we have. I hope you all get to make the films we want to make in this life because we can,” said Escobar.

The Headhunter’s Daughter and Leonor Will Never Die (Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago) both premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival last January January 20 to 30, 2022. 

Sundance Film Festival is an annual film event founded by Sundance Institute with aims to “provide and preserve the space for artists in film, theater, film composing and digital media to create and thrive.” It is also one of the largest independent film festivals in the United States.



Other stories you might like:

Why ‘Encanto’ hits a little too close to home for Filipinos

Producer, Filipinos online speak their minds on why 2021 MMFF has a low turnout

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