Columbia Pictures to release 'HOMECOMING'

MANILA, NOVEMBER 19, 2003  (STAR) FUNFARE By Ricardo F. Lo - If direk Gil Portes is grinning from ear to ear these days, feeling like a winner, it’s because his new film, Homecoming, has a good chance of being seen by a bigger (international) audience than the 2003 Metro Filmfest crowd it was originally intended for.

You see, Columbia Pictures has acquired the theatrical distribution rights to the movie which will be released along with eight other films in next month’s Metro Filmfest.

Topbilled by Elizabeth Oropesa and Alessandra de Rossi, Homecoming is a co-production of Teamwork Productions, Cinema Partners and Kidlat Entertainment, written by Adolf Alix, Senedy Que and Portes himself. It’s a powerful drama about a young woman (Alessandra) working overseas who comes home to visit her parents (Oropesa and Bembol Roco) and family, and to marry her childhood sweetheart not knowing that she has contracted a contagious and deadly virus abroad.

The good news was relayed to Funfare by Victor Cabrera, general manager of Columbia Pictures (Philippines).

"Our alliance with Teamwork Productions through the release of Homecoming in this year’s Metro Filmfest is another step in reinforcing the foundation on which to build a bridge to connect to a major Hollywood studio’s worldwide distribution network," said Cabrera. "Access to this distribution network, with the continued support of local world-class producers like that of Teamwork, will make available new markets and resources for the Philippine movie industry. We will persist in this undertaking and it will eventually happen."

This acquisition by Columbia Pictures marks the second consecutive film produced by Portes and Ray Cuerdo (of Teamwork) to get local theatrical distribution by a major Hollywood studio. The first film was Portes’ critically-acclaimed and multi-awarded Munting Tinig (Small Voices), released locally by Warner Bros. last July and acquired by US and Canadian distributors. Small Voices was submitted to the Oscars last year for consideration as possible contender for the Best Foreign-Language Film award.

Said Portes, "During these hard times in Philippine cinema, being picked up by Columbia Pictures is not only a great honor but also proof that all is not lost as far as local films are concerned. We can be competitive and a bigger market awaits us. This was proven by Munting Tinig and now, Homecoming."

Said Cuerdo, "My hope is that by producing world-class quality films and partnering with Hollywood, we can help elevate Philippine cinema to its rightful place as among the world’s best."

Thank you, direk Gil, for leading the way for your colleagues.

Direk Gil does have a good reason for wearing a smile as wide as the distance between Manila and Pagbilao (Quezon, his hometown), doesn’t he?

The "New Yorker from Pagbilao" has gone a long, long way! Other Local Films Getting Good Reviews ‘Out There’

While we’re at it, I might as well mention two other local films which are making good abroad – in terms of good reviews, that is.

One is Maryo de los Reyes’ Magnifico (produced by Violett Films) which did not win any awards in the last international filmfest it competed in but did earn rave reviews (some of which have been excerpted in Funfare in recent issues).

Funfare’s Toronto-based "international correspondent" Ferdinand Lapuz has just sent in another review of Magnifico published in Metro, a free newspaper in Toronto. Here it is (titled Magnifico has soul and written by Norman Wilner):

Magnifico is one of those films in which a decent soul struggles against enormous odds to bring some comfort to the people he loves. It's a melodrama, but it's honest about it.

Set in a small village in the Philippines, where a kind-hearted lad named Magnifico (Jiro Manio) aids his impoverished – oh, and his sister has cerebral palsy and his grandmother is dying – by doing odd jobs to bring in money to make their live easier. What a lovely boy, huh? So kind-hearted, so noble, so much better than the world deserves... uh-oh.

Director Maryo J. delos Reyes doesn't acknowledge this particular strain of melodrama, but actually embraces it, making the most of every opportunity to get the audience sniffling into its collective shirt sleeves.

The Noble Young Martyr is becoming increasingly popular in world cinema – the Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi has practically built an industry out of them. Magnifico is of a piece with Majidi's films, but de los Reyes gives his movie an emotional honesty that distinguishes it from more cynical contemporaries.

* * * And here’s Derek Elley writing about Regal Films’ Prosti (starring Aubrey Miles and Jay Manalo, directed by Erik Matti) in a recent issue of Variety:

Current Reviews... Fine performances – largely built through workshop improvisations – allied to solid cinematic technique make Prosti an unexpected pleasure in generic territory. Story of a cynical pimp who finds true love via a college student-cum-hooker, this is way above the normal level of Filipino pics devoted to life's sexy underbelly, and marks director Erik Matti (Scorpio Nights 2) as a name to watch. Given its saucy subject and good production values, some limited theatrical business is not out of the question for this sixth feature by Matti, prior to ancillary.

Story is partly seen through the eyes of Big Nonoy (Jay Manalo), a rickshaw driver who looks after the girls at the whorehouse of Mama Xedes (Raquel Villavicencio), a big broad with an eye patch. As Nonoy sizes up the talent in the street, accompanied by some graphic voiceover ("P___y everywhere. P___y to make a profit from"), a new recruit Ditas Bernadas (Aubrey Miles), a teenage schoolgirl sent by her aunt to help pay for her education, is on her way to Mama's.

Taking the professional name Melody, Ditas is introduced to the mechanics of working in an upscale brothel in an assembly of short scenes and vignettes – some humorous, others more business-like – that occupy the next few reels. Given the basically repetitious subject matter, helmer Matti varies the pacing and mood with montages, slo-mo, dreamy sequences and speeded-up sections, with music to match. Technically, pic is smooth, lensed with care (if not always beauty) in the cramped quarters of the whorehouse, where the women spend all their time, with saturated colors and restrained camera movements.

Ditas, however, is only a part-time resident: at school, she easily fends off the attentions of Andrew (Troy Gomez), a 17-year-old who fancies her. From starting as a shy but confidant virgin, Ditas turns into an assured but totally cynical young woman – at the same time as the hard-bitten, money-obsessed Nonoy falls slowly but hopelessly in love with her. When Mama transfers Ditas to the care of another guy, Bong (Paulo Rivero), Nonoy turns jealous and is kicked out, with dramatic results.

Miles' double-headed portrait of Ditas, as the hard brothel tart and neatly composed schoolgirl, is well done, even though it's a purely cinematic confection, and she soon overshadows Manalo in their scenes together. Later plot developments are equally filmy, though Matti keeps a pretty tight lid on the melodrama and ends on a nicely cynical note that parallels the opening. Midsection of the pic is filled out with some nice developments of other girls' stories, especially that of Amy (Pinky Amador), whose young son works at the brothel and who eventually marries one of her regulars (Froilan Sales).

Sex scenes aren't coy, but visually the film is soft-core at most. The Beatles Quiz Promo

In connection with the release of the new Beatles album, Let it Be... Naked, EMI is conducting a quiz promo open not only for Beatlemaniacs but all music-lovers.

Answer the following questions and e-mail your (correct) answers to on or before Nov. 21 (that’s a day after tomorrow, so be quick!):

1. What was the name of the club that The Beatles regularly gigged in in Liverpool before they became famous?

2. What is Ringo Starr’s real name?

3. What was the music company or label that turned The Beatles down for a recording contract before they were signed up by EMI Parlophone?

4. What was the name of the studio where they recorded all their albums?

5. Who was John Lennon’s best friend who was originally with The Beatles but who died early?

6. What band was Ringo Starr playing for when The Beatles hired him?

7. Who played keyboards during the Apple rooftop gig?

8. Who is the "Mother Mary" Paul referred to in Let It Be?

9. Who played bass on The Long and Winding Road?

10. Across the Universe was part of a charity album for what famous international organization?

Important: The first person to e-mail all correct answers wins. The winner (only one) will receive "surprise" gifts.


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