45th Chicago Int’l Film Fest puts spotlight on 2 Filipino directors

October 2009

Text, photos and video by Ted Regencia

CHICAGO — Celebrating the 45th year since its founding, the Chicago International Film Festival shines its spotlight on two independent films from the Philippines.

Cinemalaya Special Jury Prize winner, The Rapture of Fe (Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe) was selected for the After Dark Program, while the gay-themed, The Thank You Girls was picked for the World Cinema and OUTragegous categories.

“Chicago is a great global society. We live in a great immigrant community and we are very diverse. It [festival] represents the whole world,” Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Jr., said during the opening night, where he also welcomed actress Uma Thurman, the Career Achievement Award recipient. Thurman alsocame for the premiere of her new movie, Motherhood.

Film festival founder Michael Kutza praised the participation of young Filipino filmmakers at the festival, the oldest in North America. “We have two great movies at the festival. One terribly, terribly dramatic ghost story, and the drag film which is a riot,” he said.

A the same interview, Kutza recalled how he helped former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos organize the Manila International Film Festival.

Kutza stayed in Manila for two years, including the time that the controversial Manila Film Center was built. “I love her [Imelda]. She’s fun. We had a lot of fun with Marcos, the family and everybody. We brought a lot of stars and directors there,” he said.

“I love the Philippines. I’ve been there in some amazing monsoon, so I’ll never forget that,” Kutza added.

At the international premiere of Ang Panggagahasa Kay Fe, the film’s executive producer Alem Ang, dedicated the work to the typhoons victims in the Philippines.

“The film is a testament to the Filipino people’s resiliency,” Ang said during a short presentation.

In an earlier interview Ang said that they wanted to present a “world-class” film that does not only center on poverty. “There’s so much more about Filipino culture that needs to be discussed. So we thought of adding a new element to our story about battered women, which is Philippine folklore,” Ang explained.

“We’re very, very excited when we received the news,” Ang recalled after hearing from the Chicago Film Festival committee. The next stop for the Alvin Yapan-directed film is Egypt for the Cairo Film Festival.

Meanwhile, The Thank You Girls, a story about drag beauty pageant contestants, had its Chicago premiere Monday, October 12. The Visayan-language film is directed by Charliebebs Gohetia, and backed by Brooklyn Park Pictures.

The festival runs until October 8 to 22, and will feature an estimated 91 films from around the globe. An Oscar buzz is already swirling around its festival centerpiece, Precious, a story of a 16-year old African American girl who defied the odds of poverty and personal tragedies. The film is backed by Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey.

The Chinese box-office hit, Red Cliff was featured in the Gala Presentation, attended by Director John Woo.

Last year, the eventual Oscar Best Picture winner, Slumdog Millionaire, premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival. Earlier this year, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds was also featured at its Summer Gala.

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