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For the year 2000

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The Best Short Film


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The Best Short Film

Asiaweek Pictures.
Capturing the gritty reality of life in Manila.

An enfant terrible — every movie industry needs one. And for the Philippines, it is Raymond Red. "I don't make films to be liked," says the 35-year-old director. "I make them to capture reality. Some won't like the vision." Perhaps not. But when serendipity recently gave thousands of Filipinos the opportunity to catch Red's Anino (Shadows), the reaction was exceptional.

Manila movie buffs, flocking to the city's film festivals to see imports such as the quirky U.S. production Being John Malkovich, were treated to an unadvertised screening of Red's 13-minute work. Afterwards, many cinema aficionados departed talking about the bonus instead of the movie they had come to see.

The jury at the Cannes Film Festival was way ahead of Manila's culture vultures. Anino won the Palme d'Or for short film at Cannes this year — the first Philippine-made work to capture the coveted prize. Unlike the period pieces for which Red is better known, Anino is set in the gritty reality of present-day Manila. The film opens with a rich man stuck in traffic close to a church. There, a photographer makes a living by taking portraits. A layabout heckles the snap-shooter, accusing him of stealing people's souls. A street urchin makes off with the camera. And soon the characters collide with tragic predictability in a rubbish-heap magic-realist style. The city's grime coalesces into the thoughtful but engaging tale.

Red says every character in Anino is an aspect of himself. The movie's triumph gives him a second chance at becoming a popular voice. He came to prominence by screening his German-financed movie Bayani (Patriot) at the 1992 Berlin festival. In 1993 he made the epic Sakay. It barely broke even — and marked the first and last time a big studio supported a Red project. Fiercely independent, he refuses to change his style to suit the local entertainment scene, which churns out dozens of plotless action and soft-porn flicks every year. He also refuses to heed local critics, who are unhappy that Anino showcased the seedier side of the Philippines before an international audience.

These days, producers are talking to him again. He wants to make a movie on Filipinos who collaborated with the Japanese during World War II. But to make ends meet, he has returned to freelance work on TV commercials and music videos. He spent most of his savings to make Anino — more than $8,000. He came close to bankruptcy to go to the Cannes festival (where he handed out photocopied promotional flyers for his film). For Red, pursuing his art has not come cheap.

— By Clinton Palanca

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