Philippine entry to this year´s Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), Lav Diaz´s “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” (Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery), won this year´s Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Award. The award— in memory of the Festival Founder — is given to a feature film that opens new perspectives on cinematic art.
Diaz´s 8-hour epic which was set during the Philippine revolution (1896-1898) had its world premiere on 18 February at the Berlinale Palast with a sold-out screening. Well-known Filipino actors Piolo Pascual, John Lloyd Cruz, Bernardo Bernardo, Angel Aquino, Cherrie Gil, Alessandra di Rossi, Susan Africa, Hazel Orencio and Joel Saracho, as well as producers Paul Soriano and Bianca Balbuena, were all in attendance during the film’s premiere which started at 9am.
The script for Hele was written in 1998, but it was only in 2012 that funding for the film was secured. The film was shot in 6 weeks in time for its Berlin premiere. The film followed the journey of Gregoria de Jesus´ 30-day search for the body of missing hero Andres Bonifacio, which featured encounters with fictional characters from the two novels of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal. Rizal wrote the remaining chapters of his first novel, “Noli Me Tangere” in Berlin which is said to have inspired the Philippine revolution against colonial Spain.
The movie caught the attention of media, festival participants and the public for its unique length. It was shown for two days with sold out tickets, which, in a way, exposed hundreds of movie goers to the Philippines for 8 hours. One German viewer said, during the lunch break, “Now I have to read on the Philippines and its history!”
When festival media partner Radio Eins RBB asked Director Lav regarding the length and format of the film, he pointed out, “The power of cinema, once immersed in this alternative world… time becomes immaterial. There´s no short or long film, there´s just cinema. I grew up watching cinema in black and white. It is my habitat, for me, cinema is black and white. “
Actor Bernardo Bernardo described their filming as a memorable experience, “We had a big party in the jungle. When you enjoy what you are doing, you don´t notice the time and that´s exactly how it is. Time is not important, you just go through the immersive experience. Sometimes the director would add to the script and write something in the evening and we´ll have to memorize it and film the next day. There was complete trust, we trusted the director and the director trusted us.”
“Hele” was among the 19 films included in this year´s main competition. The Golden Bear for best film was awarded to Gianfranco Rosi´s “Fuocoammare” (Fire at Sea), a documentary about refugees in the island of Lampedusa. END