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Oscars: Philippines Unveils Shortlist of Contenders for Foreign Language Category

On the Job Cannes Directors Fortnight Still - H 2013
"On the Job," directed by Erik Matti

Titles include two films by director Erik Matti, Brillante Mendoza’s “Thy Womb” and “Dance of the Steel Bars,” inspired by viral YouTube footage of inmates dancing in a Filipino prison.

The Film Academy of the Philippines has announced its shortlist of local titles competing to become the country’s submission for this year’s foreign language category Oscar.

Based on sheer numbers, director Erik Matti would appear to have the best odds of becoming the Philippines’ official entry. Of the eight films selected by the FAP, two are from the director: comedy horror Tiktik: The Aswang Chronicles and hitman thriller, On the Job, which premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes in May.

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Another festival favorite, Brillante Medoza made the cut with his social drama Thy Womb, which bowed in competition at the 69th Venice International Film Festival.

As is often the case for national submissions, historical biopics figure prominently on the list: namely, Supremo starring Alfred Vargas as Philippine hero Andres Bonifacio and El Presidente about the life of Emilio Aguinaldo, the country’s first president.

The other selections include Dance of the Steel Bars, inspired by real-life footage of inmates dancing at a prison in Cebu, which became a viral sensation on YouTube; road rage comedy Tuhog by Veronica Velasco; and redemptive child abuse drama, Boses, from Ellen Ongkeko- Marfil.

To qualify for the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category, movies must have been commercially exhibited in their country for at least seven days during the period of October 2012 to September 2013. The FAP says it may still add more films to the list, if anything worthy is released this month.

To date, no Philippine film has ever won or been nominated in the Best Foreign Language category.