Oscars: Philippines Selects ‘Verdict’ for International Feature Film Category

Verdict - TIFF - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of TIFF

Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s domestic abuse drama was this year’s Venice Special Jury Prize winner

Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s debut feature Verdict has been selected by the Philippines for consideration for the international feature film category at the 2020 Oscars.

The film was executive produced by Gutierrez’s mentor Brillante Mendoza — Cannes winner for Kinatay (2009) — and focuses on the issue of domestic violence in the Philippines. It stars Max Eigenmann and the late Kristoffer King.

Verdict was selected for screening in the Horizon section at this year’s Venice festival, and it went on to win the Special Jury Prize. It has also screened at Telluride and Toronto.

The 26-year-old Gutierrez’s first short Imago (2016) won the Toronto festival’s Short Cuts Award while his second Judgement (2018) was nominated. Both were also nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Gutierrez told The Hollywood Reporter before heading to Venice that the film was based on a real case of domestic violence he had first heard and then witnessed.

“I wanted to show the problem but not try to offer any solution at all,” said Gutierrez. “This is what’s happening. Things are not black and white. The law is not always fair. Filmmaking is about life and I just want to show how life is and at this stage of my career I am interested in the serious side of life.”

Gutierrez’s is a student of the “found stories” theory of filmmaking championed by Mendoza and veteran screenwriter Armando Lao with its docu-drama style and focus on the darker sides of contemporary Philippine life. Verdict was produced by Center Stage Productions.

The Philippines have never received an Oscar nomination in what used to be called the best foreign film category.

The 92nd Academy Awards are set to take place Feb. 9, 2020.