My Iligan


Friday, January 9, 2009


"Himala" is Filipino for "miracle" and this is precisely what the movie is. It has been awarded the CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award for Best Asia-Pacific Film of all Time.

Thousands of CNN viewers voted on "The Screening Room" Web site to honor Ishmael Bernal's 1982 film with the accolade, which is jointly awarded by CNN and the region's prestigious Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA).
"The Screening Room's" Myleene Klass presented the award Tuesday in front of a crowd of over 700 film industry figures at a special ceremony on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Set in a God-forsaken marginal town, "Himala" boasts of a richly textured milieu, a veritable Filipino Nowhereland just waiting for a miracle. And the miracle-incarnate is Elsa, a simple but headstrong young girl who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary and who starts a healing crusade. The complex, highly nuanced role was played by the Philippine's premiere actress Nora Aunor, took the prize with 32 percent of the vote. Everyone else in the film was thespians from theatre. Loaded with fascinating characters caught in an ideological-moral inferno, the film brings to the fore the complex, harsh social realities that face third world people and how such realities find their way in cultural expressions such as religion. The sensitive direction of the late Ishmael Bernal, the creatively austere camera work, the haunting musical score, and of course, the thespic genius of Nora Aunor makes "Himala" a truly great film that merits re-viewing and re-discovery, especially by foreign audiences. The "Via Dolorosa" denouement remains as one of the most riveting scenes I've ever seen in any film. A cinematic miracle, indeed.

It came in ahead of more widely known films like Japanese Akira Kurosawa's "Shichinin no samurai" ("Seven Samurai"), which took second place and "Wo hu cang long" ("Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon") by Taiwan's Ang Lee, which snared third.


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