Cover A film still from Martika Escobar's "Leonor Will Never Die", Sundance Film Festival 2022 entry for feature film category

Philippine cinema takes part again in the largest independent film festival in the United States, this time in two categories

Taking part in the 38th edition of Sundance Film Festival—the largest independent film festival in the United States and perhaps the most anticipated globally every year—are two films from the Philippines: Martika Escobar's feature film Leonor Will Never Die, and Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan's short film The Headhunter's Daughter.

There is only a handful of Filipino films that have ever made it to the Sundance Film Festival. First was the critically acclaimed Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005) directed by Auraeus Solito in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The succeeding three films: Metro Manila (2013) directed by two-time BAFTA nominee Sean Ellis, and Filipino-American filmmaker Ramona S Diaz's Bayang Ina Mo (2017) and A Thousand Cuts (2020) were all internationally produced. Meanwhile, Filipino director and producer Sonny Calvento in 2021 brought to Sundance's his 2020 film Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss, which made history as the first-ever Filipino film to enter the prestigious festival's shorts program.

This year, the Philippines is back in competition with Escobar's feature film entering the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, while Eblahan's short film is part of the Shorts Program 4 section for cinephiles to appreciate.

Read also: Sundance Film Festival's First Filipino Short Film Entry: Sonny Calvento's "Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss"

“The selection of two Filipino films chosen to participate in the Sundance Film Festival, one of the world’s largest and most influential independent film festivals, is already a huge win for Philippine Cinema. We are proud that our country’s delegation to Sundance will be led by two promising independent filmmakers, especially Martika and her film which were part of the Agency’s Full Circle Lab Philippines and CreatePHFilms funding program,” said Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño in a statement.

Read also: 10 of the Most Iconic Films that Shaped Philippine Cinema

FDCP CreatePHFilm fund grantee and a Full Circle Lab alumni, Leonor Will Never Die is about a retired screenwriter named Leonor, who becomes the action hero in her own screenplay after falling into a coma from a freak accident. The film was produced by Monster Jimenez and Mario Cornejo.

The Headhunter’s Daughter tells the story of Lynn, an aspiring country singer, and her trusty brown horse July, who endure an arduous descent along the Cordilleran highlands to make it on time for the audition of her dreams in the city. Her journey leads her to a path where her indigenous identity is confronted by the unseen forces of the landscape’s colonial American past. The film has been produced by US-based Hannah Schierbeek.

Sundance recently just cancelled its in-person programming in Park City, Utah, instead will take the virtual route when it kicks off on January 20. Running until January 30, the film festival is headlining the premiere of Kanye West documentary jeenyuhs: A Kanye Trilogy directed by Coodie and Chike, the film Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul directed by Adamma Ebo starring Regina Hall and Sterling K Brown under the festival's NEXT section, and the Dakota Johnson film Cha Cha Real Smooth in the US Dramatic Competition.

Check the website for more details and to book your tickets


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