It was a tough climb, but Lav Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis is making its way in the Philippines on March 26. There is still no word where it will be screened, but it will be backed by Star Cinema.
The eight-hour epic stars John Lloyd Cruz, Piolo Pascual, Cherie Gil, Angel Aquino, Alessandra de Rossi, and Susan Africa, and is produced by Paul Soriano.
Hele is a sorrowful mystery that marries literature (including the missing chapters of Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo), mythology (tikbalangs or half-man half-horse creatures), and history (Ka Oryang’s 30-day search for the lost body of her husband Andres Bonifacio).
It was screened at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale, even if it had financial difficulties. Hele won the Alfred Bauer Prize, a recognition given to films that opens new perspectives. At the awarding, the cast and crew met Meryl Streep, the jury president.
Despite the length of the film, critics gave Hele rave reviews. Taiwanese film critic Yun-hua Chen said that “the film really needed to be this long so the audience can submerge in the story,” while German film critic Hubert Speich called it “superb.” Inquirer.net reported that at the end of the two-part screening, more than half the audience was still present and there was applause and shouts of “bravo.”
Lav Diaz is a critically-acclaimed director whose films have been recognized in the Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, and the New York Film Festival. Last year, his film Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan was screened at the Un Certain Regard section of 2013 Cannes Film Festival and was selected asthe Philippines’ entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 87th Academy Awards.
Diaz is also known for the length of his works, averaging six to nine hours. His longest was 2004’s Ebolusyon ng Isang Pamilyang Pilipino,which spanned almost 10 hours.
Watch Hele‘s trailer below:
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