Oscar nominee 'Metro Manila' wins over Philippines
In this Thursday Oct.3, 2013 photo, Briton Sean Ellis, writer-director of "Metro Manila" - Britain’s nominee to the Oscar Awards’ best foreign language film, poses by his film's poster prior to its premier screening at a cinema in Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Britain's nominee as Best Foreign Language Film for the Oscars features an all-Filipino cast and a story that traces the sacrifices and hopes of an impoverished family from the countryside that tries its luck in the dark and squalid ghettos of the Philippine capital.
"Metro Manila," written and directed by Briton Sean Ellis, is one of three foreign language films nominated in the best foreign language category for next year's Oscars that delves into the lives of Filipinos.
The Philippines' nominee, "Transit," focuses on the struggles of migrant Filipino workers in Israel, while Singapore's entry, "Ilo Ilo," is about a Filipino nanny who works for a Singaporean family.
The U.S. film academy will select the finalists in January ahead of the Oscar ceremony on March 2.
"I thought it was a very beautiful and poetic story about family and about sacrifice and about hope," Ellis said of his movie, which won an audience award at the recent Sundance Film Festival. The movie premiered in Manila this week and opens in Philippine cinemas on Wednesday.
It tells of the journey of farmer and former soldier Oscar Ramirez, played by veteran stage actor Jake Macapagal, and his young family to seek a better life, from the rice terraces in the rural north of the country to the chaos of Manila.
In the city, they fall prey to various characters and are forced out of desperation to make difficult choices. Oscar's wife, Mai, played by film actress Althea Vega, is forced to become a bar girl to feed her two young children.
Oscar manages to land a job as a driver for an armored truck company and is befriended by Ong, his senior officer. Ong — played by John Arcilla — is helpful and jolly, but it becomes clear he had been waiting for someone naive and trusting like Oscar to come along.
In this Thursday Oct.3, 2013 photo, Briton Sean Ellis, second from left, writer-director of "Metro Manila" - Britain’s nominee to the Oscar Awards’ best foreign language film, poses with his actors, from left, Jake Macapagal, John Arcilla and Althea Vega, prior to the premier screening at a cinema in Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines. The film features an all-Filipino cast and a story that traces the sacrifices and hopes of an impoverished family from the countryside that tries its luck in the dark and squalid ghettos of the Philippine capital Manila. “Metro Manila,” is one of three foreign language films nominated to the Oscar best foreign language category which delves into the lives of Filipinos. Movie industry players say it could be a signal of a new emergence of Philippine cinema. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Ellis said the story was inspired by a scene he witnessed while visiting the Philippines. Two employees of an armored truck company, wearing bulletproof jackets and helmets and lugging M16 rifles, were screaming at each other. It ended with one of them kicking the truck before they both got in and drove off.
He said the scene remained with him when he returned to Britain and he kept on wondering what they were arguing about. That led him to develop a 20-page synopsis. He then flew to Los Angeles to flesh out the script with his friend Frank E. Flowers.