When it comes to filmmaking, the Philippines is among the best in the world. A testament to this is the recent triumph of Filipino independent films “Leonor Will Never Die” and “The Headhunter’s Daughter,” at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. 

Photo from the Sundance Institute

The two entries were screened in different parts of the US courtesy of the prestigious festivals’ online platform and a handful of satellite screenings. Both films premiered at the second virtual edition of the Sundance Film Festival, which ran from January 20 to 30, 2022.

Martika Ramirez Escobar, the Filipina responsible for writing and directing “Leonor Will Never Die,” won this year’s Special Jury Award for Innovative Spirit, a first for any Filipino feature film director.

The film, which the jury regarded as “movie-within-a-movie and a homage to ’80s Pinoy action movies,” served as Escobar’s debut directorial film.

Meanwhile, “The Headhunter’s Daughter,” a short film by Pinoy independent filmmaker Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan, became the first-ever Filipino short film to bag the Short Film Grand Jury Prize in the competition.

According to Blackhorse Lowe, member of the Sundance Short Film Jury, Eblahan’s work exuded a “poetic and dreamlike” quality packed with “gorgeous cinematography, and direction, and acting, capturing a unique sense of place” that entrances its audience. 

The film follows dreamer Lynn, who aspired to be a country singer, as she travels to the Cordilleran highlands to participate in a life-changing audition. 

 Sundance Film Festival is the largest independent film festival in the United States and is considered among the most prestigious in the world. It’s been around since 1978 and has been bringing together talented artists from all over the world and giving them a platform to tell their stories. 

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Image credit: Sundance Institute