National

Filipino movie director welcomes Tokyo award for ‘Crocodile’

Kyodo

Francis Xavier Pasion, a movie director from the Philippines, says that winning a Tokyo Filmex award for his independent film “Crocodile” may help it reach a broader audience in his home country, where Hollywood products predominate.

Pasion’s third film, “Crocodile” is based on the true story of a woman and her daughter killed by a crocodile in Agusan Marsh on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines. Last November it won the grand prize at the 15th Tokyo Filmex festival, which supports young filmmakers in Asia.

Combining fact with fiction, the film tells the story of an Agusan woman who, while preparing for her daughter’s birthday, learns that the girl has been killed by a crocodile in a wetland and starts the search for her body.

Pasion, 37, said he will use some of the prize money of ¥700,000 on screening the film in Agusan because few people there have yet to see it.

Pasion said the award may lift the movie overall. “It might raise awareness about the film and it will give the film leverage so we can promote it well,” he said in an interview in Tokyo.

In the Philippines, Hollywood is king. “There are fewer Filipino films because of the cost, but there are also many independent films,” he said.

The jury’s citation for “Crocodile” at the 2014 festival said: “The director’s instinctive observational skills offer us a spiritual journey. . . . The film’s strength lies in its honest and cohesive directorial style and the vivid expressiveness of its cast.”

Shots of a boat going back and forth in the wetland from a drone and a raft drew particular acclaim.

According to Pasion, the film, which also won the best film award at the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, was inspired by a psychic whose words directed him to Agusan Marsh, where he first encountered the woman’s family.

“My film is not that commercial and I am not expecting it to be a blockbuster,” he said.

A native of Manila, Pasion grew up watching such Asian films as “Raise the Red Lantern,” a 1991 film directed by Zhang Yimou of China, and “Rashomon,” a 1950 film directed by Akira Kurosawa, and aspired to be a filmmaker ever since high school.

At university, he set up a filmmaking club and made his directorial debut in 2008.