The Berlin Film Festival screened on Thursday what is probably the longest competition contender in its 66-year history, an eight-and-a-half-hour movie by Filipino director Lav Diaz.
As the curtain closed at the 1,600-seat Berlinale Palace theater, the audience, bleary-eyed but enthusiastic, rewarded the 57-year-old filmmaker with warm applause and cries of “bravo”, French news agency AFP reports.
The marathon screening only had one break.
Diaz’s A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery (Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis) is one of 18 films vying for the festival’s Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded by jury president Meryl Streep Saturday.
Streep and her seven-member panel including British actor Clive Owen attended the sole screening of the film, which was sold out and packed to the rafters Thursday morning.
Security staff confiscated water bottles and required audience members to check their bags before they immersed themselves in the rich revolutionary history and mythology of Diaz’s impoverished homeland, the news agency said.
Gerhard Reda, a German amateur filmmaker, called the screening a “personal test of courage”.
“It was an amazing experience – totally worth it,” said Taiwanese film critic Chen Yun-huashe.
Hubert Speich, a critic for German public broadcaster SWR, called the picture “superb”.
“Diaz has his own signature poetic style and the images are just sublime,” he said.
“He needs a canvas this size to tell the story he wants to tell in all its complexity – in its historical sweep there is not a single shot that is excessive.”
Diaz’s movie is set in the late 19th century at the period of the Philippine revolution against Spanish rule and focuses on the influence of Andres Bonifacio, considered to be one of the main motivators of the uprising, Reuters said.
Producer Bianca Balbuena praised the Berlinale for allowing the film to be shown in competition for the main prize despite its length.
“The Berlinale gave us the freedom, they didn’t ask us to cut down the length of the film,” she said, adding: “Thank you, Berlin.”
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