Visayan Movie Makes Successful Debut at Tokyo International Film Fest

TOKYO – The 36th edition of the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) recently concluded, showcasing a selection of 219 titles from various countries and regions. One film that stood out was “The Gospel of the Beast” from Western Visayas, Philippines, directed by acclaimed Filipino filmmaker Sheron Dayoc. This regional masterpiece had a triumphant world premiere in the Main Competition section, securing its place among the top 15 films vying for prestigious festival honors.

In an exclusive interview with the Filipino-Japanese Journal during the 10-day festival, Dayoc, a native of Zamboanga City, Mindanao, expressed his gratitude for the recognition.

“It’s such a rewarding experience na after working so hard sa film namin, nabigyan kami ng platform such as Tokyo International Film Festival. And more than that, it’s really a validation na a regional film can actually get a spot here at TIFF, especially sa main competition pa,” he said.

“The Gospel of the Beast” distinguishes itself by featuring 100 percent local actors and an 80 percent crew from the province. Dayoc, speaking as a regional filmmaker, expressed deep pride in bringing a non-Tagalog regional film to a global platform.

“The film, shinoot namin siya sa Western Visayas. It’s such an honor na maidala namin ito rito sa TIFF,” he added.

The movie stars Jansen Magpusao, Ronnie Lazaro, and John Renz Javie, unraveling the narrative of Mateo, a poor young man entangled with an organization that exposes the harsh realities of Philippine society.

Rooted in actual cases and interviews, the film aims to open discussions about violence.

“Based sa actual case, sa mga referent na na-interview namin sa Zamboanga. Tapos mula doon, na-inspire ako to make a film about it, mainly because parang magandang i-open ‘yung discussion about violence na people who commit violence are also victims of the violent environment that they grew up with,” Dayoc revealed.

Magpusao, who plays Mateo, shared his exhilarating experience at the festival.

“Sobrang saya po ng experience ko rito. Nung red carpet, ninerbyos ako kasi sobrang daming tao and may mga nag-a-ask ng autograph. Kahit sa ilang minuto lang, naramdaman ko how it felt to become a celebrity po,” he enthused.

Reflecting on what he hoped the TIFF audience would take away from his film, Dayoc emphasized the importance of addressing violence on a universal scale.

“It’s really about the universal theme of violence na makita nila na it’s not just about violence happening in the Philippines but also different forms of violence, meron domestic abuse, white slavery, human trafficking, modern-day slavery na magkaroon tayo ng conversation about how these injustices impact human beings’ humanity because these will transform our society kaya napakaimportante na pag-usapan ‘yung violence para hindi tayo maging passive about it. At tulad ng mga nangyari for the past few years, they even celebrate, tolerate injustices and violence, because they think that’s justice but actually it’s not,” he said.

This marks Dayoc’s second participation at TIFF, following his debut in 2010 with “Ways of the Sea (Halaw).” - Florenda Corpuz

(Photo by Din Eugenio)