Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s directorial debut film, starring Elijah Canlas, Juan Karlos, Harvey Bautista, Nourijune, and Keoni Jin, made history as the first Filipino movie to win an award at LAFIFF.
Inequalities in the Filipino justice system is a prevalent theme in many indie films produced in the Philippines. Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s recent film provides a distinct viewpoint by centering its story on privileged protagonists. This unique approach contributed to Blue Room receiving well-deserved recognition, not only at Cinemalaya last year but also at the 19th edition of the LA Femme International Film Festival in Los Angeles, California.
On October 22, at a women’s film festival, the groundbreaking feature exposing VIP detention areas in police precincts, where bribery secures release, made history as the first Filipino film to win the Best Foreign Film award. The Filipina filmmaker also becomes the first director to have achieved the distinction of accomplishing this feat.
Filipina-directed Film ‘Blue Room’ is LA Film Fest’s Best Foreign Film
LAFIFF has long championed content produced by women in various roles worldwide—by ‘celebrating, supporting, and advancing content creation by women producers, writers, and directors from around the world’. This year, that commitment found even greater resonance in the Philippines through the remarkable achievements of Director Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan and the dedicated people behind Blue Room.
In a Facebook post, the Film Development Council of the Philippines shared: “Blue Room is the first Filipino feature film to be awarded at LAFIFF, an annual film festival that showcases films written, directed, and produced by women. It aims to support female filmmakers in the distribution of their films to domestic and international audiences. FDCP congratulates Dir. Asuncion-Dagñalan and the entire team behind ‘Blue Room’ for this historic achievement.”
To note, Blue Room was the recipient of CreatePHFilms’ Small Budget Production Fund from the FilmPhilippines Office in 2021. It has bagged three nominations at the recent Soho International Film Festival in New York, including Best World Showcase Feature Film and Best Acting Performance in a Leading Role. Furthermore, the acclaimed film also received the 2022 Cinemalaya’s Special Jury Prize, Best Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Production Design.
Led by Elijah Canlas with Juan Karlos, Harvey Bautista, Nourijune, and Keoni Jin, Blue Room, now on Netflix, follows Rebel Rebel, an up-and-coming rock band of privileged teens who hit a rough patch when they’re arrested for drug possession after a successful festival gig. Taken to the infamous “Blue Room” in the precinct, they’re pressured to pay a bribe for their freedom. As tensions rise, the band must decide whether to compromise their principles or stay true to their ideals, which they express through music.
In her speech, Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan expressed her gratitude to the whole team, as well as her husband, who’s also a fellow filmmaker for the support and encouragement given to her: “Filmmaking, just like any art, is important in relaying messages and educating individuals. So, use it responsibly and properly. Use it to expose the truth. So, no to history revisionism, no to propaganda, and no to fake news.” She further added, “Blue Room is about human rights and police brutality. Fact number one: I wrote the script in 2010 and what was happening 10 years ago is still happening today in the Philippines. Fact number two: this is my directorial debut, and lastly, I would like to thank my family and my ever-supportive husband who is in the Philippines right now.”