How 'Liway' became Cinemalaya's highest-grossing film ever

MANILA, Philippines— Liway holds the record for the highest-grossing film in Cinemalaya history.

It may not be your typical romance-comedy top billed by big name celebrities but its authenticity was enough to get the audience talking.

“I think people connected to it and ultimately, people learned about the film through word-of-mouth. They liked it or they felt emotional because I saw the reactions of people after watching the movie. It's really surprising, pleasantly surprising. We're very happy about it but we didn't expect it, so it's very surprising,” director Kip Oebanda said during the press conference for Liway. 

Without giving the exact figures, Kip revealed they were able to surpass the current box office holder by more than 50 percent. As an independent movie without a dedicated marketing budget, Kip said that they relied on people to spread the word about Liway.

According to him, most of those who actively campaigned for the film were millennials – proof, he said, that the younger generation are not “apathetic,” nor have they “moved on” from the Martial Law era. 

"Sometimes it's unfair to label millennials as apathetic. If you look at the analytics of Liway, 18-25 yeay-olds watched and talked about the film. There's a generation waiting for our stories," he added.  

By telling real stories from the perspective of actual Martial Law victims, they were able to make the film more human, effortlessly tapping into the hearts of moviegoers, said the director.

“To win battles like this you have to win the hearts and minds. I think a lot of academics and really smart people are doing really well in the facts. I think what we are trying to provide is the emotional connection to the story. For less than two hours you’re able to relive it in the eyes of individuals and I’m very thankful for the people who are spreading the stories and are spreading the word.”

Following the success of the movie, Kip hoped that there will be more stories about Martial Law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the future.

“Hopefully, our film is just one of the first stories to be told on film. I hope there will be more filmmakers, poets, singers who will write and tell stories about that era because it’s very rich in stories.”

Glaiza on box office

Overwhelmed and grateful, Glaiza admitted she was not expecting Liway to be the highest-grossing film in the 14-year of Cinemalaya history.

“I told Kip, at least I've experience being a box office queen. It's nakakakilig and emotional in a way because it's the ultimate reward – to see people standing up to applaud and cheer 

The actress also said she didn't feel discouraged after losing Best Actress Award to Ai-Ai delas Alas (School Service). Liway’s box office success is more than enough. 

"It was never an issue. It's funny that people think the basis of success, the basis of whether people think you're a good artist are the awards. For me, just seeing people applaud the movie in the theater, that alone is a huge achievement," she said.

Set in the Martial Law era, Liway tells tells the story of a young mother who uses storytelling to protect her young son from the painful realities of prison life. The movie premieres nationwide Wednesday, October 10. – Rappler.com