film festivals

Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s ‘Blue Room’ wins best foreign film at La Femme International Film Fest

Ruben V. Nepales

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Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s ‘Blue Room’ wins best foreign film at La Femme International Film Fest

YOUTH. A still from 'Blue Room.' Contributed photo

'Blue Room' is an eye-opening and absorbing drama about the existence of 'VIP detention areas' in police precincts where the arrested can bribe their way out

LOS ANGELES, USA – Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s feature directing debut, Blue Room, won best foreign film at La Femme International Film Festival Sunday night in Los Angeles.

Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan’s ‘Blue Room’ wins best foreign film at La Femme International Film Fest

The Filipina filmmaker scored a historic first in the 19th edition of the film festival, described as “celebrating, supporting, and advancing content creation by women producers, writers, and directors from around the world.” She is the first Filipina to win the best foreign film prize in the festival called LAFIFF for short.

Leslie LaPage, La Femme Film Festival president and festival director said, “We have had Filipino films before in the shorts category, to my knowledge. No film from the Philippines has ever won the foreign feature category.”

LaPage commented about Asuncion-Dagñalan’s feature, “It was the deep dive into the treatment of youth in the Philippines that stood out in Blue Room.”

In her acceptance speech at the awards show in a theater at the Regal LA Live in downtown LA, Asuncion-Dagñalan thanked the festival for the unprecedented honor. 

Blue Room is an eye-opening and absorbing drama about the existence of “VIP detention areas” in police precincts where the arrested can bribe their way out. The San Fernando, Pampanga-born director cowrote the story and screenplay with Carlo Obispo and Siege Ledesma.

WINNER. Ma-an Asuncion-Dagñalan proudly displays her award. Ruben V. Nepales

The visibly moved director told Rappler after the ceremonies that she believes her film’s police corruption topic is a universal theme that resonated with the festival’s jurors and audience.

The St. Paul University Quezon City alumna said she would immediately call her husband, filmmaker Michael Asuncion-Dagñalan, mother, and relatives about the happy news.

Blue Room bagged three nominations in the recent Soho International Film Festival in New York – best world showcase feature film and best acting performance in a leading role – world feature (Nour Hooshmand and Soliman Cruz). Asuncion-Dagñalan produced her auspicious film directing debut with Harlene Bautista, Wilfredo Manalang, and Ferdy Lapuz and coproducers Maylyn Enriquez and Carlo Obispo.

The drama, which stars Harvey Bautista, Juan Karlos Labajo, Keoni Jin, Elijah Canlas, Hooshmand, Cruz, and Bombi Plata, garnered five honors in the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival last year – best director, special jury prize (main competition), best supporting actor (Cruz), best cinematography (Neil Daza), and best production design (Maolen Fadul). The film was released in the Philippines by TBA Studios.

Filipinos who attended the awards show with Asuncion-Dagñalan included her LA-based family and friends, Cindy Sison, president and CEO of Cinema Independent which is Blue Room’s worldwide distributor, journalist Janet Nepales, and Melissa Alviar, the logistics manager of the producing team, Fusee Media.

Actress Kimleigh Smith hosted the awards show which handed prizes in various categories to women filmmakers from around the world.

In a statement, LAFIFF stressed, “We, at LA Femme proudly celebrate all the contributions to entertainment by leading female directors, producers, writers, and performers in the entertainment industry. In recent years we have honored such outstanding individuals as Aisha Tyler, Angela Bassett, Ivonne Coll, Virginia Madsen, Vivica A. Fox, Lorraine Toussaint, Tippi Hedren, Susan Seidelman, Penelope Spheeris, Jacqueline Bisset, Patty Jenkins, Holly Wiersma, Angela Bromstad, Diablo Cody, Gina Torres, and Sally Kirkland, among others.”

“Hopeful!” Asuncion-Dagñalan exclaimed when asked how she would describe herself after her La Femme film festival win. – Rappler.com

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Ruben V. Nepales

Based in Los Angeles, Ruben V. Nepales is an award-winning journalist whose honors include prizes from the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards, a US-wide competition, and the Southern California Journalism Awards, presented by the Los Angeles Press Club.