Director Dante Nico Garcia (right) is cited for creating "an extraordinary love story filled with local flavour" in his film Ploning, which stars Judy Ann Santos. Direk Ga bagged the Best Director Award during the Asian Festival of 1st Films in Singapore (where this photo was taken). Tikoy Aguiluz (left) was part of the jury that chose this year's winners.

Photo: Courtesy of MM Mayangitan

Even though Ploning director Dante Nico Garcia is busy advocating for his film Ploning in the United States, he took time to attend the Asian Festival of 1st Films (AFFF), which took place at Singapore from December 4 to 10.

Direk Ga (Dante's nickname) introduced his film about Ploning, a woman from Cuyo, Palawan (portrayed by Judy Ann Santos) but he did not stay for the awarding ceremony that took place last December 11. Ploning producer Jourdan Sebastian accepted the trophy in behalf of Direk Ga.

The effort was well worth it since the first-time director was able to beat three directors of the films Firaaq (India), Ganglamedo (China), and Little Zizou (India). According to the official website of AAFF, the Filipino director was awarded Best Director for "successfully creating an extraordinary love story filled with local flavour in his film Ploning."

In a phone interview with Direk Tikoy Aguiluz, he informed PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) about the triumph of Ploning in the Asian Festival of 1st Films.

Direk Tikoy, described by AAFF as a leading figure in the alternative cinema movement in the Philippines, was one of the three jury members who chose this year's winners. The other members were Hong Kong director Yim Ho, Silver Bear winner in Berlinale for the 1996 film The Sun Has Ears, and Nadia Tass, one of Australia's most respected and unique filmmakers.

The Best Film award went to Firaaq, which is written and directed by actress Nandita Das. She also took home the awards for Best Screenplay and the Foreign Correspondents Association Purple Orchid Award for Best Film.

Another Philippine entry, Pisay directed by Auraeus Solito, was nominated in the Best Producer category but it did not bag the prize. Aside from being nominated for Best Director, Ploning was also shortlisted in the Best Screenplay category.

This year, a total of 638 submissions came from 26 countries for the fourth edition of the AAFF. The list was trimmed down to 28 films and documentaries that competed for the 11 awards categories.