Oscar-winning director Ang Lee is this year's recipient of the Lino Brocka award from Cinemanila.
The filmmaker behind Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Life of Pi graced the awarding ceremony yesterday, November 28, at SM Aura.
Titled A Salute to Ang Lee, this event was spearheaded by the Taipei Economic Cultural Office, in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines, through its Film Cultural Exchange Program.
Ang Lee's 2012 movie Life of Pi was shown once again to invited guests.
An open forum and awarding ceremony immediately followed the screening.
Brillante Mendoza, Angeli Bayani, Ang Lee, and Tikoy Aguiluz
Cinemanila festival director Tikoy Aguiluz held up the Gawad Lino Brocka award in appreciation of Ang Lee.
The late Lino Brocka is considered as one of the Philippine movie industry's greatest directors.
The bulol trophy from Cinemanila depicts the Ifugao rice god holding up a film reel.
Tikoy addressed Ang Lee thus, "Thank you, movie god, for making movies—big and small—each one distinguished by mastery of his craft.
"We just want to say thank you for your passion and vision and boundless humanity."
In response, Ang Lee placed his palms together in a prayer-like fashion and made a slight bow.
Direk Tikoy then added, "Thank you, Jane Lin, for supporting an artist, a househusband for 6 years," elicting chuckles from the crowd and the filmmaker himself.
Jane is Ang Lee's wife, who is known to have supported her husband financially before Lee became the acclaimed filmmaker he is now. She was not present during the ceremony.
The Cinemanila head continued, "Thank you, Taiwan, for recognizing a son and for giving him the highest recognition an artist could ever have.
"Thank you, Ang Lee, for visiting Manila and inspiring our filmmakers."
After his speech, Tikoy handed the bulol trophy to Angeli Bayani, who appears in the movie Ilo Ilo, which just won in the Golden Horse Awards.
Ang Lee accepted the award, and reached for the microphone to say, "Angeli is so brilliant in the movie."
He even described her as a "national treasure."
The renowned director then gave the Pinay actress a hug as tears welled up in Angeli's eyes.
ANG LEE'S REVELATIONS. During the forum, the Taiwan-born filmmaker made startling revelations about his movie career and also made bold statements about working in Hollywood.
After achieving so much success in the world of filmmaking, Ang Lee continues to remain grounded.
The soft-spoken director sometimes resorted to self-deprecating humor which elicited chuckles from the crowd.
He said it wasn't easy for the Asian director to make a name in Hollywood.
In fact, he recalled a time when he had to rely on his own scriptwriting skills since he was new in the industry.
"I had to write my first two to three movies since I was young and no one gave me scripts. I had to write.
"I thought writing was really painful.
"In writing, you're facing something blank. You have to make up everything.
"To me, that's lonely and painful."
At the forum, Ang Lee looked back on the highlights and the low points of his career.
Born in Taipei, Ang Lee attended the National Taiwan College of Arts, where he graduated in 1975.
He then relocated to the United States, where he studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and New York University.
Since then, he has chalked up records. He became the first Asian to win an Academy Award for Best Director, which he did for the movie Brokeback Mountain.
He picked up his second Academy Award for directing Life of Pi, based on the acclaimed best-selling novel by Yann Martel.
"I just express myself and do my best," said Ang Lee to members of the media and local filmmakers gathered at SM Aura.
"Somehow it works out for me, and sometimes, I hit gold, like Brokeback Mountain."
He later quipped, "I grew up in Taiwan, what do I have in common with a gay cowboy in Wyoming? But I read the short story, and I cried."
He might have hit gold with Brokeback Mountain, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as gay cowboys, but there were times he hit deadends, or so it seemed at the time.
He revealed, "After Hulk, I thought, 'I want to retire.'"
Laughter filled the cinema with Ang Lee's admission about the 2003 movie starring Eric Bana.
Regarding his directorial style, he pointed out, "I don't want to set boundaries. I don't want to have a style.
"I think my most expensive movies, such as Life of Pi and Hulk, I think of them as art films, while some of my smallest movies, like Wedding Banquet, which is among my first movies, reached less than half a million dollars."
ON WORKING IN THE USA. The discussion turned towards making independent films or films that do not have the support of a major film company.
"It's tougher in America to make independent films," he observed.
"But for the world audience, this movie [Life of Pi] is very inspiring to me.
"It didn't work so well in America, which used to be a leader in the market.
"The whole world just stood up.
"Eighty-five percent of the income came from outside North America. Even Canada is better than [North America].
"I think that's good news for all of us."
The 59-year-old filmmaker also shared insights on how aspiring directors can penetrate Hollywood.
"Make waves in an established film language and business, such as Hollywood language.
"You don't have to follow them. You have the chance to find your audience and make it.
"You just have to be patient and, little by little, you will manage to find where your audiences are."
BIGGEST FEAR. The director—who has already been called a "genius" by cineasts—also opened up about his greatest fear.
He admits that he is scared by the thought of receiving negative feedback from critics or the viewing public. However, he says, he uses this fear as his motivation.
"You tend to do your best when you're scared. I think if I'm not scared, I can be lazy.
"My biggest fear is that I keep repeating myself, and I lose my freshness.
"Freshness is important."
WIND BENEATH HIS WINGS. Going back to his statement that he once wanted to quit directing, what motivated Ang Lee to pursue his passion for directing movies?
"I cannot imagine my life without moviemaking.
"One thing I know, I know my wife will kick me out of the house. That's the big reason! I'm not joking!"
He continued, "Between movies, I'm like this at home." He slouches in his chair and wears a vacant look on his face.
"I'm like no good for anything, and she will not tolerate me.
"As long as I have the stamina to make a movie, I still want to make it."
He was also candid about the difficulties of being a filmmaker.
"Making movies is fun, but sometimes, dealing with people is not fun.
"There are good times and bad times. They can get on your nerves.
"I'll have problems sleeping. Those times, I will think about quitting, but I still want to make movies.
"I feel like I'm a slave, not a master of filmmaking."