Philippine migrant worker vs. authorities wins top prize at FICA pan-Asian film festival in France

A still from Zig Dulay's Bagage
A still from Zig Dulay's Bagage Zig Dulay

A film about a Filipina migrant worker has won the Golden Cycle Rickshaw award at France’s Fica Asian film festival. 32,500 spectators came from near and far to Vesoul in the east of France where they had the choice among 90 feature and documentary films in two retrospectives, a special focus on films from Mongolia, a section of films from the female perspective (Paroles de Femmes), and the nine contemporary Asia movies in the competition. 


The four-member international jury awarded the prize for the best fiction film to Philippines director Zig Dulay.

“I’m so happy because the film will most likely be seen now in the Philippines and it’s really important that people in the Philippines see it,” a visibly moved Dulay said.

Bagage, his fifth feature film stars Angeli Bayani as Mercy, a Filipina domestic migrant worker who is accused of dumping her newborn baby in an aeroplane toilet bin after an inflight birth.

The movie “shows a process, many institutions are involved in it and they use the person, the case, for their own interest,” Dulay said before winning the prize. “That’s what I want to show in this film.”

Damascus-based veteran Syrian film maker, Mohamad Malas, was one of the members of the international jury chaired by Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai. The main requisite for a “good film which I would admire would have to do with the situation in the country where the film is made, the cinematographic language and the director would have to bring finesse and sensitivity to their subject”, Malas said.

Two other films stood out on awards night at the 24th International Festival of Asian Cinema.

A Letter to the President directed by Roya Sadat scooped four prizes for a film made jointly with her husband about how difficult it is to bring change in society.

The Taste of Rice Flower won four prizes also. It is about the relationship between migrant parents and their abandoned children in a tribal community in China. It is directed by Pengfei, who belongs to the same generation as Sadat.

Nine carefully selected films were in the main competition under the heading, Faces of Contemporary Asia:

  • A Letter to the President – Roya Sadat – Afghanistan (Special mention International Jury, Audience Award, Special mention Netpac, High-School Students’ prize);
  • The Taste of Rice Flower – Pengfei –China (International Jury third prize, Inalco’s Favourite award, Press Jury Award, Netpac, Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema award joint winner);
  • River Edge – Wang Chao – China;
  • Leaf of Life - Ebrahim Mokhtari-Iran (Inalco award);
  • Goodbye Grandpa – Morigaki Yukihiro-Japan (International Jury Award second prize);
  • Shuttle Life - Tan Seng Kiat - Malaysia;
  • Bagage – Zig Dulay – Philippines (Golden Cycle Rickshaw, International Jury);
  • Mothers – Lee Dong-eun-South Korea (Netpac award joint winner);
  • A Tiger in Winter – Lee Kwang-kuk – South Korea.

The other Fica 2018 awards are:

  • Theatre managers’ film preview Golden Star award: Dakini – Laos - Dechen Roder;
  • Best documentary youth jury prize: The Wait – Afghanistan/Denmark –Emil Langballe;
  • Audience documentary award: Au fil du Monde (Threading the World) – Laos/France –J ill Coulon and Isabelle Dupuy Chavanat;

The festival's founders, Martine and Jean-Marc Therouanne, have built up an exceptional cultural event with a rich programme of new and old, and rare films from east and west Asia. Some of the screenings are sell-outs.

The prizewinners and juries paid tribute in various ways during the closing ceremony on Tuesday night. The international jury chair from China, film-maker Wang Xiaoshuai wound up his short pre-award-announcement  saying, “This festival makes us proud to be Asian.”

The festival organisers have more than one reason to rejoice 12 months before their 25th anniversary festival.

The mayor announced he’s making space in the old town hall to house the Therouanne’s 24 years of festival related archives in Vesoul giving the festival an all-year round presence. Chrétien said the centre would also host activities related to cinema from Asia.

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