[PHOTO- Brillante Mendoza and Nora Aunor. BAYANI SAN DIEGO/INQUIRER]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 26, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Bayani San Diego Jr. -

The country scored a double victory at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Apsa) held in Brisbane, Australia, Friday night, with a best actress award for Nora Aunor and best director for Brillante Mendoza for the drama film “Thy Womb (Sinapupunan).”

Aunor and Mendoza were at the Philippine premiere of “Thy Womb” at the second Sineng Pambansa at the SM Lanang in Davao city when they heard about their movie’s latest triumph.

“Thy Womb” was the country’s entry in the Venice International Film Festival, where it won the La Navicella and P. Nazareno Special Mention for Mendoza and the Bisato d’Oro for Aunor.

The movie casts Aunor as Shaleha, a Badjao midwife in Tawi-Tawi who struggles to cope with the irony of her infertility.

“We have so many problems in our country. Hopefully, with good news like this, we can bring a little joy to our countrymen’s lives,” Aunor told the Inquirer.

She said she dedicates the award to the people of Mindanao as well to Filipinos abroad as she expressed pride in receiving an honor from another Asian country.

Mendoza said he hopes the development would pique the Filipinos’ curiosity for indie films so that these will be recognized not only by foreigners, but by Filipinos as well.

Founded in 2007, the Apsa seeks to “recognize and promote cinematic excellence and cultural diversity in the vast Asia-Pacific region… And is considered as the region’s highest accolade in film.”

All Apsa winners and nominees are inducted into the Asia Pacific Screen Academy. They are some of the most respected names in film from the region.

‘National treasure’

“It proves that Philippine cinema will continue to have a strong presence in world cinema,” Mendoza said, adding that he was the first Filipino director to be recognized by the Apsa.

Mendoza also called Aunor “a national treasure.”

Four years ago, Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” which also starred Aunor, won the CNN

Apsa Viewers’ Choice award for best Asia-Pacific film of all time.

Aunor said she was happy and proud of the international honor—another first for the country. “It’s inspiring. It’s heartening because it makes our country proud and it came from our neighbors in the region.”

When Aunor won the Bisato D’ Oro from Italian critics, the organizers citation read (as translated): “Her stature and skills as an actress give light to a… moving and meaningful film. She reminds us that to be an actress means to communicate ideas with deep sensibility in order to make them believable.”

Mendoza was awarded La Navicella by the Rivisita del Cinematografo in Venice for “giving voice to the Badjao community in a respectful and emotionally involved manner. The film goes beyond naturalism and turns into poetry.”

Aunor and Mendoza fell in love with Tawi-Tawi, an island-province where the film was set, and have dedicated the film’s many triumphs to its “gentle, peace-loving” people.

Costar Mercedes Cabral, who also graced the Davao screening, said she is happy that the people she worked with in the film were recognized as the best in Asia.

“It’s like I won, too. I am so proud of Direk and Miss Nora,” Cabral said.

Apsa celebrates “the finest, bravest and most audacious cinema in the region,” according to its website.

From Brisbane, Chris Martinez, who was nominated for best screenplay for “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank,” told the Inquirer that Marlon Rivera, the director of “Septic Tank,” was awarded the Apsa Netpac award, which comes with a film development cash prize of $5,000.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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