Charmie Joy Pagulong – The Philippine Star

October 17, 2021 | 12:00am

Award-winning director Brillante Mendoza hopes to “bring attention to hardworking and skilled boxers” in the Philippines and Japan after winning the prestigious Kim Jiseok Award at the 26th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) last Friday for his film Gensan Punch.

The award was given in honor of the late South Korean program director and co-founder of the BIFF.

The HBO Asia’s original Gensan Punch is inspired by the true story of Naozumi Tsuchiyama, a Japanese man with a prosthetic leg who goes to the Philippines to train and pursue his dream of becoming a professional boxer, the synopsis reads.

The so-called Gensan Quarter of General Santos City has long been known for producing athletes including presidential candidate Manny Pacquiao. The film tackles the issue of discrimination towards the disabled, especially in competitive sport.

“Receiving the Kim Jiseok Award for Gensan Punch is an honor, especially since Kim Jiseok was an artist worthy of respect and was a good friend. It means a lot to my team, as artists and Filipinos, for it is our intention to constantly try build friendships and bridges as we tell these stories to the world,” direk Brillante said in a statement sent to The STAR.

“We also hope that the film will bring attention to hardworking and skilled boxers in General Santos City, the rest of the Philippines and Japan; and certainly around the world, there are so many who dream to succeed in the field but face difficulties in reaching it,” he added.

The film also wishes to “emphasize that we must respect those who have disabilities and do more to strengthen them as they pursue their goals,” said direk Brillante.

He furthered, “May we never give up on our dreams. We appreciate those who supported us, and made this happen.”

The jury also praised the Filipino-Japanese film, “Incredibly strong story narrated in a documentary style. It is not just a story of a hero’s path to victory, but a story of building human relationships. Okinawa and Gensokyo are two seemingly different worlds, but they are connected by the warmth of people and their beliefs.”

In 2007, direk Brillante’s films Foster Child and Tirador also participated in BIFF. After which, he would always receive invites from the prominent film festival.

In 2009, the critically-acclaimed filmmaker won the Best Director award for Kinatay at Cannes Film Festival and his film Lola bagged the Best Film award at the Sixth Dubai International Film Festival.

Gensan Punch is one of the two winners of the Kim Jiseok Award this year. Seven nominated films from Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Philippines, and Singapore vied for the coveted award which is given to the most attractive film that reflects the contemporary standing of Asian cinema.

In English, Japanese and Tagalog, Gensan Punch was filmed in both the Philippines and Japan, and stars Shogen (Death Note; Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist), Ronnie Lazaro (Affliction; Manila Kingpin: The Asiong Salonga Story), Kaho Minami (Dream Street; Hotaru), Beauty Gonzales (The Heiress; Angelito: Batang Ama) and Vince Rillon (3pol Trobol: Huli Ka Balbon!; Ang Probinsyano).

It was created and written by Honee Alipio, produced by Takahiro Yamashita and Krisma Maclang Fajardo and executive produced by direk Brillante, Simon Crowe and Fumie Suzuki Lancaster.

The movie will also be screened in the Gala Selection (non-competition) at the upcoming 34th Tokyo International Film Festival. It will premiere exclusively on HBO Go and HBO in December.

Last month, John Arcilla won the Coppa Volti at the Venice Film Festival for his performance in the HBO Asia Originals series On the Job.

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