Elijah Canlas won the Best Actor Award for Kalel, 15 at the 16th Harlem International Film Festival (HIFF) in New York last May 14.
This feat is a welcome addition to his Best Actor trophies from the 17th Rome Asian Film Festival in Italy, Gawad Urian and FAMAS.
A black-and-white feature, written and directed by Jun Robles Lana, Kalel, 15 is a social drama that addresses several issues at the same time.
They are the stigma surrounding HIV; the carelessness with which the youth in the Philippines approaches sex; and the consequences of growing up with a troubled parent and the Christian double moral.
“From the time I presented the project at the 2014 Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum, the story has evolved into a more complex narrative.
After years of research and interviews, what started out as a mere tale of secrets and scandal became an examination of youth culture, particularly young people in peril, and a society that cares so little about them,” said Lana. “At the core is still the character study of a Catholic boy, whose identity is shrouded with shame and secrecy.
Except for his mother and sister, no one else knows that his father is a priest serving in their archdiocese. But the story takes a darker turn, as he ends up searching for love and validation in all the wrong places, until one day, he is diagnosed with HIV.
On the surface, the movie is about a young boy’s struggle to belong and embrace life’s complications. But on a deeper level, it is about all of us, our search for meaning in a world where the very institutions we are supposed to look up to are weighed down with hypocrisy, dishonesty and deception.”
Lana won the Jury Prize at the 23rd Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in Estonia, Northern Europe last year and Best Screenplay Award from Gawad Urian.
Kalel, 15 was presented at the 2019 HAF-WIP Lab under the title Son of God and at the 2014 HAF as Our Father.
Produced by Perci Intalan for Cignal Entertainment, Octobertrain Films and IdeaFirst Company, the film also stars Jaclyn Jose and Eddie Garcia.
It will be recalled that Ruby Ruiz won the Best Actress Award for her titular role in Iska at the 15th HIFF edition.
This year’s film festival screened 31 features, 32 shorts, two VR/360 projects and six webisodes representing 17 countries.
Reporting by Patricia Elise Monsod / AdChoiceTV News