A Filipino science-fiction film bagged an award at a major international short film festival held in early June.
Stephen Lopez’s dystopian short-form movie “HITO” received the Vienna Short Film Award for Best Film for the FIDO Fiction and Documentary – International Competition category.
It also qualifies for the Academy Awards Live Action Short Film category.
This was announced by Vienna Shorts on its Facebook page on Wednesday, June 7.
The film follows a 14-year-old girl named Jani who lives in a dystopian world without empathy and where history has no meaning.
She befriends a talking catfish named Kiefer, who becomes her companion in her journey to freedom.
Jani also takes extreme measures to protect him out of fear that her mother might barbecue the fish but soon finds herself being targeted by their government.
The jury described the film as “unclassifiable and unconventional,” adding that it provides “biting and humorous commentary on an authoritarian state” through its “visual excess and multimedia playfulness.”
“Weaving its way through tableaux of familial and human-animal relations, the film grapples with both narrative and political control,” they said.
In its review, Asian Movie Pulse said that “HITO” shows a “critique of the extreme measures the Filipino government took during COVID” through the various messages heard from speakers throughout the film.
“Some brief footage of Marcos’s times lead to the ludicrous interrogation scene, which makes another comment about the particular era in the country,” the website added.
Sharing a backstory of the film, Lopez told Nylon Manila that he combined the “weird science concept” inspired by the strange experiments of American scientist John Lily and the stories told to him by people he knows about “their experiences during the Marcos [Sr] dictatorship.”
Lily attempted to communicate with dolphins by including them with LSD and letting them live with a woman in an inundated house.
“I also did some [research about] the unbelievable story of the Marcoses bringing back African wildlife to the Philippines and putting them on an island called Calauit,” the filmmaker shared with the publication.
Lopez said that it took him and his team four years to develop and make “HITO.”
What is the Vienna Shorts?
Vienna Shorts is a major international film festival celebrating short-form movies.
Every year, it makes around 300 films from all over the world accessible to the audience and the international industry.
The festival is also a qualifying event for the Austrian Film Award, the British Film Award or BAFTA, the European Film Award, and the highly prestigious Oscars or the Academy Awards.
Vienna Shorts is one of the two film festivals in Austria that is funded by the European Union.
The festival is active in numerous international collaborations and was honored in 2014 with the Bank Austria Art Prize, the highest endowed award for art and cultural organizations in Austria.
— Featured video from ANIMA Studios via YouTube