Films on overseas Filipino workers win big at Cannes festival

Filipino theater actress Dolly de Leon earned raves for her role as toilet manager Abigail in the movie “Triangle of Sadness,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year.
Filipino theater actress Dolly de Leon earned raves for her role as toilet manager Abigail in the movie “Triangle of Sadness,” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

Two films that center on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) reaped top awards at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in France.

The social satire Triangle of Sadness by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, which stars renowned Filipino theater actress Dolly de Leon, won the Palme d’Or, the Cannes festival’s highest award.

De Leon plays Abigail, a toilet manager on a chaotic cruise ship that gets stranded on a deserted island. The actress received widespread praise for her role.

In an interview with Variety, the actress shared that, despite years of being in the entertainment industry and Triangle of Sadness’ overnight success at Cannes, she has not broken out in the Philippines. 

“To be honest, I have not broken out in the Philippines. I have not,” De Leon said. “I play bit roles — lawyers, doctors, the mother of the lead, the principal of a school, or the psychiatrist. The reason why I considered this work with Erik Matti very important is because the character I played really leads the story. It’s about her and how she deals with different struggles, and I haven’t done that before in film or TV.”

Another film, Plan 75, received the Cannes Camera d’Or Special Mention Award. Focusing on Japan’s aging population, the drama stars Filipino-Japanese actress Stefanie Arianne as a caregiver. The film is co-produced by Filipino producer Alemberg Ang and local production company Fusee, and also features Filipino actress Sheryl Ichikawa.

Meanwhile, Mike de Leon’s 1979 horror Itim (Rites of May) was screened at the Festival’s Cannes Classics program. On the day of its screening, de Leon, who was unable to attend the festival, sent a message drawing parallels between the movie’s release during martial law and its screening today with Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the country’s president-elect.

“I am happy that my film is participating in this great festival, but I feel utterly humiliated to be a Filipino today,” he said.

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