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May himala! Restored film proves it’s a real global classic

Iconic still from the Filipino classic, "Himala." (Courtesy of ABS-CBN Film Archives)

Filipinos will again take the spotlight when the 1982 movie, "Himala," shows at the prestigious Venice Film Festival from August 29 to September 8.

What's special about this screening is that the film will be presented in its fully restored version, along with other international film classics in the program "Venizia Classici." Other films in the program are acclaimed Hollywood classics such as Howard Hawks's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," which starred Marilyn Monroe, and Orson Welles's "Chimes at Midnight."

Above all, the inclusion of "Himala" reinforces the accolade it received from an online poll CNN conducted in 2008, naming it the best film of all time in the Asia-Pacific region.

Eloquent and powerful

"Himala" is notable because it starred Nora Aunor in a career-defining performance as Elsa, a young woman who attracts international attention to her small town when she claims she has seen The Virgin Mary and can heal the sick.

It was also directed by the late National Artist Ishmael Bernal, from a screenplay written by the multi-awarded Ricky Lee.

Variety Magazine, the American film industry's trade paper, called "HImala" "an eloquent, powerful film that is full of grandeur and simple segments."

It praised Nora Aunor for her "sensitive, polished and highly passive and consistently low key performance," making her "letter-perfect for the role."

'Great historical importance'

In choosing "Himala" to be part of the festival's "Venizia Classici," organizers said it would allow "contemporary audiences the opportunity to view again or see for the first time films of great historical importance."

ABS-CBN spearheaded the film's restoration after acquiring the rights to the acclaimed title, which was first produced by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines in 1982 for the Metro Manila Film Festival.

It will also soon restore another film classic produced by ECP, Peque Gallaga's "Oro Plata Mata."

The restored print of "Himala" will show in local theaters in the coming months.

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