By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 1, 2011 at 1:35AM
Michael Collins' doc "Give Up Tomorrow" won the Heineken Audience Award at this year's Tribeca Film Festival. Collins takes home a $25,000 cash prize for his film, which details the story of culinary student Paco Larrañaga, who, at 19 years old in 1997, was arrested for the kidnap, rape, and murder of two sisters on the provincial island of Cebu in the Philippines.
"In 1999 Paco Larrañaga was first sentenced to life in prison in The Philippines." Collins told indieWIRE in an interview last week. "He appealed to the Supreme Court and his family patiently waited for the decision, confident he would be released. But in 2004 the Supreme Court elevated his sentence to death by lethal injection. This is when I got involved. Paco’s brother-in-law (my producer Marty’s brother) told me the situation and asked if I could make a web animation depicting some of the injustices Paco suffered during his trial. Before agreeing to this, I researched exhaustively and eventually, was given a letter by 'The Unheard 35' – they are Paco’s witnesses, classmates primarily, who were with him in Manila when the Chiong sisters went missing in Cebu, an entire island region away. Most of the 35 were never allowed to even testify. The letter expressed their outrage and frustration with the Judge, the media, and the Philippine public who had long ago tried and found Paco guilty despite the obvious proof otherwise."
Read the full interview here, and check out the full press release regarding the award below.
New York, NY [April 30, 2011] – The 10th annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), co-founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff, and presented by founding sponsor American Express, announced the winner of the Heineken Audience Award – Give Up Tomorrow – tonight at Eye Beam in New York City. The film’s director, Michael Collins, will receive a cash prize of $25,000.
Throughout the Festival, which kicked off on April 20, audiences have been able to vote for the Heineken Audience Award by completing nomination ballots upon exiting screenings of TFF films. Films in the World Narrative Competition, World Documentary Competition, Viewpoints, Spotlight and Cinemania sections were eligible for the Heineken Audience Award, the audience choice for best feature film. Final results were tabulated and announced during this evening’s Festival wrap party.
Give Up Tomorrow received a Special Jury Mention in the World Documentary Competition at this year’s TFF and played to rapturous response and standing ovations. The film was also supported by the Tribeca Film Institute’s Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund, and the filmmaker is an alumnus of the Tribeca Film Institute’s Tribeca All Access program.
The film tells the story of culinary student Paco Larrañaga, who, at 19 years old in 1997, was arrested for the kidnap, rape, and murder of two sisters on the provincial island of Cebu in the Philippines. Despite demonstrable evidence of his innocence, including 40 eyewitnesses and photographs placing him hundreds of miles from the scene, Paco’s legal ordeal was only just beginning. Dubbed the Philippines’ “trial of the century,” Paco’s ordeal became a galvanizing focal point in a far-reaching exposé of gross miscarriage of justice at the highest levels.
Following the case and its aftermath for more than a decade, the film traces Paco’s story from the ethnic and class tensions at its roots, through a distracting thread of tabloid sensationalism, and ultimately to appeals and interventions from foreign governments and NGOs as the injustice of Paco’s situation becomes ever more stark and undeniable.
“From the first standing ovation of Give Up Tomorrow at its premiere at the Festival it was clear that audiences were passionate about the portrayal of Paco Larrañaga's unjust incarceration. We hope that the film will raise awareness of Paco’s plight and lead to his freedom,” said Nancy Schafer, Executive Director of the Tribeca Film Festival. “This film is remarkably well crafted and I hope this award brings it the additional visibility it deserves.”
Give Up Tomorrow will screen tomorrow (Sunday, May 1) at 12 noon and 9 p.m. at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea, as will the rest of the films that won awards at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. Specific times for the other films are available on the Festival website, www.tribecafilm.com. All other 2011 TFF award winners were announced previously at an awards show on Thursday, April 28, 2011. A full list of winners can be found at www.tribecafilm.com.