The Gospel of the Beast of award-winning director Sheron Dayoc from Zamboanga City, Philippines, is competing at this year’s 36th Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) from October 23-November 1, 2023.
The Tokyo International Film Festival is a film festival established in 1985. The event was held biennially from 1985 to 1991 and annually thereafter. According to FIAPF statistics, it is one of Asia’s competitive film festivals, is considered to be the second largest film festival in Asia behind the Shanghai International Film Festival, and the only Japanese festival accredited by the FIAPF (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films/ International Federation of Film Producers Associations).
Created in 1933, FIAPF is composed of 36 member associations from 30 of the leading audiovisual production countries. Its Secretariat is located in Brussels, Belgium. FIAPF is also in charge of regulating international film festivals, including some of the world’s most important ones.
Dayoc’s film, which was shot in various locations in Panay, about a poor young man who witnesses “the horrifying reality of the dark side of Philippine society,” as he begins working for a criminal syndicate, was one of only 15 movies selected from 1,942 entries from 114 countries and regions.
Mateo is a 15-year-old boy known for being a troublemaker in school but has a genuine affection for his two siblings. He becomes the man of the house after his father went missing, doing his best to care for them. However, a confrontation with his schoolmate Gerald escalates into violence when he accidentally kills his rival.
With nowhere else to turn, Mateo seeks help from Berto, a man he barely knows, who persuades him to flee and introduces him to the world of the criminal syndicate. As Mateo takes up residence in the old mansion where the syndicate operates, his world darkens as he gradually succumbs to despair and violence. Delivering drugs and disposing of dead bodies become part of his daily routine.
Over time, Berto evolves into a father figure for Mateo, and as their unique father-son relationship grows, Mateo gradually learns the harsh realities of life, death, and violence. After his best friend, Gudo, is killed by the same syndicate they work for, and he uncovers the truth about his father’s death, Mateo finally loses himself to violence and despair, falling into a trap on his ultimate journey into beasthood.
“Loving one’s country becomes challenging when it erodes its moral identity through submission to the Machiavellian political power of a few, akin to a confused and troubled child. Mateo and Berto embody this dynamic, with Berto as the cunning authority and Mateo as the naive youth,” Dayoc comments.
“It is frightening that some Filipinos praise such brutal crimes as justified standards. I always wonder how this country got to this point. Is anyone actually to blame for the country’s sorry state? Why has my country chosen to remain blind now, of all times?”
“I was born and raised in the southern Philippines, specifically in Mindanao. I grew up witnessing the ongoing conflict between the government and the Moro rebels, a result of long-standing historical grievances dating back to the Spanish era. What started as a distant reality during my childhood became a more palpable truth as I grew older and gained social and political awareness,” he relates.
Dayoc developed the project after hearing the tale of a close family friend how he used to be a hired killer for a vigilante group.
“According to him, it all started when he accidentally killed his high school classmate during a fight. He was able to run away, only to eventually be trapped in the world of the syndicate. I was startled to hear this. I have known this man all my life as someone who is caring and loving. I never would have thought that he had experienced such things. After that long conversation, we never spoke about it again,” he shared.
“I asked myself then and there: why had he suddenly entrusted his story to me? One thing is for sure: his life story is as important as those of iconic people we have come to know in books and on TV. His story inspired me to write and develop ‘THE GOSPEL OF THE BEAST,’ a coming-of-age film about a young boy’s journey into BEASTHOOD.”
“The film may not have your typical happily-ever after ending, but I hope that through it, the audience will gain a deeper understanding of the growing culture of hate and violence in society today,” he added.
SHERON DAYOC is one of the pioneering voices of regional cinema in the Philippines, an alumnus of the 2011 Sundance Institute, Next Master Tokyo Filmex 2010, and Asian Film Academy 2008.
His 2016 film WOMEN OF THE WEEPING RIVER (formerly titled SATRA) was one of six film projects selected for the June 2011 Sundance Scriptwriting Lab in Utah. The project is a recipient of a script development fund from the Asian Cinema Fund and Hubert Bals Fund. The film got selected at Asian Project Market, Sorfond pitching forum in Norway, and Ties That Bind – EAVE for 2014.
The film won several local and international awards and was awarded by the Philippines’ National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and Gawad Urian (Philippines Critics Award) as one of the top 10 iconic films of the decade.
His first full-length documentary, THE CRESCENT RISING won the best documentary at the 2016 Busan International Film festival. Locally it won the best documentary film both for the 2016 Gawad Urian (Philippine Critics Award) and at the 2015 Qcinema International Film Festival.
HALAW (WAYS OF THE SEA), his debut feature-length film, won the Best Film, Director, Actor, and Editing at the Philippines’ 2010 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. He produced, wrote, and directed it.
The film won the Special Mention, NETPAC at the 2011 Berlin IFF, and the NETPAC Development Prize at the 2011 Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia (2011). The film was screened and competed at several film festivals in Asia, Europe, the US, South America, and Australia.
Dayoc constantly collaborates with his core team, producing the award-winning debut film of Arden Rod Condez, John Denver Trending, which won the Jury Prize, Critics and Audience awards at the Vesoul Asian Film Festival. The film also won Kaiju D’oro Al Miglior Best Film Award in EstAsia 202; best film, NETPAC Jury Award, and other awards at Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival (2019). The film competed internationally in Busan International Film Festival’s New Currents Section.
In 2019, he produced Sonny Calvento’s short film Excuse Me Miss, the first Filipino short film to compete in Sundance in 2019 and eventually screened at major festivals like Locarno IFF, Shanghai IFF, and Palm Springs ShortFest, among others.