Philippine film ‘ASOG’ wins the Hivos Free to be Me Award

March 21, 2024

Hivos presents its Free to be Me Award at the annual Pink Film Days film festival Friday, March 22, in Amsterdam’s Het Ketelhuis. This year’s prize goes to the Philippine film ‘ASOG,’ a unique road movie about friendship, transphobia, and climate change.

The film is about Jaya, a non-binary teacher and performer, and their young student Arnel who meet while traveling and decide to continue their journey together. Although they each have their own separate stories and destinies, these soon become intertwined.

Non-professional actors and the healing process

What is really special about the film is that all the roles are played by local Filipinos affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013 who play themselves in the film. Yolanda was one of the strongest storms ever recorded and killed over 5,000 people.

Jaya told us about the experience of working closely with fellow survivors: “At first working with them was dominated by grief because of our collective sad stories. But when [director] Seán Devlin gave me the inspiration to do it artistically, our collaborative stories became so magical that it made us whole again.”

“ASOG literally means healer,” Jaya added. “By sharing our film with the world, I am the ‘ASOG’ representing LGBTIQ+ and exuding an aura of positivity, inspiring lives, and bringing joy out of unimaginable disaster… But ASOG can’t just be me. Amid the complexities we are now facing, just look around you because every one of us can be an ASOG in our own way.”

Directed by Seán Devlin, ASOG was co-produced by Alan Cumming, who said, “ASOG is the film that we need now. There is so much passion, urgency, humor, and love in it.”

Jaya in ASOG

Hivos and the Pink Film Days festival

Hivos has been a Pink Film Days partner for many years. The festival is the Netherlands’ largest and oldest LGBTIQ+ film festival, and we present our Free to be Me Award there every year. The award distinguishes a film from a country where being yourself as an LGBTIQ+ person cannot be taken for granted. In these countries making a film about sexual and gender diversity represents a true act of courage. Pink Film Days runs from March 13 to 24 in the Ketelhuis in Amsterdam.

Previous winners

A Place of Our Own from India (2023)
Kapana from Namibia (2022)
Valentina from Brazil (2021)
Todos Cambiamos from Panama (2020)
Rafiki from Kenya (2019)
Evening Shadows from India (2018)

Still from Kapana