The Philippines made waves onscreen and offscreen at the Singapore Media Festival (SMF) which hosted major events such as the 30th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) and ScreenSingapore. Two Filipino films were part of this year’s SGIFF lineup: “Verdict” (2019) by Raymund Ribay Gutierrez and “Maicling pelicula nañg ysañg Indio Nacional” (2005) by Raya Martin. “Verdict” bagged the Best Performance Award for the late actor Kristofer King at the Silver Screen Awards.
According to SGIFF, “Kristofer King’s role in Verdict is one that could have easily lapsed into caricature but instead, his nuanced, outstanding performance gave us an insight into the mind of a perpetrator.” King passed away in February, with “Verdict” being his last film project. “Verdict,” which is the official Philippine entry to the 2020 Academy Awards, made its Singapore premiere at the National Museum of Singapore on November 27. It had another screening the following day at the Oldham Theatre. Meanwhile, Martin’s film, with its Spanish title translating into “A Short Film About the Indio Nacional,” had a November 30 screening at the Oldham Theatre. The SGIFF is the longest-running film event in the Southeast Asian region.
Photo from the Singapore Film Festival (SGIFF) Facebook page
The other big wins posted by the Philippines at the SMF took place at the ScreenSingapore Southeast Asian Film Financing (SAFF) Project Market. Variety reported that three Filipino film projects were awarded several top prizes. JP Habac’s “Golden” of TBA Studios received the RED Award, which is a camera loan package worth USD 14,700. It also bagged the post-production prize KL Post / SuperNova Award also worth USD 14,700. “Golden” is a musical comedy drama about homeless gay seniors who will perform again as drag queens in order to pay for a new house.
“Indigo Children” by Kim Zuñiga and Sandro del Rosario of Wanderstruck Films also received the RED Award, plus the distribution prize called 108 Media Award worth USD 20,000. “Indigo Children” is a science-fiction fantasy film about a boy who steals an alien device, and then develops superhuman abilities, although temporarily. Finally, the sci-fi action project of Mikhail Red titled “Quantum Suicide” won the ACE Pictures Award, a production prize worth USD 10,000. “Quantum Suicide” is a Philippine-Japanese co-production between Media East Productions and Harakiri Films.
Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño reacted to the recent wins of Philippine Cinema in the recently concluded SMF hosted by the Infocomm Media Development Authority. “I am so proud of our Filipino film projects getting support from international decision-makers. From the Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab (SEAFIC) to Singapore Media Festival to International Film Festival and Awards Macao (IFFAM), it feels good to know that more and more producers understand the importance of elevating the quality of their projects and giving more importance to development to be more globally competitive,” she said.
Aside from holding film screenings and Q&A sessions, the SMF also hosted a number of panel discussions and meetings in late November, which were attended by Diño. She was among the speakers in the 3rd Southeast Asian Producers Network, which is part of the SGIFF Film Academy. Diño shared the panel with Singapore Film Commission (SFC) Director Joachim Ng and Purin Pictures Director Aditya Assarat from Thailand in “Closed-Door Session: Funding Southeast Asian Co-Productions” that was moderated by Lai Weijie.
FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño at the SGIFF Southeast Asian Producers Network discussion. Photo from the SGIFF Facebook page
It was the perfect moment for Diño to discuss the various projects of FDCP, including the latest film incentive program, FilmPhilippines. She announced that FilmPhilippines aims to provide location incentives to enjoin more foreign productions to film in the Philippines. It will also provide a co-production fund so that international film outfits can enter co-production deals with duly-certified Philippine companies. “I genuinely believe that this funding program will encourage more collaboration with and among Southeast Asian filmmakers,” Diño stated about the program that will accept applications in January.
After her speaking engagement with fellow champions of Asian Cinema, the FDCP Chair’s work at the 30th SGIFF did not end there. She also took the time to attend sessions and meetings such as the “Producers Network Talk – Southeast Asian Stories on a Global Stage” moderated by Filipino producer Armi Rae Cacanindin. The in-depth panel discussion at the Oldham Theatre featured Locarno Film Festival Open Doors Head Sophie Bourdon, Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée Bilateral Affairs Advisor Julien Ezanno, and Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum and Film Industry Services Office Director Jacob Wong. Bourdon, Ezanno, and Wong talked about the components that would make films stand out for audiences, granting bodies, and international film festival jurors. They also gave their thoughts on the present state and perceived future of Southeast Asian Cinema.
Photo from the SGIFF Facebook page
FDCP Chair Diño with Sophie Bourdon, Julien Ezzano, and Phil Giordano
“I am not embarrassed to say that the reason why FDCP is able to create programs that are tailor-made to the various needs of the sector is because I am always open to learning about the different industries of various countries, and I achieve this by participating in these kinds of discussions that give me grounded insights about the landscape of one's film industry,” shared Diño. “I'm still learning so much until now just by listening to the dynamic exchanges among the Southeast Asian producers and our international industry experts. To be an effective leader, you need to be a good listener. Success is more often attained by asking ‘How?’ than by saying ‘No.’”
The SGIFF Southeast Asian Producers Network had other participants from Philippine companies, namely Jade Francis Castro of VY/AC Productions, and Bradley Liew of Epicmedia Productions. Meanwhile, the SEAFIC at SGIFF aimed to provide advice and encouragement to filmmakers who are working on their first feature-length project. Three Filipinos took part in the SEAFIC in Singapore: Pamela L. Reyes for “Mysticism,” Xeph Suarez for “Dancing the Tides,” and Kristine Parreno Barrameda for “Bing. Bong. Bang.” They got to receive mentoring from award-winning editor and director Lee Chatametikool from Thailand, promoter, curator, producer, and Programme Director Teresa Kwong of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, and Venice Biennale College Head of Studies and Venice Film Festival VR competition curator Michel Reilhac of France.
Producer Armi Rae Cacanindin with directors Jade Castro and Bradley Liew
Diño commented that she learned a lot from her fellow Philippine delegates. “Seeing our Filipino producers discuss their own stories and struggles made me realize the importance of keeping the communication lines and platforms open in the region so that we may come up with shared solutions. Even though we still have a long way to go, I’m still proud to have our Filipino delegates who are involved and engaged as ever in international platforms and festivals like the SGIFF.”
FDCP Chair Diño with Southeast Asian Film Lab Filipino delegates Kristin Barrameda, Pamela Reyes, and Xeph Suarez
Participants of the SGIFF Southeast Asia Producers Network with Asian Shadows’ Maria Ruggieri
While in the Merlion City, Diño wasted no time in holding meetings for the future of Philippine Cinema. She met up with Alex Long, the Netflix Public Policy Manager for Asia-Pacific, to discuss possible projects for the coming year. In 2019, the Philippines participated in the Post Production Training Workshop in Mumbai, India, which was organized by Netflix to help enhance entertainment production skills in Asia. Diño is looking forward to more collaborations because FDCP wants to continue engaging Filipino film workers and provide support programs to increase their global competitiveness. “The audiovisual industry is a global market and we must push the entire industry to create export-quality content so we can share our stories not just to our local audience, but also to the world and its countless platforms,” she said.
FDCP Chair Diño with Alex Long of Netflix
FDCP Chair Diño with Singapore Film Commission Director Joachim Ng and Deputy Director Cynthia Chong
Moreover, the FDCP Chair squeezed in a meeting with Director Ng and Deputy Director Cynthia Chong of the SFC. The Philippines has collaborated with Singapore in numerous film-related events, and the two countries aim to strengthen their partnership in 2020. “You accomplish more when you share the same vision and believe in complementing each other's initiatives. This is our dream for the rest of the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)—to work as one region and help one another elevate our industries. This spirit of collaboration creates an energy that is felt by the industry because it is ultimately for the industry,” beamed Diño as she concluded her quick, productive, and meaningful Singapore trip.
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