MANILA, PHILIPPINES, APRIL 15, 2021 — The third and final leg of the Southern Voices Film Lab (SoVo Lab) is set to commence this month as the inaugural run of the intensive script and development lab for Mindanaoan filmmakers is nearing its culmination.
The SoVo Lab Producer’s Lab will be held online from April 16 to 18 with producers Bianca Balbuena-Liew, Isabelle Glachant, and Weijie Lai as mentors for the seven selected film projects:
“Cangrejos” by Zurich Chan
“Virgins of the River” by Julienne Joy Ilagan
“Diwalwal” by Jarell Serencio
“Mga Yawa sa Paraiso” (Devils in Paradise) by Joe Bacus
“The Widow” by Ryanne Murcia
“Misery Mountain” by Orvil Bantayan
“Dancing the Tides” by Xeph Suarez
The SoVo Lab was established by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in 2019 to boost regional cinema by discovering indigenous stories from the South and empowering the voices of Mindanao.
Filmmakers of the Sovo Lab projects have each received a development fund worth PHP 100,000. They have also been working with international and local consultants and mentors since 2019. The final lab was slated for June 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic situation got in the way.
“The pandemic may have delayed the resumption of the SoVo Lab, but this did not dampen the spirits of our finalists. They continued to strive for excellence while being creative, resourceful, and resolute,” said FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño.
After the Producer’s Lab, the SoVo Lab Pitch Showcase will happen in May wherein finalists will present a pitch of their projects to the jury. One or two projects will be chosen to receive the SoVo Lab co-production grant worth PHP 1 million.
“Mindanaoan stories have found a new platform in SoVo Lab, and I am proud of the progress of all our selected projects for making waves not just locally but internationally as well,” continued Diño.
“Cangrejos” made it to the 2019 Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab (SEAFIC) and Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) 2021 while “Dancing the Tides” was selected for First Cut Lab Manila 2019 and Ties That Bind 2020.
“Devils in Paradise” was part of the ASEAN-ROK (Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea) Film Leaders Incubator (FLY) Film Lab and Asian Film Market in 2019 as well as Full Circle Lab Philippines in 2020.
“Virgins of the River” writer, producer, and director Ilagan was a participant in Rotterdam Lab 2021 of the 50th International Film Festival Rotterdam while three SoVo Lab filmmakers were part of SEAFIC Open House 2019: “Devils in Paradise” director Bacus, “Dancing the Tides” director Suarez, and “Cangrejos” producer Gale Osorio.
The distinguished SoVo Lab mentors
In 2019, SoVo Lab called for applications from budding filmmakers who are residents of Mindanao and are developing their first, second, or third feature film. Over the course of almost two years, SoVo Lab has been helping in the development of the seven projects and the advancement of their scripts to strengthen the quality of the finalists’ feature-length films.
The first leg of SoVo Lab, held in June 2019 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, featured individual script consultations and talks by experts. The mentors were SEAFIC Executive Director Raymond Phathanavirangoon, Variety’s Chief Asia Film Critic Maggie Lee, award-winning producer Balbuena-Liew, and awarded Mindanaoan filmmaker Sheron Dayoc.
The second leg of SoVo Lab was the scriptwriting session in Davao City. It took place in January 2020 with South Korean producer Yeonu Choi of CJ Entertainment and acclaimed Filipino writer, producer, and director Dodo Dayao as mentors.
The third leg is headlined by the return of Balbuena-Liew who is now part of a co-production with England and Ireland for “Nocebo” by Lorcan Finnegan starring Eva Green, Mark Strong, and Filipino Chai Fonacier. “Nocebo” is an International Co-production Fund (ICOF) awardee of the FDCP’s FilmPhilippines Incentives Program.
The CEO of Epicmedia Productions, Inc. has produced over 30 feature films, shorts, and series, including Venice Film Festival Lion of the Future and Orizzonti Best Film awardee “Engkwentro" by Pepe Diokno, Berlin International Film Festival’s Berlinale Silver Bear Prize recipient “A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery” by Lav Diaz, Cannes Film Festival Critics Week’s “The Manila Lover” by Johanna Pykko, and local blockbusters “That Thing Called Tadhana” by Antoinette Jadaone and “Patay Na Si Hesus” by Victor Villanueva.
Her other co-productions are with Japan, Australia, France, Norway, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Currently a Locarno Open Doors mentor and European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE) Ambassador for Asia, she received the 2018 Busan’s Asian Film Commissions Network (AFCNet) Producer of the Year and was the youngest awardee of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) FIAPF Award for outstanding contribution to Asia Pacific cinema.
Meanwhile, Glachant started as a journalist for French TV station Canal+ and began her career in cinema as executive producer of “Shanghai Dreams” by Wang Xiaoshuai, which won the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize in 2005. She participated in several of Wang’s films, including “11 Flowers,” the first official French-Chinese co-production. She also worked with directors Li Yu, Lu Chuan, and Lou Ye.
Glachant, who was made Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture, founded Hong-Kong based production company Chinese Shadows and French-based Shasha & Co Production, which produced 2012 Venice Orizzonti Best Film Award recipient “Three Sisters” by Wang Bing, Wang Xiaoshuai’s latest documentary “Chinese Portrait” (Busan International Film Festival 2018), and Mouly Surya’s “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” (Cannes Directors’ Fortnight 2017).
She is also the founder of international sales company Asian Shadows that represent films by Asian talents, Masters, and new voices such as “Coming Home Again” by Wayne Wang, “The Red Phallus” by Tashi Gyeltshen of Bhutan, and “Divine Factory” by Joseph Mangat, its first Filipino production. “Divine Factory” is also a FilmPhilippines ICOF grantee as it is a co-production among the Philippines, Taiwan, and United States.
Last but not the least, Lai is a producer based in Singapore and Toronto. In 2010, he co-founded E&W Films, a Singapore-based film development and production company that produced “Pop Aye” by Kirsten Tan, which received awards at Sundance, Rotterdam, and Zurich.
E&W Films also produced “Taste” by Lê Bào, which won the Special Jury Award in the Encounters section of the Berlinale where it marked its world premiere. Lai’s upcoming projects include CNC Development Award recipient “Mongrel” by Chiang Wei Liang, developed at the Cannes Residence, Talents Tokyo, and TorinoFilmLab ScriptLab.
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