Vibrant and energetic, that’s what the first quarter of the year has been for the Philippine cinema. With a strong visibility in the international film festival circuit, the return of a promising and productive industry initiative, as well as some exciting projects in development, Filipino cinema has been on a spirited momentum and does not see any signs of slowing down. We first begin with the recent edition of the Berlinale. The Philippines sent a large delegation of filmmakers, producers, and creatives to the wintry European city, marking an optimistic start to 2023. Among the showcased Filipino films was Stephen Lopez‘s Hito, a unique and youth-oriented short film with a sci-fi theme that competed in the Generation 14plus section and was the only Filipino entry in the festival’s competition. Additionally, Lino Brocka‘s classic, Manila in the Claws of Light, was screened in the 2023 Retrospective, as curated by the Silver Bear-winning director Lav Diaz.
In addition, several Filipino production companies, including Clayshop, Fusee, Los Otros Film Productions, and Mandala Productions, were present at the European Film Market. Notably, Bianca Balbuena-Liew, Epicmedia’s co-founder and former CEO, served as a mentor at the Berlinale Talents’ short film station, and Filipino documentarist Venice Atienza was among the Generation Kplus international jury.
Local filmmaker Khavn dela Cruz had a colorful presence at Rotterdam with two films, National Anarchist: Lino Brocka and Nitrate: To the Ghosts of the 75 Lost Philippine Silent Films (1912-1933), the latter of which was co-produced by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Lino Brocka’s classic film, Cain and Abel, was also featured in the same section.
Also making its mark in Rotterdams is Lav Diaz’s When the Waves are Gone, which made its Dutch premiere in Rotterdam’s Harbour section, alongside Pecival Intalan’s romantic comedy I Love You, Beksman and Kenneth Dagatan’s war horror In My Mother’s Skin, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
At the 29th Vesoul International Film Festival Of Asian Cinema, Filipino cinema was in the spotlight once again. The festival dedicated a special space to Philippine film, describing it as “resilient” and “full of vital energy.” The sidebar featured screenings of local classics such as Mario O’Hara’s war film Three Years Without God and Ishmael Bernal’s A Speck in the Water, as well as contemporary offerings like Mikhail Red’s Neomanila and Sheron Dayoc’s Women of the Weeping River, among others. Red and Dayoc were also part of the fest’s international jury.
FULL CIRCLE LAB PHILIPPINES
Full Circle Lab Philippines recently unveiled the projects selected for its fifth edition, which include 12 projects in development, three films in post-production, eight up-and-coming producers, and three editors. Notable projects include Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Daughter of the Sea, Maung Sun’s Future Laobans, and Pham Hoang Minh Thy’s Daughter of the Mountain God.
The lab, launched in 2019 by FDCP and Tatino Films, aims to identify and nurture Filipino and Southeast Asian talents, and make the Philippines a creative hub in the region. This year, 45 participants and 14 mentors will take part in the program, which runs from March to September.
PROJECTS IN DEVELOPMENT
There are several local projects currently in development that you should keep an eye out for. Dodo Dayao (Midnight in a Perfect World), known for his work in the horror genre, is working on his next feature film, Dear Wormwood. Produced by Epicmedia, the film is described as a “dark fairy tale” that combines “elements of body horror, the supernatural, gore, and cosmic time travel.” Dear Wormwood won the Best Project Award at the International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM) Project Market in 2019.
Another project in the same vein is Sonny Calvento’s Mother Maybe. Set in Tokyo, Japan, the film follows a son who gets reunited with his mother and discovers something curiously different about her. Written by Arden Rod Condez and produced by Sheron Dayoc, Mother Maybe was among the eight projects selected at the first Malaysian Development Lab for Fiction Feature Films (mylab) and received a funding award from the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) at the 27th Busan International Film Festival.
Veteran filmmaker and producer Sheron Dayoc is also developing two projects. After Autumn, a Filipino-Japanese co-production, is a sci-fi drama that explores the impact of economic pressure and technology on human connections and sheds light on the issue of suicide. Written by Denise O’Hara, After Autumn is produced by Taro Imai of Japan’s Harakiri Films and Dayoc’s Southern Lantern Studios. On the other hand, 6th Finger is a coming-of-age story that follows a boy believed to be cursed by a mysterious monster. The film, which participated in the Berlinale’s Co-Production Market in 2021, is being produced by Alemberg Ang of Daluyong Studios.