The Rights Stuff


Filipino Filmmakers Gaining Recognition In Front Of And Behind The Camera At Asia Pacific Screen Awards

By Ina Barrameda — 29.06.2018

It’s no secret that Filipino filmmakers are quickly becoming mainstays in the world’s prestigious film festivals. Who could forget Lav Diaz’s reception of the Golden Lion Award at the 73rd Venice Film Festival for Ang Babaeng Humayo? Or Jaclyn Jose’s Best Actress win for Brillante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival?

Closer to home, Filipino filmmakers have been making waves at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA). Held annually in Brisbane, Australia, the festival seeks to recognize excellence in filmmaking across 70 countries, and is considered the highest film accolade in the Asia Pacific region.

In 2011, Sheron R. Dayoc’s Halaw won the APSA NETPAC (Network for the Promotion for Asian Cinema) Development Prize, the first Filipino film to attain this recognition. The following year, Marlon Rivera won the same accolade for Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank, while Brillante Mendoza and Nora Aunor took home the Achievement in Directing and Best Performance by an Actress awards, respectively, for Thy Womb. In 2016, Hasmin Kilip kept the Filipino pride alive by bagging the Best Performance by an Actress for her portrayal of Jane, a young mother in Eduardo J. Roy’s Pamilya Ordinaryo.

Besides the awards, Filipinos have also been sharing their love and passion for filmmaking as part of the APSA Academy, an organization made up of the APSA’s nominees, winners, special invitees, jurors, International Nominations Council members, and panelists.

With more than a thousand members, the Academy fosters discourse and collaboration within the Asia Pacific region as well as around the globe. Through the Motion Picture Association (MPA) APSA Academy Film Fund, the Academy supports its members through four annual grants of US$25,000. In partnership with Griffith Film School, the Academy also launched the Asia Pacific Screen Lab, a year-long mentoring program for emerging filmmakers from Asia Pacific.

To date, there are 40 Filipino filmmakers in the APSA Academy; they include TV and movie producer Malou Santos, writer and director Ralston Jover, screen actor Sharmaine Buencamino, and actor and host Paolo Ballesteros.

One young but notable Filipino member of the APSA Academy is producer and screenwriter Bianca Balbuena.

In 2017, Balbuena made headlines when she became the first Filipino recipient of the International Federation of Film Producers (FIAFP) Award, an honor granted to select filmmakers with outstanding contributions to the Asia Pacific film landscape. She is the youngest recipient of the coveted award in its history. The win came as no surprise; at just thirty-one years of age, Balbuena had already produced critically-acclaimed films such as Engkwentro, which won Best Film at the 66th Venice Film Festival. She had also previously teamed up with Lav Diaz to produce Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, which won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. Mainstream films like That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) and #WalangForever (2015) are also part of her vibrant filmography. She has produced more than 25 feature films, and is the co-founder and CEO of Epicmedia Productions.

Balbuena’s mission is to strengthen collaborations within the region and help deserving directors bring their films to the global scale. Her firm belief is that cinema has the ability to impact change, speaking not only to her fellow filmmakers, but also to young girls who aspire to be storytellers in the future.

Another promising young filmmaker is Giancarlo Abrahan, who was nominated for Best Screenplay at the 2014 Asia Pacific Screen Awards for his first feature film, Dagitab. The film premiered only a year after he graduated from the University of the Philippines Film Institute in 2013. The film also won him Best Director and Best Picture for the New Breed category at the 2014 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. His short film, May Dinadala, won him the Youth Jury Prize at the 2014 Singapore International Film Festival. Moreover, his second full-length film, Paki, was recently screened at the 2018 CinemAsia Film Festival in Amsterdam. A dedicated screenwriter, Abrahan has also penned critically-acclaimed films such as Hannah Espia’s Transit and JP Habac’s I’m Drunk, I Love You.

While making and distributing a film is an incredibly challenging task in itself, Filipino filmmakers also face the same headaches as their peers working in the global industry. Piracy directly threatens their livelihoods and impacts on their ability to attract finance to their films. And given the internet is essentially borderless, fighting piracy requires a global solution.

The good news came in the form of the Alliance of Creativity & Entertainment (ACE), a new global coalition dedicated to protecting the dynamic legal market for creative content and reducing online piracy. The worldwide members of ACE include Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada, Canal+ Group, CBS, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, MGM, Millennium Media, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Sky, SF Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision, and Village Roadshow Australia.

Whether in front or behind the camera, Filipinos have showcased yet again their talent, passion and dedication in filmmaking. These recognitions are a testament to the world class artistry that is Filipino cinema. Still, Filipino films and TV shows are being pirated on a massive scale in the Philippines, and much more protection is required for filmmakers here at home. Forty-seven markets around the world now have site blocking, which is a proven and effective measure to block major piracy websites in individual countries. With help from site blocking, for example, piracy to blocked websites went down by 53%, while overall online piracy decreased by 25%. It’s a solution that would be well worth considering to assist our creative community in the Philippines.

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