Published: May 31, 2020
Philippine Cinema finds a staunch supporter in Netflix
By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
May 31, 2020
By this time, Filipino films would have already made the rounds in international film festivals and our filmmakers would have participated in film markets around the globe.
Our 2020 schedule was all set in late February after I met film industry figures in the Berlin International Film Festival in Germany, with film festival directors agreeing to showcase Filipino films in time for the culmination of the One Hundred Years of Philippine Cinema celebration.
However, along with the rest of the world, film screenings, festivals, and events were cancelled or postponed due to the Coronavirus Disease-2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. We are now forced to have a change of plans and determine ways to bring Philippine Cinema to local and international viewers.
As the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) is finalizing the framework for its new streaming platform called CineLokal Online, we are grateful for the continued support of digital platforms such as Netflix that create opportunities for the Philippine film industry.
The 2019 Tokyo International Film Festival screened ‘UnTrue’ and seven other Pinoy titles.
A recent good news is that Netflix has introduced five new titles at this time when the pandemic brings us to online platforms for content. “Sunod,” “Pinoy Sunday,” “UnTrue,” “Ordinary People (Pamilya Ordinaryo)” and “Lola Igna” will be shown in June as Netflix joins in the celebration of Philippine Independence Day.
With the world’s inevitable shift to digital platforms for content, it is reassuring that Netflix has expanded its showcase of Filipino titles to cater to more audiences and markets by selecting critically-acclaimed works from the genres of drama, comedy and horror.
I am especially excited for the whole world to see “Lola Igna,” which was the Best Picture of our very own Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) in 2019. It also won for Best Screenplay, Best Musical Score, and Best Actress for Angie Ferro.
Directed by Eduardo Roy, Jr., this heart-warming film of ERJ Found Film Production Co. centers on an elderly woman whose life changes when her family and village realize that she stands a chance at holding the world record for being the oldest living grandmother. Joining Ferro in the cast are Yves Flores, Meryll Soriano, Maria Isabel Lopez, Royce Cabrera, Jojo Riguerra and Armando A. Reyes.
FDCP Chairman Liza Diño-Seguerra with Netflix Public Policy Manager for Asia-Pacific Alex Long
Another work of Roy is the multi-awarded 2016 film “Ordinary People (Pamilya Ordinaryo),” which was one of our Cine Lokal hits when it was shown in SM theaters. It was awarded in Venice Days of the Venice International Film Festival, Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Best Actress), Gawad Urian, FAP Awards, and Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Editing.
The film is about a teenage couple, both of whom are homeless pickpockets, who resort to desperate measures when their one-month-old child is kidnapped. The Ordinaryo couple is endearingly played by Ronwaldo Martin and Hasmine Kilip who are joined by Maria Isabel Lopez, Sue Prado, Ruby Ruiz, Raymon Lee, Karl Medina, Erlina Villalobos and the late Menggie Cobarrubias in the cast.
“Sunod” (2019) of Black Cap Pictures, Inc., a Metro Manila Film Festival awardee for Best Cinematography and Best Production Design, is the horror flick of the bunch. A mother, who takes on a call center job to cover the medical expenses of her daughter, encounters the sinister secrets of her office building. Directed by Carlo Ledesma, it stars Carmina Villarroel, Mylene Dizon, JC Santos, Kate Alejandrino, Krystal Brimner, Rhed Bustamante and Susan Africa.
“Pinoy Sunday,” (2009) which earned nods from the Golden Horse Film Festival and Taipei Film Festival, is under Changhe Films Ltd. It tackles the lives of two Filipino immigrants in Taipei, Taiwan. With director Widing Ho at the helm and inspired by a Roman Polanski short, the film is about the adventure that ensues when two Filipinos on their day off have a chance discovery of a discarded couch. Bayani Agbayani, Jeffrey Quizon, Nor Domingo, Dave Ronald Chang, Meryll Soriano and Alessandra de Rossi are among the cast members.
The columnist and ‘UnTrue’ director Sigrid Andrea Bernardo at the movie’s premiere night
Finally, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s “UnTrue” (2019) of Viva Communications, Inc. is about the characters of Cristine Reyes and Xian Lim who meet and fall in love in Georgia. Their relationship gets complicated as Lim claims to see visions of a strange woman and hear peculiar sounds. Reyes bagged the Best Actress trophy for her portrayal at the Fantasporto-Oporto International Film Festival in Portugal.
I join the filmmakers of these five titles in expressing gratitude to Netflix for championing Filipino works and choosing movies that reflect the diversity of Philippine Cinema. I am delighted that these films can now be accessed by more audiences, proving how cinema can bring us together even when we are apart.
What’s more, the special of my idol, Filipino-American comedian Jo Koy, will premiere on June 12. “Jo Koy: In His Elements” will feature his jokes and anecdotes as he celebrates his heritage. Other Filipino-Americans included in Jo Koy’s special are comedians Andrew Lopez, Joey Guila, and Andrew Orolfo, breakdancer Ronnie, Grammy-winning producer !llmind, and singer-songwriter Iñigo Pascual.
Netflix providing space to more Filipino content is an affirmation that the Philippines has the potential of going global. Raphael Phang, Manager of Content Acquisition at Netflix, affirmed this by saying, “We are constantly amazed by the creativity of storytellers and the quality of talent coming out of the Philippines.”
Yves Flores and Angie Ferro of ‘Lola Igna’ by Eduardo Roy, Jr.
In fact, Netflix and the FDCP have been working together since last year on film and audio-visual content distribution as well as on holding training programs. Among the Pinoy titles that landed in the Netflix top ten most popular titles in the Philippines in 2019 are “Eerie” by Mikhail Red, “Miss Granny” by Bb. Joyce Bernal, and Jun Lana’s “Ang Babaeng Allergic sa Wi-Fi (The Girl Allergic to Wi-Fi),” which is another PPP entry. The first Filipino Netflix Film, Red’s “Dead Kids,” was released in December.
In 2019, the Philippines participated in the Post Production Training Workshop in Mumbai, India that was organized by Netflix to help enhance entertainment production skills in Asia. Netflix has also committed to partner with FDCP’s training programs for filmmakers especially on post-production. There are other possible projects for this year as discussed by myself and Alex Long, the Netflix Public Policy Manager for Asia-Pacific. We met in Singapore in December while I was on the sidelines of the Singapore International Film Festival.
I look forward to more collaborations with Netflix as the FDCP continues to engage Filipino film workers and provide support programs to increase their global competitiveness. The audio-visual industry is a global market and we must push the entire industry to create export-quality content especially in this “new normal” so that we can share our stories not just to our local audience, but also to the world and its countless platforms. Here’s to creating more distribution spaces for Filipino films!
Notes from the Chair is part of the Filipino Champions section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.