From Zamboanga to the World: 'Cangrejos' Bags P1M Co-Production Fund from FDCP's Southern Voices Film Lab


Wazzup Pilipinas!?

“Cangrejos” directed by Zurich Chan and produced by Gale Osorio was declared the best Mindanaoan project at the 1st Southern Voices Film Lab (SoVo Lab) Awarding Ceremony held by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) on June 27.


“Cangrejos” was awarded the top prize, the SoVo Lab Co-Production Grant worth PHP 1 million, as well as the special recognition Solar Sinag Award Film Distribution Service worth PHP 750,000.


“The quirky black comedy provides a gripping and engrossing way of looking at the dark side of a close knit community and culture. Absurd, funny, and enlightening as it deals with the subject of poverty and violence against the unsettling backdrop of a beautiful island. It impressively deconstructs the human psyche of its characters when faced with hopelessness and desperation with crabs as its central metaphor, animals who pull down and claw at each other until in the end, nobody gets out alive,” FDCP Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño read its citation during the online awarding.


“Thank you Southern Voices Film Lab not only for the grants but also for making us see the limitless potential of our films regardless of origin. Regional filmmakers always suffer from the lack of support and recognition but having film labs like this help validate filmmakers and their projects, which is a big step to develop a community and make it sustainable,” said Chan, who was rendered speechless during the awarding, in a Facebook post.


Meanwhile, “Dancing the Tides” directed by Xeph Suarez and produced by Alemberg Ang won the Special Jury Prize with a Co-Production Grant worth PHP 500,000. Two projects received the SoVo Lab Script and Project Development Grant worth PHP 300,000: “Devils in Paradise” directed by Joe Bacus and “Diwalwal” directed by Jarell Serencio and produced by John Torres.


“Devils in Paradise” also got the Wildsound Studios Inc. Audio Post-Production Grant worth PHP 100,000 while “The Widow” by Ryanne Murcia received the Cinemalaya Institute Production Management Workshop special award.


“Virgins of the River” directed by Julienne Ilagan took home three recognitions: the Center Stage Productions Script Development and Production Mentorship Grant worth PHP 500,000, Cinemalaya Institute Assistant Director’s Workshop for Film and Television, and Directors’ Guild of the Philippines Mentorship Grant with PHP 20,000 cash.


The FDCP established SoVo Lab in 2019 to boost regional cinema by discovering indigenous stories and empowering the voices of filmmakers from Mindanao. Rounding up the seven selected projects of the intensive script and development lab is “Misery Mountain” by Orvil Bantayan.


Discovering and empowering Mindanaoan voices through film


In March 2019, the FDCP called for applications from up-and-coming filmmakers who are residents of Mindanao and are developing their first, second, or third feature film. The seven SoVo Lab projects were each awarded a development fund worth PHP 100,000.


The SoVo Lab filmmakers went through three film labs for the development of their projects and advancement of scripts. The first leg of SoVo Lab in Tagum City, Davao del Norte in June 2019 had talks and individual script consultations featuring Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab (SEAFIC) Executive Director Raymond Phathanavirangoon, Variety’s Chief Asia Film Critic Maggie Lee, producer Bianca Balbuena-Liew, and Mindanaoan filmmaker Sheron Dayoc.


The SoVo Lab Scriptwriting Session in Davao City in February 2020 featured Filipino writer, producer, and director Dodo Dayao and South Korean producer Yeonu Choi of CJ Entertainment and the SoVo Lab Producer’s Lab, held online in April 2021, had producers Balbuena-Liew, Isabelle Glachant, and Weijie Lai as mentors.


Throughout the course of SoVo Lab, “Cangrejos” was selected by SEAFIC 2019 and Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) 2021. “Dancing the Tides” was chosen by First Cut Lab Manila 2019, Ties That Bind 2020, and Cannes film lab La Fabrique Cinéma 202 while “Devils in Paradise” was in the ASEAN-ROK (Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Republic of Korea) Film Leaders Incubator (FLY) Film Lab, Asian Film Market 2019, and Full Circle Lab Philippines 2020.


“Cangrejos” producer Osorio, “Dancing the Tides” director Suarez, and “Devils in Paradise” director Bacus took part in SEAFIC Open House 2019 while “Virgins of the River” writer, producer, and director Ilagan participated in Rotterdam Lab 2021 of the 50th International Film Festival Rotterdam.


At the SoVo Lab Pitch Showcase on June 26, filmmakers presented their projects in seven-minute pitches to the Selection Committee and the Decision Makers. The Selection Committee was composed of Diño, Dayao, QCinema Festival Director Ed Lejano, public anthropologist, film critic, and film educator Tito Valiente, and international producer and trainer for several institutions, Izabel Igel.


The Decision Makers that pledged special awards are Center Stage Productions represented by Brillante Mendoza, Cinemalaya represented by Jay Abello, Directors’ Guild of the Philippines represented by Roni Bertubin, Solar Entertainment Corporation represented by Butch Ibañez, and Wildsound Studios, Inc. represented by Albert Michael Idioma.


The SoVo Lab awarding held the following day turned emotional as the participants’ two-year journey came to a close, with the FDCP Chairperson addressing the filmmakers of the national film agency’s first regional lab.


“I am deeply humbled to have been part of your journey, all of us at the FDCP care so much about your projects,” said Diño. “We want to make sure that we find a place conducive for you to just really be brave to explore and find in yourself how you can best represent this film that you want to share to the global audience, to our local audiences — audiences beyond your region all over the Philippines — because it’s your time. And this is the time for us to hear more feature films coming from the South.”


Diño continued, “This is a globally competitive industry and we need to have stories that best represent our skills through the films that we’re going to showcase out there.” She shared her excitement about seeing all SoVo Lab projects into fruition, adding, “You can be rest assured that FDCP will be there all the way to find opportunities to help you find platforms para maipalabas ninyo at magawa itong mga projects ninyo.”


FDCP Executive Director Ria Anne Rubia also congratulated the SoVo Lab filmmakers. “With SoVo Lab, we get to empower and discover more filmmakers from Mindanao and support them in their journey and growth not just with their projects and eventual films but as very, very promising individual talents as well,” she stated. “FDCP looks forward to supporting you all as you take the next steps to develop, produce, and release your projects.”

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