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Filipino filmmakers test U.S. waters for crossover titles

'Cavite' has potential to attract arthouse auds

HOLLYWOOD — On May 26, Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner’s 2929 Entertainment will debut its Truly Indie initiative with the release of a truly independently made pic by two California-based Filipino-Americans, “Cavite.”

Thriller, made for less than $7,000, heralds the growing presence of pics made by Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the U.S.

Previous Filipino releases have found it tough to crack the $500,000 mark in U.S. release, but “Cavite” has the potential to attract both arthouse and Filipino auds.

In the summer, two other Filipino pics made on shoestring budgets, “Slow Jam King” and “The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros,” will hit U.S. screens.

Meanwhile,  producer Roy Lee (“The Grudge”) has taken Manila’s Yam Laranas under his wing and will exec produce the U.S. remake of Laranas’ acclaimed horror pic “Sigaw” (The Echo). “Grudge” scribe Stephen Susco is penning the remake.

“Cavite” helmers Neill Dela Llana and Ian Gamazon, who also played the lead, shot their English/Tagalog political thriller with their own digital cameras and edited it on home computers. Using frequent flyer miles, they flew to Manila and after the shoot, sold the cameras to finance the post- production.

They burned DVDs for participation in film festivals where they have won a clutch of awards. After winning the 2005 Independent Spirit  Someone to Watch cash prize of $25,000, more than triple their budget, Gamazon quit his day job at Banana Republic. Dela Llana is still a U.S. Navy contractor/research technician.

Pic tracks a young Filipino- American who returns for his father’s funeral in the Philippines but upon landing, a call on his cell phone sets him off  on a race to save his mother and sister who have been kidnapped by Muslim extremists. Thriller recently screened at the New Directors/ New Films Festival.

Truly Indie is releasing it digitally, initially at the Nuart in Los Angeles and Cinema Village in New York and later expanding to key markets, targeting both arthouse auds and the 3 million strong Filipino community.

Making good its mandate to provide indie filmmakers access to the marketing, distribution and sales tools needed to roll out a film, Truly Indie has recut the “Cavite” trailer, which it is screening at all the Landmark theaters, owned by 2929 Entertainment.

“It’s a kind of film that rides best on publicity, promotion and advocacy,” says Landmark’s marketing veep Ray Price.

Pic will be released in Manila in August by Unico Entertainment. Unico, run by Manila-based Tony Gloria and with offices in New York and Los Angeles, will release both “Slow Jam” and “Maximo”  in the U.S.

Company has released docu “Imelda,” dramedy “Crying Ladies” and “American Adobo” in the U.S.

Made for $10,000 in the U.S., the English-language offbeat road comedy, “Slow Jam” was shot in the U.S. in English by New York based Filipino-American Steve Mallorca who directed, produced, edited, photographed, scored, wrote and performed its original songs. 

Unico plans a domestic June release, and an August release in the Philippines, according to its Gotham-based acquisitions and marketing veep, Vincent Nebrida.

“Maximo” a coming-of-age story in Tagalog by Manila-based Auraeus Solito, has won a string of festival awards and was a big hit in the Philippines in December.  It grossed 10 million pesos ($192,536), quite a feat for a pic that cost less than $10,000 to make.

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