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Fran Borgia: Prolific Producer Exploring Singapore Story-Telling

Singapore-produced films are increasingly being showcased at major international festivals. They have a secret ingredient.

Award-winning titles from 2010 breakout “Sandcastle” through to 2018’s “A Land Imagined,” with “7 Letters”, “Apprentice,” and “A Yellow Bird” in between, have a common factor. Producer, Fran Borgia.

“There wasn’t just a wave, but more of a continuous current by a bunch of enthusiastic filmmakers whose films now represent us on the world stage,” Borgia told Variety. “These films are connecting globally because they come from a local, personal, and heartfelt place.

“We are also seeing increasing regional collaboration, like with Lav Diaz’s ‘A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery,’ that helps Southeast Asia’s positioning. Coupled with governmental support, and the parallel growth in the commercial film industry, this cinema is only bound to get stronger.”

The story of Borgia’s journey from Spain to Singapore is a fascinating one. In 2003, he was a third-year film student at Escola Superior de Cinema I Audiovisuals de Calalunya, adjunct to the University of Barcelona, and he had the opportunity to come to Singapore as an exchange student to Ngee Ann Polytechnic?s Film, Sound & Video department.

“During those first six months, I met some of the people that would become my closest friends and collaborators, including my wife, Boo Junfeng (“Apprentice”,) Yeo Siew Hua (“A Land Imagined”,) and K. Rajagopal (“A Yellow Bird”,) so I decided to come back to stay,” says Borgia. In 2004, he set up Akanga Film Asia to produce a new generation of Asian filmmakers. Singapore has been his home ever since.

Despite its relatively small size, Singapore has been increasingly been producing globally-feted cinema. Borgia attributes this to a strong pool of storytellers, and the support of the Singapore Film Commission. “The increase of well-trained film professionals and generous governmental grants has helped create the right environment for these talented filmmakers to flourish,” says Borgia. “In turn, Singapore audiences, and the world, are starting to sit up and take notice.”

Borgia was also the Singapore line producer on “Crazy Rich Asians,” a glitzy world from the gritty independent films he typically oversees as a producer. “It is always good to work on the other side and see how they do things,” says Borgia. “It?s interesting that some reviewers have contrasted Yeo Siew Hua’s ‘A Land Imagined’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ While they are very different productions, I believe a good film is a good film at the end of the day. And every country has many different facets that deserve to be shown.”

Borgia has several projects in development and two more in pre-production. Singapore-France co-production, “City of Small Blessings” by Wong Chen-Hsi, was developed at the Torino Film Lab, Cannes Cinefondation l’Atelier, and Venice Gap Production Bridge.

Singapore/Taiwan/France/Romania co-production, “Tomorrow Is A Long Time” by Jow Zhi Wei, was developed at the Jerusalem International Film Lab and pitched at the Berlinale Co-Production Market and the Golden Horse Film Promotion Plan. Principal photography on both films will start in 2019.

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