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Cautionary Tale, ‘Motel Acacia’ Under Way After Four Years of Development

Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants.

Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because of its urgency and relevance.”

The movie has representation in North America through XYZ Films, the sales and production company of Todd Brown. He was also responsible for selecting the concepts to be presented at the International Film Festival and Awards Macao’s project market.

“Set in a fictional snowy United States, the film is about a young Filipino man who is groomed by his tyrannical Caucasian Father to take over Motel Acacia which is tasked with exterminating immigrants by the government through a bed, haunted with the spirit of a Filipino tree demon, that eats men and impregnates women,” said Liew. His first film, “Singing in Graveyards,” premiered in the Venice Film Festival’s Critics Week section in 2016, and travelled to over 30 festivals.

In addition to Santos and Saputra, the ensemble cast includes Agot Isidro from the Philippines, Belgian actor Jan Bijvoet (“Borgman,” “Peaky Blinders”), Malaysia’s Bront Palarae (“Satan’s Slaves”), Thailand’s Vithaya Pansringarm (“Only God Forgives”,) Talia Zucker (“Ned Kelly”) and Will Jaymes (“Beast”).

“Motel Acacia” has taken some four years to come to fruition and is now structured as a co-venture between companies from The Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Slovenia, Croatia, and Malaysia.

The development phase involved presentation at Berlinale Co-Production Market and BiFan’s NAFF IT Project. It was also developed at the Jerusalem Film Lab, Eave’s Ties That Bind and Talents Tokyo.

“It started at BiFan’s project market, but the material was very raw and we only had our first draft of the script then- which was quite bad,” said noted Philippines producer and the film’s co-writer, Bianca Balbuena. “Then the year after, we got into Eave Ties That Bind and Talents Tokyo with a better draft. We also got the development fund support from Talents Tokyo. The year after, we got invited to participate at the very selective Jerusalem Film Lab (Sam Spiegel International Film Lab) and it was a year of script development that ended with a public pitch during the Jerusalem Film Festival.

“By this time, we already had Taiwan’s Mandarin Vision and Singapore’s Potocol and Tier Pictures on board. Then a year after, we got into the biggest event of the project, the Berlinale Co-Production Market where we met our Croatian and Slovenian partners. Months later, our biggest partner and Philippine distributor, Black Sheep of ABS-CBN Films, and co-producer, Globe Studios, boarded the project.

Balbuena’s company, Epicmedia, is the lead producer handling development, production, sales & distribution decisions. The deal for North American representation through XYZ Films was announced last month.

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