After a rocky few years, cinema from the Philippines is once again bristling with energy and innovation. International interest is rising, and the Tokyo International Film Festival’s 2019 selection reflects some of that. The recent launch of two incentive schemes by the Philippines government may help the country’s production become more international.
The Tokyo festival this year includes a total of eight films and TV episodes from the Philippines across its different sections: “Mananita” in the main competition section; Brillante Mendoza’s “Mindanao” and Erik Matti’s erotic drama “Food Lore Series—Island of Dreams,” in the World Focus section; and Bradley Liew’s “Motel Acacia” in the Asian Focus category.
Philippines films also dominate Tokyo’s Crosscut Asia sidebar, which this year focuses on Southeast Asian fantasy and genre titles: Lav Diaz’ “The Halt,” Antoinette Jadaone’s “Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay,” Matti’s “The Entity” and Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s “Untrue.”
For director Paul Soriano, Tokyo is the world premiere of his “Mananita” in which the heroine is a shooter who served in the military. But after losing her job, she spends her nights getting drunk in a bar – until a phone call changes everything. The festival’s introduction calls it no less than a “superb film (which) turns a series of unassuming shots into an emotional drama.”
Mendoza has become almost a permanent fixture at the Tokyo festival. In 2015 the festival gave him a major retrospective “The World of Brillante Ma Mendoza,” and the following year included him as one of three directors working together on the omnibus film “Reflections” that was part of the Asian Three-Fold Mirror series commissioned by the festival. In 2017, Mendoza held a Tokyo master class. And in 2018 he was head of the jury, selecting the winners of Tokyo’s main competition section.
The Philippines is also increasingly seeking to become part of the global film locations industry and up its role in international co-productions. Earlier this month in Busan, the Film Development Council of the Philippines unveiled a co-production support fund and a locations rebate scheme, both to be operated under the wing of a new structure known as FilmPhilippines.
Under the Film Location Incentive Program (FLIP), feature films of any genre, television series, and web content are all eligible for rebate, provided that the production is a partnership with a registered Philippine line producer.
Alternatively, international projects can apply to the just-launched International Co-Production Fund (ICOF), which covers feature length live action, documentary or animation films if they sign a co-production deal with a certified Philippine producer or production company.
Eligible projects with a minimum production expenditure of $155,000 (PHP 8 million) qualify for the incentives and the fund. Upon approval, between 10% and 40% of qualifying production spend may be rebated through either FLIP or ICOF. There is maximum rebate payment of $193,000 (PHP 10 million).