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PH producer wins int’l honor

In Berlin, where “Hele” won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize (from left): Jury head Meryl Streep, Bianca Balbuena and actress Hazel Orencio

According to Filipino Bianca Balbuena, she got the wind knocked out of her, when she learned that she had been named by the International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF) as recipient of the Producer of the Year award.

“I was out of breath when I got the e-mail from Benoit Ginisty of the FIAPF,” she told the Inquirer.

The prize will be presented by the FIAPF at the 11th Asia Pacific Screen Awards, set on Nov. 23 in Brisbane, Australia.

According to organizers, the citation was established “to celebrate a film practitioner whose career … contributes greatly to the development of Asia-Pacific” cinema.

Balbuena (left) and Bradley Liew at the Singapore fest.

Balbuena recalled that French producer Dominique Welsinki had championed her. “Having these big players believe in me is already a priceless award in itself.”

Balbuena, who is best known for producing Lav Diaz’s Berlin-winning epic “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” and Bradley Liew’s debut film “Singing in Graveyards,” has also worked on box-office hits like Antoinette Jadaone’s “That Thing Called Tadhana” and Victor Villanueva’s “Patay na si Hesus” (which recently won best narrative feature at the Seattle Queer Film Festival).

“I’m only 30, but I feel I’ve exhausted myself fighting for cinema which is, most of the time, not very commercial,” she conceded. “I don’t get paid, although I have stakes in the films.”

It’s not about the financial rewards, in the end. “I know there’s still a long road ahead, but this sweet recognition will be timeless in my mind,” she asserted. “It’s validation that I am doing something right.”

Now more than ever, filmmaking as an advocacy plays a crucial role in society. “Cinema is even more important now as a voice in this country ruled by blood and fear,” she said.

Next in line for Balbuena are Diaz’s antimusical musical “Ang Panahon ng Halimaw,” Liew’s second feature “Motel Acacia,” Paul Soriano’s “Hubog ng Langit”—along with movies by Dwein Baltazar (for CineFilipino) and Jay Abello (for Cinemalaya), and Kerwin Go’s debut flick.

“I am always excited to work with directors whose vision I trust,” she said.

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