Now, for the harder part.
After capturing the world’s attention, the next goal of Filipino filmmakers should be to secure international distribution, said actor Joel Torre, who is part of the contingent of Erik Matti’s “On the Job,” an entry in the Directors’ Fortnight at the ongoing 66th Cannes International Film Festival in France.
Looking beyond red-carpet glamor, the Filipinos in this year’s Cannes are keenly aware that landing foreign distribution is crucial in order to sustain Philippine cinema’s presence in the global scene.
Matti told the Inquirer that his film had buyers’ screenings last Wednesday and Thursday.
He said his film’s international sales agent, the Los Angeles-based company XYZ Films, had already set up meetings between him and potential distributors after the screenings. “XYZ was with us from the start,” Matti recalled. “They saw the teaser we made three years ago and started the financing ball rolling.”
Before the Cannes inclusion was announced, Matti had already clinched a distribution deal in France with Wild Side.
“Hopefully, we can get distribution deals in other territories. We have just released our trailer on film websites in the United States.” Matti is eyeing other possible deals. “Apart from theatrical, there are other platforms to consider: from DVD to television, cable and the Internet.”
Adolfo Alix Jr., whose film “Death March” is competing in the Un Certain Regard section, has already sealed two deals.
Paris-based firm Versatile Films is the international sales rep of “Death March,” with Equation Films clinching French distribution.
Equation is headed by Didier Costet, the French producer of Brillante Ma. Mendoza’s “Serbis,” “Kinatay” and “Captive.”
“Didier and I got to talk at last year’s Cannes,” Alix recalled.” We’ve always been looking for a project we could work on together.”
When it was announced that “Death March” was part of the Cannes official selection last month, Alix was swamped with inquiries. “Some companies have already expressed interest, but after the announcement last month, I got more e-mails,” he related.
After consulting producer, Japanese actor Jacky Woo, Alix checked out the profiles of the sales agents on his list and sent out screeners.
“We decided to go with Versatile because it represents only four or five films a year,” Alix explained. “We felt Versatile would be able to focus on our film and maximize its potential.”
Lav Diaz’s four-hour film “Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan,” also an entry in the Un Certain Regard section, has attracted its fair share of potential buyers, too.
In 2008, Italian channel RAI TV picked up Diaz’s nine-hour movies “Death in the Land of Encantos” and “Heremias.” “RAI aired the movies twice in two years,” Diaz related. “RAI aired each film in two parts.”
“There is a lot of buzz about Lav’s film in Europe,” said Matti.
Diaz is playing it cool, though. “We’re not rushing. Distributors are knocking on our doors and wooing (producer) Raymond Lee, but a wise man from Switzerland told us to relax…”
It’s easy to get blinded by the bright lights, but the Filipinos are determined to keep their eyes on the prize.
“I’m not going to attend those parties Cannes is famous for,” Matti said. “Instead I hope to catch up with old friends, programmers, critics and cineastes like Roger Garcia and Jeremy Segay.”
Matti also hopes to catch the other movies debuting in Cannes “like Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Only God Forgives,’ Sofia Coppola’s ‘The Bling Ring,’ Takashi Miike’s ‘Shield of Straw,’ among others.”
Diaz has the same plan: “I’m a film addict. I will watch all the movies I can, especially the new one by Claire Denis (‘Bastards’).”
Alix also has Denis and Refn on top of his wish list, along with Amat Escalante’s “Heli,” Jia Zhangke’s “A Touch of Sin,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” and Kore-eda Hirokazu’s “Like Father, Like Son.”
It goes without saying that Diaz, Matti and Alix will watch the Filipino films in Cannes—especially the digitally restored classic, Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag,” a collaboration between the Film Development Council of the Philippines and Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation.
The “Maynila” premiere is set today—a fitting homecoming for the late National Artist Brocka whose film was screened in Cannes in 1978.
“It was one of those films that stayed with me when I saw it on VHS at the library of the Cultural Center of the Philippines as a high school student,” said Alix. “I want to see it on the big screen in its original format.”
It would be a heartfelt tribute from today’s generation of filmmakers to the master who started it all for the Philippines in Cannes.