How to land a distribution deal in Cannes, according to ‘Ako si Ninoy’ filmmaker | Inquirer Entertainment

How to land a distribution deal in Cannes, according to ‘Ako si Ninoy’ filmmaker

/ 12:20 AM June 19, 2023

Vince Tañada (third from left) with Bela Padilla, Johnrey Rivas and Evelyn Vargas

Vince Tañada (third from left) with Bela Padilla, Johnrey Rivas and Evelyn Vargas

“To be able to make it to Cannes is considered a badge of honor,” said writer-filmmaker Vince Tañada, whose musical drama “Ako si Ninoy” and horror flick “The Embalmer” were included in the Market Screening category at the recent 67th Cannes Film Festival held in France.

Aside from Richard Somes’ “Topakk” and JE Tiglao’s “Her Locket,” which was part of the Marche du Film event that ran alongside the main festival, six other Filipino films made it to the prestigious event.


Ato Bautista’s “Grace” was part of the Market Screening category, along with Tañada’s two projects, while Chan Sze-Wei’s “Tens Across the Borders” (produced by Alemberg Ang) was part of the Cannes Doc category. Sean Devlin’s “Asog” made it to the Doc-In-Progress grouping, while Jan Carlo Natividad’s “The Art of Detaching One’s Memory” was part of the Focus Work in Progress category.


In a virtual chat with Inquirer Entertainment, Tañada recalled the tedious process he went through to be able to make the cut in Cannes. This required the screening of 125 films in the category that his two films belonged to, he said.

Needed promotions

“I first met [former actress] Evelyn Vargas in October 2022 in Switzerland, where another film of mine, ‘Katips,’ was screened. She works as a festival programmer there. She convinced me to apply for a ‘badge’ at the Cannes film fest, adding that she would orient me with all the requirements and help me join their booth at the film market,” Tañada began.

Tañada, who owns Philippine Stagers Inc., said he immediately sent documents that included the screeners of “Katips,” “Ako si Ninoy” and his unreleased film “The Embalmer.” He added: “I also submitted a director’s profile, five sample press releases from our website, and clips of my interviews with CNN and ABS-CBN. In February 2023, Tita Evelyn said my application (but only for ‘Ninoy’ and ‘Embalmer’) got approved, so I asked her if I could also apply for two other companions (cast members OJ Arci and Johnrey Rivas).”

“It’s so hard to get accreditation. We waited a long time. To be honest, I received the accreditation for ‘The Embalmer’ only when we arrived there,” he explained. “I was told that not all film applications were screened. A screener has to reach a certain level of quality in order to get previewed by the organizers. When it was time for the actual film screening, not everyone got to watch. You had to have a badge to be let in. You either have to be a producer or distributor to get this badge.”

Tañada reported that both “Ninoy” and “Embalmer” were screened in packed theaters, “Because of all the promotions that the Filipino press had been giving us for the past several months,” he said, adding that he was able to close five distribution deals for both films. “The offers are almost similar, so Tita Evelyn and I are thinking of signing up with the distribution company that has the widest reach.”

Worth it

Incidentally, Tañada recently signed up with the Swiss production and management company called Maison ZBZ, owned by Vargas’ daughter Dee Zialcita. Actress-director Bela Padilla, who recently put up her own production outfit called Risky Marmalade, has signed up with Zialcita, as well. “They now manage our international affairs,” reported Tañada.


Was all the trouble of trying to make it to Cannes worth it? “Of course. It was a life-changing experience,” Tañada stressed. “Not everyone is given the opportunity to have a film booth, to screen their films there, and be able to represent the Philippines.”

However, Tañada said the most interesting observation he made while at Cannes was that “in a top-tier film festival like this one, there is no such thing as a star or celebrity. We are all considered artists. A lot of them just walk on the streets. You can even share a drink with them while bar-hopping at night,” he said.

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Tañada is currently working on a fantasy-horror film titled “Hiwaga,” featuring the father-son tandem of Isko Moreno and Joaquin Domagoso. INQ

TAGS: Cannes, Entertainment

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