Young filmmaker aims to uplift Pinoy culture through films, docus

Young filmmaker aims to uplift Filipino culture through films, docus

/ 12:20 AM March 18, 2024



His name may not yet ring a bell for most Filipinos, but Luis Villanueva is determined to make his mark in the global film industry, one video at a time. The young New York-based filmmaker is building up his portfolio that currently consists of short videos where he wears many hats including director, video editor, VFX designer, cinematographer, musician and artist-producer.

On his YouTube channel (, one can view the videos he has worked on or been a part of in various capacities. Many of them have this music video-like quality full of flashing lights and jump-cuts, jittery movements and shaky camerawork.


As a young creator, he’s apparently attuned to the times. Last year, he won the Best Visual Effects award given by the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) for his postproduction work as a video editor and VFX designer. Earlier this year, he was tapped as a cinematographer to shoot Vogue cover models and Forbes 30 under 30 members Irina Shayk and Alton Mason in the runway show for Helmut Lang.


New technologies

Villanueva keeps abreast of the latest technological advances in film and video production. After graduating from Columbia University, he joined Holy Jungle Films, a Filipino-run film production company in New York that specializes in content for the fashion and beauty industries.

This gave him access to new software that he has since been able to incorporate in his projects. His first one with Holy Jungle was the music video for “Bansa 7aly” (pronounced Bansa Ha-Lee) by Egyptian artist and vocalist Bayou. It involved the use of Unreal Engine, a 3D compositing software used primarily by video game developers. The software is also used by giants like Disney and Amazon for their in-house productions.

READ: Filmmaker mines PH history, but a ‘shocking’ scene unfolds off-cam

The video that caught my interest, however, is “Kapwa,” his experimental short that plays out like an art installation. In it, the viewer is “led” into a room with several monitors flashing images of Quiapo’s Black Nazarene procession and Pampanga’s Holy Week crucifixions. Interspersed are vintage Manila scenes, religious figures and island sunsets. The “room” later shifts, first becoming a lush forest with the moon shining on rain-slick leaves and then later, a destroyed construction site complete with mangled steel bars and crumbling hollow blocks.

Scene from “Kapwa” —VIMEO

Scene from “Kapwa” —VIMEO

In an email interview with Villanueva, he told Entertainment that the intention of the short was indeed to craft an experience where it feels like one is stepping into an art installation. “We rendered projectors within the 3D software in architectural spaces, emulating projection video art installations. By sourcing footage from Holy Jungle Films’ extensive archive of footage and employing Unreal Engine, we aimed to create a narrative that not only reflects on the Philippines’ colonial past, but also presents a hallucinatory exploration of our cultural zeitgeist,” Villanueva said.

Affinity for directing

He ventured into narrative and documentary shorts because of his aim to uplift Filipino art by eventually expanding into feature films and documentaries.


Villanueva said he takes inspiration from the vibrant art scene of the Philippines which was broadened by his exposure to a diverse range of media while at Columbia University.

“I’m also inspired by the technical innovation present in the global film industry. At Holy Jungle Films, we push the boundaries of visual storytelling by integrating industry-leading technologies such as AI (artificial intelligence)-compositing and Unreal Engine.”

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With his hand in so many aspects of the filmmaking process, does he eventually want to focus on a particular segment? “My journey has increasingly gravitated towards visual effects and editing … but my affinity for directing [is constant]. Remaining a director will allow me to offer new avenues for creative exploration that rely on the interaction between all three roles,” Villanueva said. INQ

TAGS: Entertainment, Filipino filmmaker

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