Asian cinema is on the rise these days and some new national industries are starting to make their presence felt. Every year, the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF), a project market that takes place during the annual Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan), picks one country for a special focus. Following Japan, China, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia, this year that honor falls to the Philippines.
These days Filipino cinema is not hard to find at major festivals but for the most part these are dour arthouse films about people suffering in impoverished environments. These offer a bit of schadenfreude for certain festival goers but surely there's more to Filipino cinema?
In fact, genre films have existed for a long time in the country, they're just not easy to come across. War movies started appearing in the mid-40s and during the 60s Filipino cinema was churning out a number of 'Bomba' films, a sub-genre for racy fare. Looking at today's industry, there are a few genre filmmakers beginning to make their presence felt such as Rico Maria Ilarde (Altar, 2007) and Richard Somes (Affliction, 2009).
Given how cheaply produced and easily marketable they are, genre films are a great avenue for Asian film industries to make inroads in the international marketplace. During my recent visit to the HK Filmart, the floor was teeming with posters for the latest Asian genre projects. Southeast Asian markets are on the rise and it seems a good time to discover what the Philippines has to offer to the world's genre film fans.
This year's edition of NAFF takes place from July 21-24 and I'm excited to see what managing director Thomas Nam will dig up during his trip to Manila next month. Remember that NAFF is not limited to one country and the market's 'It Project' is currently accepting Asian genre project submissions until April 30.
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