Macao Film Festival Crowns Industry Winners; Philippines Horror ‘Dear Wormwood’ Takes Best Project

The 2019 edition of the International Film Festival & Awards Macao (IFFAM) closed its industry program last night (December 8), with the event’s Best Project Award going to Dear Wormwood, a supernatural horror from the Philippines.

The project is in advanced development and has secured $85,000 of its planned $525,000 budget to date. It comes from director Dodo Dayao, whose debut feature Violator screened at Karlovy Vary in 2014. The producers are Patti Lapus and Bradley Liew of Manila-based Epicmedia Productions.

An award of $15,000 is presented to the winner of IFFAM’s project market, which is a genre-focused event curated by Todd Brown of XYZ Films.

The first film to graduate through the market, complete production and play at international festivals, Mattie Do’s Laos feature The Long Walk, is screening in the IFFAM program this year.

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Elsewhere, the $10,000 Creative Excellence Award was presented to director-producer Sheetal Magan for the South African feature The Day And Night Of Brahma, while the $10,000 Best Co-Production Award went to director Natalie Erika James and producers Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw for their Australian project Drum Wave.

Japanese-Australian filmmaker James just had her debut feature Relic, from AGBO and starring Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote, announced as premiering at Sundance in January. Drum Wave is based on her 2018 short of the same name.

Finally, the $5,000 Macao Spirit Award went to director Leonor Teles and producer Filipa Reis for their project Uk Kei.

This year’s Macao industry program also featured a series of behind-closed-doors discussions with a delegation of international guests. Topics on the table included the push towards gender equality in the international biz, the boom of SVoD, and the complexity of the current state of theatrical distribution.

Presenting findings from the focus group titled Female Power, Is It Here To Stay?, Winnie Lau of Ivanhoe Pictures discussed the “distinctively different approach” to the topic in the East and West.

“[Out of the major Asian territories] South Korea has come closest [to improving backing female-focused content] to the US and Europe, but not to the degree we hope for yet,” Lau said. “The female audience is a powerful, driving commercial force that can demand what its wants to see on screen. Why wouldn’t we address those demands eventually?”

Dori Begley of Magnolia Pictures, who chaired another of the day’s groups, discussed how the rise of streaming was impacting indie filmmakers on a global basis.

“We’re at a real inflection point where the consumer habits [of watching more VoD] are impacting the independent space,” she said. “Producers are happier, distributors are miserable. But for producers, there’s also more production work for hire, and less opportunity to nurture talent.”

The 2019 IFFAM wraps up events on Tuesday (December 10) with a screening of Hong Kong director Hing Fan Wong’s debut feature I’m Livin’ It.

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