FOUR short Cannes films are now being shot in Dapitan in Zamboanga Peninsula in Western Mindanao.

The filming is one right after another and all are destined to be screened at the Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes International Film Festival. Epic and unprecedented

It’s the very first time Cannes comes a-calling to shoot films in the Philippine shores.

These films are set be screened at the Directors’ Fortnight of the Cannes International Film Festival.

This historic shoot is a first in this historic city. Who would have thought that a Cannes production will be shot here, in all places?

Currently, they’re still at it, filming. Two down, one ongoing, and one waiting in the wings, all raring to get the film rolling all the way to Cannes. In this laid-back city with its slow rhythm and easy ways, the cast and crew go full throttle on and off-camera, chasing schedules while chasing the short films of their dreams.

Four films, roughly a month to shoot. Each film with two directors, one local and one foreign, each tandem a male and a female, an experiment of sorts in off-kilter filming dynamics. Only one crew for all films and only one set of equipment, and no time to wait for replacements if any cast or equipment goes out of action. If that’s not bold, then boldness is a misnomer.

Put simply, this project is a study in incongruity. There’s madness in its method that has method in its madness. Unconventional and uncompromising, trailblazing, to say the least. So very Directors’ Fortnight, one might say, an undertaking worthy of the Fortnight’s “Cinema en liberte” pedigree.

But there’s the rub. The shorts that are filmed here are not really bound for the main Cannes Film Festival. Yet, who cares? They still go to the famed festival anyway, albeit to its rebel auteur brother.

Considered by many as the edgier film venue, the Fortnight is the section of Cannes that premieres indie feature films, short films, and documentary films.

Here the focus is on works that, by their very nature and scope, are marginalized by mainstream cinema. Offbeat. Daring. Unfettered by conventions and diving headlong into places where most directors fear to tread.

In short, the films that feature in the Fortnight are cinematic statements of art for art’s sake. And such are the short films that are being shot in Dapitan, and why they are meant for the Fortnight.

Or so implies French director and film curator Dominique Welinski, the producer of the program called Directors’ Factory, which aims to mentor budding filmmakers under the umbrella of the Director’s Fortnight.

Since 2013, they have been shooting short films on location in their partner countries all over the world, and now they’re back in Asia. It’s their first time in the Philippines, and they’re filming in the only place where national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was ever exiled.

The four short films are shot under the mentoring of Lav Diaz, 2024 Directors’ Factory, and overseen by Welinski, who is staying in Dapitan for the duration of the filming.

The whole program is co-produced by Epic Media Productions, Inc. and Welinski, in partnership with DW (France) and the support of Dakak Resort, City Government of Dapitan, Quezon City Film Commission, Qcinema, Anima Studios of Kroma Entertainment, and CMB Film Services in the Philippines and Cineli Digital in France.

The four directorial tandems are as follows: Eve Baswel (Philippines) and Gogularaajan Rajendran (Malaysia), Maria Estela Paiso (Philippines) and Ashok Vish (India), Arvin Belarmino (Philippines) and Lomorpich Rithy (Cambodia), and Don Josephus Raphael Eblahan (Philippines) and Siyou Tan (Singapore). All were handpicked by Welinski herself.

As to why the project ended up in Dapitan is down to Epic Media CEO Bianca Valbuena, a long-time protégé of Welinski who also happens to know Svetlana “Lana” Jalosjos, the President of Dakak Properties. The rest, as they say, is history.

As to Dakak’s involvement in this project, resort owner and former Zamboanga del Norte 1st District Congressman Romeo Jalosjos, Sr. has this to say: “It’s about time that Dapitan levels up. Barely two years ago, we went national by hosting Cinemalaya 2022. This year we go international and go for Cannes. It’s time for Dapitan to shine.”

For his part, Dapitan City Major Seth Frederick “Bullet” Jalosjos explains that he has always been supportive of the arts and sports, and that by supporting big events such as this, the city, in fact, gets massive publicity for its tourism campaign. “We do whatever we can to promote Dapitan,” he said.

“In fact, we have another big thing coming up. Come June, on the occasion of Rizal’s birthday, we will be hosting the 1st National Invitational Rizal Arnis Challenge,” the mayor added.

For now, Dapitan is shooting for Cannes. And it just might be the one shot that will put it front and center on the map.