Benji Garcia’s Malan won the jury award at the second Sineng Pambansa national film festival (Nov 22-25), which ran concurrently with the Philippines’ first ever film market.

Malan, a social activism drama, is set in both Manila and the southern Mindanao region of the Philippines, where the host city of the festival, Davao, is located.

Malan competed against six narrative features. Other screenings included the national premiere of Brillante Mendoza’s Venice entry Thy Womb, Sheron Dayoc’s documentary Chasing Fireflies and a digital restoration of Manuel Conde’s 1950s production Genghis Khan.

The first edition of the festival took place earlier this year in June, also in Davao. Through the proactive efforts of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), the city of one million is rapidly becoming a film hub in a traditionally Manila-dominated industry.

The Philippines’ first-ever film market, the International Film Expo (IFX), ran concurrently with the festival from November 23-24 at the four-month old SMX Convention Center, the first facility of its type in the Mindanao region.

Among exhibitors were GMA Films, the production company behind US release The Road and Erik Matti’s Tiktik: Aswang Chronicles; Asian Film Commissions Network (AFCNet); DCinema Inc.; visual effects company Mothership; Panasonic, and Screen Authority Sapporo (SAS). Industry seminar topics broached digital effects, exhibition standards and film education.

Filipino cinema itself continues to gain wider recognition abroad with FDCP co-production Thy Womb’s Venice bow and the territory’s second Asia Pacific Screen Award NETPAC development prize for Marlon Rivera’s The Woman In The Septic Tank, handed out on Nov 24.

Additionally, FDCP hosted the FLY Project in Davao, which AFCNet director Oh Seok-Geun outlined at IFX. A total of 22 participants from across Southeast Asia and Korea produced two short films in an incubation project to encourage collaboration among nations with developed and nascent industries.

FDCP Chairman Briccio Santos commented on the multi-pronged developments. “This is the culmination of two years of work. Up until recently, the Philippines averaged 22-23 commercial film releases a year. That’s now up to 65, with films being produced outside of Manila as well. The emphasis is on reform.”

FDCP has stated a mandate for growth. IFX is set to take place in Manila next year, with an increase from 25 booths to over 120, with regional satellite events in the works. IFX and a larger version of the festival with an international scope with take place at a newly-built SM complex in the city.