Independent film producer and screenwriter Bianca Balbuena is this year’s recipient of the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and FIAPF – International Federation of Film Producers Award in recognition of her strong contributions to the development of the Asia Pacific film industry.
Balbuena, the CEO and co-founder of Epicmedia Productions, began her career in 2009 as one of the writers and producers of Pepe Diokno’s acclaimed debut feature “Engkuwentro” where she also played a supporting role. The film won two awards at the Venice Film Festival including the Venice Horizons Award.
She went on to earn more accolades as producer of films like Lav Diaz’s “Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis” which bagged the Alfred Bauer Award for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival and Bradley Liew’s “Singing in Graveyards” which won the NETPAC award for Best Film at the Kolkata International Film Festival. The latter film also won Best Film at the Malaysia International Film Festival and Malaysia Golden Globe Awards.
Balbuena also co-produced Victor Villanueva’s hit road comedy “Patay na si Hesus” which won Honorable Mention for Best Film at the just concluded Seattle Queer Film Festival.
In honoring Balbuena, FIAPF president Luis Alberto Scalella described her as “a multi-faceted producer whose films have premiered at, and won awards from, prestigious festivals including Berlin, Busan, Karlovy Vary, San Sebastián, Thessaloniki, Tokyo and Toronto.”
“She has developed and produced the work of debut and emerging filmmakers, as well as established and acclaimed masters such as Lav Diaz. Additionally, she has forged successful co-productions with countries and film industries as diverse as Australia, France, Malaysia, Singapore and Sweden. FIAPF is proud to honour a producer from [the] Philippines for the first time.”
Scalella further hailed Balbuena as “one of the most passionate and talented producers of her generation who thinks global when developing local content.”
“In a few years, she already made a remarkable contribution to the development of Asia Pacific cinema and we trust it is just a beginning.”
With her award, Balbuena joins an esteemed group of APSA FIAPF Award recipients. They are Manoochehr Mohammadi (Islamic Republic of Iran, 2016), Esaad Younis (Egypt, 2015), Emile Sherman (Australia 2014), Lee Choon-yun (Republic of Korea 2013), Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japan 2012), Zhang Yimou (People’s Republic of China 2011), Christine Hakim (Indonesia 2010), Isao Matsuoka (Japan 2009), Yash Chopra (India 2008) and Dr. George Miller (Australia 2007).
“I would like to thank Asia Pacific Screen Academy for continuing to hear and recognize our voices of struggle, oppression, dreams and hope. May we never get tired of telling stories,” Balbuena remarked after learning of the award, which will be presented to her during the 11th APSA Ceremony on Thursday, November 23, in Brisbane, Australia.
In addition to producing and writing, Balbuena has also worked as assistant director and occasionally acted in several films as well.
Up next for the indefatigable producer is Lav Diaz’s upcoming musical feature, “Ang Panahon ng Halimaw (Season of the Devil)” set to premiere early next year and Bradley Liew’s “Motel Acacia, which was part of the 2017 Jerusalem Sam Spiegel International Film Lab and has been supported by BiFan’s NAFF IT Project and EAVE Ties That Bind.