Pepe Diokno's highly anticipated second film will have its PhilippinePremiere at Cinemalaya 2015

After the critical success of his directorial debut, Pepe Diokno comes up with a follow up to Engkwentro (2008, Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival – Special Mention, Venice Film Festival – Lion of the Future - Luigi de Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Film, and the Orizzonti Prize). Above The Clouds, a film about a grieving teenager who is forced to live with his grandfather in the Mountain Province, will be screened at the 11th Cinemalaya on August 8, 3:30pm at the Main Theater of the CCP Complex in Pasay City.

From scriptwriting to international pitching to post production, including shooting breaks due to budget shortage, the film took three years before it had its world premiere at Tokyo International Film Festival last year. It garneered a nomination for Asian Future Best Film and was screened, in competition, at the 2014 Singapore International Film Festival where it vied for the Best Asian Feature Film Award.

The Hollywood Reporter praised Diokno’s “surprising artistic restraint and his canny eye for natural beauty”, and hailed Ruru Madrid and Pepe Smith for their “excellent two lead performances”. THR added, “To those who know and love his work, Smith's haggard, grandfatherly turn in Above the Clouds is sure to come as a compelling surprise.”

Written while grieving for his late grandmother, Diokno describes the creative process of Above the Clouds as a personal calvary. The pressure coming from the success of his first film, Engkwentro, did not make the whole creative development relaxed either. 

The 27 year old Diokno admitted that the most challenging part of the shoot is travelling on foot for days carrying dozens of equipment as they go along. Although the production seems to be relatively a breeze compared to reconstructing a 2000 square meter slum community in Engkwentro from the ground up, Diokno hinted at almost the same level of gargantuan tasks his creative team had to accomplish for Above The Clouds: his award winning cinematographer, Carlo Mendoza, had to lit multiple landscapes at night, while his art department, led by production designers Carlo Tabije and Benjamin Padero, basically had to undergo the identical challenge: constructing an entire village from scratch! On top of everything, producer Bianca Balbuena had to “literally move mountains to make the film.”

Aside from development grant from Asian Cinema Fund, Above the Clouds was also supported by France, after winning an “Aide aux Cinemas du monde” grant from the Centre National du Cinema et de L’image Animée and the Ministère Des Affaires Étrangères – Institut Françai, which gave Diokno the opportunity to do post-production work in Paris for three months. He was able to collaborate with French editor Gisele Rapp-Meichler, sound editors Claire-Anne Largeron Rosalie Revoyre, colorist Yov Moor and sound designer Roman Dymny. The result admirably is at par among the most polished finished products in cinema today, which the Singapore International Film Festival dubbed as “breathtaking.”

In lieu of a commercial theater run, the filmmakers plan to tour the film around the country, targeting schools and other special venues, with the only marketing means depending on audience’s favorable reception. The first pop-up screening after Cinemalaya, is scheduled on September 5 at the UP Film Center, as presented by UP CAST. The advocacy group Yabang Pinoy will also help them reach different schools around Metro Manila. To buy tickets or even organize a screening of the film, you may visit their official website or email inquiry to hello@abovetheclouds.ph.

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