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Notable feat in Asian cinema: First Filipino filmmaker at European producers workshop to produce Afghan docu


For the first time in history, a Filipino film producer has been accepted into the prestigious European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE) Producers Workshop 2022; making this feat even more significant is the fact that the producer’s project is a collaboration with a filmmaker from Afghanistan. 


Multi-awarded film producer Alemberg “Alem” Ang, the third Southeast Asian to be accepted into the EAVE workshop, has been selected as a participant focusing on developing a project entitled “Dream of Grape Gardens” to be directed by noted Afghan documentarist Sahra Mani. 


“Dream of Grape Gardens” is an autobiographical documentary of Sahra’s own wartime memories as an Afghan refugee in Iran and her family’s 30-year search for her lost brother.


As part of the workshop, Alem will participate in three sessions to be held in various areas of Europe.


The first workshop was held in Luxembourg from March 4-11, while the next will happen in Pärnu, Estonia from June 10-17. The third and last workshop will be held in Barcelona, Spain from October 17-24, 2022.


Alem is more than thrilled with this cross-cultural collaboration. He says, “As the world is getting more and more connected, filmmakers from different countries are getting more connected as well. We are finding ourselves helping each other in our projects. The possibilities are just endless!”


With conflict still prevailing in several parts of the world, the production of “Dream of Grape Gardens” is a timely, if not urgent endeavor. Alem elaborates, “Even if the subject is about Afghan refugees in the 1980s, history is repeating itself as Afghans are forced to flee their country once more with the Taliban in power. Women and children, and artists—like Sahra—are among those are forced to leave their home country and seek safe havens. Their experiences need to be told so that the world does not forget especially now in light of what’s happening in Ukraine. I was especially drawn to Sahra’s personal story and its universality.”


Alem first made his mark when his first feature—Alvin Yapan’s “The Rapture of Fe” in 2009—won Special Jury Prize at Cinemalaya and Best Digital Feature at the Cairo International Film Festival.


The film started a string of successes for Alem, whose films “Ang Sayaw ng Dalawang Kaliwang Paa” bagged the Best Picture trophy at the 2011 Gawad Urian, while the TV series “Titser” won Best Drama at the Catholic Mass Media Awards, Outstanding Achievement in the Broadcast Media Award from the Hildegarde Awards for Women in Media and Communication, and NHK’s Japan Prize in 2013.


Alem’s “2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten” won Best Picture at Cinema One Originals and the Audience Award at the Torino LGBTQI in 2016 while the movie musical “Ang Larawan” bagged the Best Picture at Metro Manila Film Festival and competed at  at the 2017 Tokyo International Film Festival.


He also won Audience Award and Special Jury Prize at Cinemalaya and Best Film from Entertainment Editors of the Philippines in 2018 for the Martial Law-set movie “Liway.”


Alem has participated at other international programmes like the Rotterdam Lab, Berlinale Talents, SEAFIC, Locarno’s Open Doors, Tribeca Film Institute Network, Cannes Docs, and UNESCO’s Meeting of Independent Producers.


Alem is currently working on several projects, such as “Divine Factory,” “Some Nights I Feel Like Walking”, “Dancing the Tides” and “Ninja from Manila”.


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