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ROTTERDAM – Long hailed as the Philippines’ pioneer in independently-produced digital cinema, Khavn de la Cruz surprised many when he signed a big-name cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, last year for his latest project, Ruined Heart. But now he’s aiming for an even bigger surprise by trying to recruit one of Japanese cinema’s most well-known stars to be his leading man.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the International Film Festival Rotterdam – where he appeared at screenings of his latest production Misericordia: The Last Mystery of Kristo Vampiro and a short film How to Raise a Smart & Happy Child from Age Zero to Five – the Filipino filmmaker said he’s trying to work out a possible schedule with Tadanobu Asano, who has recently taken on supporting roles in the CGI-laden Hollywood blockbuster Thor (in which he plays Hogun, a role he will return to this year in the sequel Thor: The Dark World) and Battleship alongside starring parts in Japanese films.
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Ruined Heart is slated to begin shooting in September, says Khavn. The film aims to expand the similarly-titled piece he brought to the Berlin Film Festival’s short film competition last year, and will center on a mother-and-son team of contract killers whose close bond crumbles as the son falls for a woman.
The project will certainly be a very different beast from Misericordia. Shown at Rotterdam as part of the festival’s Spectrum section, the 70-minute piece was filmed in four days as Khavn traveled around his home country with an Italian friend. The footage showed bloody cockfights, boxing matches between dwarves, a bar in which dwarves serve as waiters, and also self-flagellation rituals practiced around a Passion Play.
Khavn later edited the material together and introduced a voiceover from someone who describes himself as a cross between Jesus and a vampire, as he outlines how he walks the streets and tries to redeem sinners by listening to their tales and sucking their blood.
“The initial part was just a document of where we were going, that’s it,” Khavn says. “While we were walking in the route of the pilgrim’s crucifixion, I started the idea of having this Christ-vampire. I can remove the voiceover and it can be a travelogue.”
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Misericordia is the latest of more than 30 feature-length films and 100 documentaries Khavn has done in the past 20 years; he was in Rotterdam last year with Mondomanila, a gritty crime drama-comedy revolving around a teenage felon and the pimp, prostitutes, pedophiles and politicians he mixes with in the slum he lives in.
Having founded his own production company, Kamias Road, Khavn also directs the MOV International Film, Music, and Literature Festival, which he established in 2002 to disseminate moving images and other forms of art through DIY, digital means. Khavn said he is in the process of reinventing the triennial event, which was last held in 2011.
“In the beginning it was to introduce Filipino filmmakers on the back of the digital revolution but now everybody’s gone digital so it’s not an issue anymore. I’m thinking about how to make it relevant to the Philippines’ film community,” he said.
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