Open Doors Locarno awards Development Support Grant to Avid Liongoren's animated film project

“Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah vs. The Amazonistas of Planet X,” the animated comedy film of Avid Liongoren, was awarded the Open Doors Locarno Development Support Grant on August 12. The project, co-produced by Liongoren of Rocketsheep Studio and Franck Priot of Ghosts City Films in France, will receive 14,000 Swiss francs.

Open Doors is a program of the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland that aims to promote independent filmmaking. "Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah vs. The Amazonistas of Planet X" was part of Open Doors Hub, which paved the way for Liongoren to meet with possible international collaborators.

The Open Doors jury, as quoted by Variety, praised the Filipino-French project for being “convincing through its freshness, its craziness, and its very contemporary approach appealing to young people especially. We want to support this project for its ability to bring the Filipino animation cinema to an international landscape.”

Liongoren, the multi-awarded filmmaker and animator behind the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry "Saving Sally," expressed elation about bagging the Open Doors Grant. He also talked about the online Jury Presentation at the Open Doors Locarno Project Market.

The Open Doors Locarno Development Support Grant was announced online.
The Open Doors Locarno Development Support Grant was announced online.

The 73rd Locarno held its virtual edition for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "I'm used to hearing a chuckle every time I explain the very concept of Zaturnnah ⁠— of a shy gay man who swallows a space rock to become a female superhero," Liongoren wrote in a Facebook post.

"Locarno Festival is very intellectual and artsy, not really the place for a superhero film. But despite all that, we were awarded one of the top prizes," he continued. "More than the money, this is very important to us because it adds validation to the viability of this project."

This is the second project market win for "Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah vs. The Amazonistas of Planet X." In July, it won the B.I.G (BIFAN Industry Gathering) Award from the Network of Asian Fantastic Films (NAFF) Project Market of the 24th Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFAN) in South Korea.

Liongoren's victory is a triumph for the Philippine animation industry as well. The comic book character of Zsazsa Zaturnnah was created by Carlo Vergara. Zaturnnah is the female superhero that hairdresser Ada magically turns into.

Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Chairperson and CEO Liza Diño-Seguerra sent congratulatory remarks to Liongoren and his team. “Continue to raise the bar of Philippine Animation! The FDCP is proud of you, and the national film agency ensures its continued support for the animation sector,” she said.

Image courtesy of Rocketsheep Studio
Image courtesy of Rocketsheep Studio

The FDCP has extended support to the animation sector as it was officially included in the Agency's priority programs in 2017. The national film agency aims to sustain the thriving animation service sector and more importantly, pave the way for original Intellectual Property (IP) creation. The Department of Trade and Industry and FDCP have participated in various animation film markets and film festivals to expand the reach of the animation sector and foster collaboration with international co-producers.

Meanwhile, Diño-Seguerra also thanked the Locarno 2020 organizers for making the Philippines a Spotlight Country in Open Doors as a gesture of support for the One Hundred Years of Phililpine Cinema.

A total of 13 Filipino films and projects were part of Locarno 2020:  "Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah vs. The Amazonistas of Planet X" and “Tropical Gothic” by Isabel Sandoval in Open Doors Hub, and “Filipiñana” by Rafael Manuel, represented by producer Kyle Nieva of Screen Asia, in Open Doors Lab.

Six films made it to the Open Doors Screenings. These are “Masahista” by Brillante Mendoza, “Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay” by Antoinette Jadaone, “Aparisyon” by Sandoval, “Engkwentro” by Pepe Diokno, “Babylon” by Keith Deligero, and “Manong ng Pa-aling (Man of Pa-aling)” by E. del Mundo.

“Here, Here” by Joanne Cesario was in the Pardi di domani section, “Nowhere Near” by Miko Revereza, and “Kapag Wala Nang Mga Alon (When The Waves Are Gone)” by Lav Diaz were included in The Films After Tomorrow section. Finally, “Mababangong Bangungot (Perfumed Nightmare)” by National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik was among the 20 films in the program A Journey in the Festival’s History.

Cover photo courtesy of Rocketsheep Studio


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