‘Dear Wormwood’ Claims Macao Project Market Prize

Philippines director Dodo Dayao’s supernatural horror project “Dear Wormwood” claimed the top prize on Sunday at the IFFAM Project Market, part of the ongoing International Film Festival & Awards Macao.

“Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, followed by a series of cataclysmic events in the surrounding forest. Dayao says he originally conceived the film as a chamber piece about the end of the world, but has expanded it into something larger and more political. He calls it a: “Lovecraftian cosmic horror that seems like a tonal fit for our times.”

It boasts Malaysian director Bradley Liew (“Motel Acacia,” “Singing in Graveyards”) as producer, alongside Patti Lupus and Bianca Balbuena. Prior to the Macao event it had secured roughly 15% of its estimated $525,000 budget. The winners shared a cash prize of $40,000.

“The Day and Night of Brahma,” to be directed by Sheetal Magan and produced by Sheetal Magan, collected the creative excellence award. The Macao Spirit Award went to Uk Kei, a drama about a woman who flees her native Portugal and arrives in Macao where she is forced to face up to her past. The director is Leonor Teles, production by producer Filipa Reis.

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The co-production award went to “Drum Wave,” a folk horror tale to be directed by Natalie Erika James on a budget of $8 million. Intended as an Australian-Japanese co-venture, the story follows a pianist who is plunged into an island community, and has to confront motherhood issues when the town holds its annual fertility festival. James previously directed the Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote-starring “Relic.” Production is through Carver Films and by Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw (Justin Kurzel’s “Snowtown”.)

Outside the cash winners, another project, “Nocebo” was recognized as an outstanding film project. Director Lorcan Finnegan and producers Brunella Cocchiglia and Emily Leo were complimented with an honorable mention in the Awards Ceremony on Sunday.
All five awards were determined by a jury that included Singapore film director Eric Khoo, Matthijs Wouter Knol, director of the Berlinale’s European Film Market, and Shozo Ichiyama, Producer/ CEO of Kino International from Japan.

In total the IFFAM Project Market brought together 14 film projects to meet with industry figures to discuss partnership opportunities, co-production and finance. The event also included work in progress presentations of Dutch director Jim Taihuttu’s Indonesian wartime drama The East as well as Yakuza Princess, an action thriller from director Vicente Amorim.

Organizers said that over 50% of the projects have Asian subject matter, and that 13 of the 16 projects are genre films. Nine were selected by IPM, and one each from international genre market partners, Blood Window (Argentina), FIRST Financing Forum (China), Frontieres (Canada) and Sitges (Spain).