M1 Films’ ‘Ang Matsing at ang Pagong’ praised in Rome, Italy; James Blanco is Best Actor

Produced by M1 Films, “Ang Matsing at ang Pagong” (The Monkey and the Turtle) was featured at the 2023 Asian Film Festival. Held at Cinema Farnese in Rome, Italy from March 30, 2023 to April 5, 2023, it was the 20th edition of the film festival.

The Daniel R. Palacio film stars James Blanco as a rural town’s vice mayor challenging the incumbent chief for the mayoral position in the coming election. Palacio directed the film with a screenplay he co-wrote with his mentor Armando “Bing” Lao, who is also the film’s editor.

“I gave James the freedom to respond and react with his own interpretation of the character,” Palacio revealed. “That’s why his creativity and natural acting shone on the film. He even challenged the script on one occasion, standing firm on the character’s mindset. I loved it! He’s just perfect for the role.”


Ang Matsing at ang Pagong‘ is M1 Films‘ debut project

“Ang Matsing at ang Pagong” is the debut project of M1 Films, which was launched in 2022. The company’s executive producer Oliver Sy was praised for choosing a powerful story with a powerful voice to start the company’s venture into the movie industry.

Sy favored the Asian Film Festival, one of the most important film festivals in Europe, to hold the world premiere of the film with over 80,000 Filipinos in Rome. The film represented the Philippines proudly as its message of social inequality echoed throughout the city.

James Blanco
James Blanco

James Blanco is 20th Asian Film Festival Best Actor

Blanco won the Best Actor award at the 20th Asian Film Festival, besting 17 other nominees. Film director Enzo Aronica, screenwriter Roberto Recchioni and journalist Marco Lodoli, who served as the jurors, explained that they selected Blanco “for how he manages to interpret, with passion but also with a series of important nuances, the character of a hero despite him, witnessing a reality in disguise, corrupt and violent”.

Film festival director Antonio Termenini presented the award, which “Ang Matsing at ang Pagong” producers Vanessa Joy Palacio and Hilque Dairo received on behalf of Blanco. Donna Celeste Feliciano-Gatmaytan, the consul general of the Philippine embassy in Rome, joined Daniel, Vanessa and Dairo at the film festival.

Hilque Dairo, Donna Celeste Feliciano-Gatmaytan, Daniel R. Palacio, Antonio Termenini, Vanessa Joy Palacio
Hilque Dairo, Donna Celeste Feliciano-Gatmaytan, Daniel R. Palacio, Antonio Termenini, Vanessa Joy Palacio

Blanco’s award concluded a memorable event as overseas Filipino workers from different parts of Italy came to watch the film. They expressed gratitude towards the director as they shared their sentiments relating to the movie.

“We were watching our life story,” Charito Basa, head of Filipino women’s council in Rome, said. “Thank you for showing it here.”

The mostly Italian audience were fascinated with Daniel’s docu-drama cinema style. When asked by the Italian press if he plans to stay true to denouncing films in the future, he quipped, “There’s no other purpose of my film but that”.

“The words of appreciation from fellow Filipinos were accomplishments already,” Daniel continued. “The win was the cherry on top.”

Jeffrey Icawat and Jerel Travezonda are the cinematographers of the film. Joining Blanco in the cast are Jana Victoria, Ryan Sandoval, Raquel Villavicencio, Cataleya Surio, Dido Dela Paz and Lou Veloso.

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