Metro Manila Film Festival 2023 springs its first Christmas surprise with an unprecedented partnership between the Hollywood film studio Warner Bros. and rising Filipino film company, Mentorque Productions, for its buzzy new MMFF entry, Mallari.
The partnership was announced by Rico Gonzales, Distribution Director of Warner Bros. Philippines and John Bryan Diamante, President of Mentorque Productions, when they held their formal contract signing last November 25, 2023 at the Chairman’s Lounge in Okada Manila.
The partnership begins with Warner Bros. handling the theatrical distribution of Mallari locally, its first local mainstream film distribution. The last time Warner Bros. attempted to distribute locally was a limited release of an indie film in 2003.
The road to Warner Bros. first local foray started when Gonzales was given the go-signal by the regional and head offices in Burbank to initiate Warner Bros.’s entry into strategic local ventures. Fortuitously, Mentorque’s production of Mallari appeared in Rico’s radar, and talks for a partnership began.
Diamante applauds Warner Bros.’ support for quality local films, and describes the brand-new partnership as happening “because the stars have aligned.” Warner Bros.’s recent interest in local films happened to start at the same time Diamante had decided to level up Mentorque’s lineup, from regional concerts and indie films, to major film productions with mainstream and international potential.
Mallari, the much-awaited, mind-bending horror starring award-winning Filipino actor Piolo Pascual, is inspired by the true story of Fr Severino Mallari, the Philippines’ first and only serial killer.
Directed by Derick Cabrido, from a screenplay by Enrico Santos, Mallari also boasts a powerhouse cast of: Janella Salvador, JC Santos, Gloria Diaz, and Tommy Alejandrino. Initial buzz points to several of Mallari’s strengths that make it attractive to Warner Bros. Mallari has epic horror ambitions: three time periods, extensive special effects, and the rare alchemy of popcorn jumpscare horror and mind-bending mystery.
Rumored as the most expensive film in the MMFF 2023, Mallari had to be shot in two distant provinces for authenticity, and inside a soundstage, for effects. An entire Pampanga 19th century plaza was constructed in a remote land in Batangas, complete with a whole church. Practically no one among the cast has performed a role remotely close to the ones they have performed here.
Warner had chosen a splashy first venture into the reawakening Philippine cinema market. Along with local film distribution, Warner and Mentorque are exploring paths to Warner distributing Filipino films to the Asian region, collaborations in streaming, and further along the game, the possibility of co-productions. As Gonzales quoted Warner Bros.’s classic Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”