Will Smaller and Smaller Circles be submitted to MMFF 2017? TBA Studios unveils upcoming movies

by Mari-An Santos
Aug 31, 2017

TBA Studios--the independent film company behind such acclaimed movies as the blockbuster Heneral Luna and Metro Manila Film Fest 2016 Best Picture Sunday Beauty Queen--held a star-studded grand launch at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel to unveil its plans for 2017 and beyond.

TBA Studios executive producers E.A. Rocha and Fernando Ortigas disclosed the film projects that are set to be released in Philippine cinemas.

A lot of moviegoers have been anticipating the release of the crime thriller Smaller and Smaller Circles. Topbilled by Sid Lucero and Nonie Buencamino, it is directed by Raya Martin, based on the best-selling novel of F.H. Batacan.

PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) asked the producers if they plan to submit the finished film to MMFF 2018, which is yet to choose the four remaining official entries.

“It’s a business decision we made not to submit in MMFF,” revealed E.A. Rocha.

Here are the movies of TBA Studios to be released in cinemas:

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1-2-3 (Wantutri)

Director: Carlo Obispo

Opening Film of the 2016 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival

The story tackles the sensitive but relevant issue of human trafficking with a talented young cast.

Barbara Miguel, the lead actress, recalled: “I was 11 years old when we filmed [2 years ago]. Pinag-aralan kong mabuti kung paano yung galaw niya, para magawa ko nang tama.”

Therese Malvar said “We did a lot of workshops and immersion, and script analysis.” They also watched a documentary that tackled human trafficking.

According to Carlos Dala, the lead actor, said: “[Shooting the film was] an eye opener. It’s not common for a young cast [like us] to present that story. Madami kaming natutunan, [at] meron palang ganun sa Pilipinas. We want to share that story.”

Direk Carlo admitted: “It was a very difficult film because the topic is very heavy. I’m very grateful that the material was made into film.”

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Director: Mikhail Red

Best Film, 2016 Tokyo International Film Festival

The film follows teenager Maya, who accidentally shoots a Philippine eagle, then tries to elude authorities by hiding in the forest.

Mikhail Red, son of award-winning independent filmmaker Raymond Red, narrated that the inspiration for the film came to him 3 years ago while he was making his first feature film: “I came across a story of a farmer who mistakenly shoots, cooks, and eats a Philippine eagle. As a storyteller, I’ve always been fascinated by these situations where you have morally ambiguous characters trying to navigate the minefield of decisions and there’s no clear line between protagonist and antagonist: just people who are victims of circumstance, trying to survive the food chain of society.”

Mary Joy Apostol, who plays Maya, was 17 when she auditioned for the role. “Lahat po sobrang mahirap po talaga, kailangan po nila 14 years old, nung una, nagkaka-problema [ako] sa acting kasi lumalabas po yung maturity. Pero natulungan naman po ako nina Direk.”

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“Napakaganda po ng story, coming of age at thriller. Magugustuhan nila dahil bagong bago na di pa nila napanood dati.”

Arnold Reyes, who co-stars as a conflicted police officer, said: “It is a very well-made film. Binusisi ni Direk Mik yung sound, editing… lahat ng aspeto na kinakailangan sa pelikula, siniguro ni Direk Mik na maganda at mataas ang kalidad.”

“Dumali yung trabaho namin biglang mga aktor kasi klaro sa direktor namin kung ano ang gusto niyang mangyari sa pelikula niya. At open siya sa collaboration.”

John Arcilla says this film is his first after the monster hit Heneral Luna. He takes pride in it as “a wonderful action thriller film.” He asked audiences: “Panoorin ninyo ang Birdshot, kung hindi, ma-Artikulo Uno kayo!”

Birdshot was chosen by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) to be part of the 1st Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino. It won the Critic's Choice Award.

It is currently being screened in Cinema ’76 located at 160 Luna Mencias Street, Brgy. Addition Hills, San Juan

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Women of the Weeping River

Director: Sheron Dayoc

Best Film, 2017 Gawad Urian

The film is set in Mindanao and tells the story of Satra, a widow caught in an escalating and generations-old blood feud.

Laila Ulao, the film’s award-winning lead actress who hails from Jolo, said the film is important because “Totoong istorya siya na nangyayari sa totoong buhay. May mga friends at family ako sa Mindanao na pinagdadaanan yun.”

Smaller and Smaller Circles

Director: Raya Martin

Based on the crime thriller novel by F.H. Batacan

In the much-anticipated screen adaptation, lead star Nonie Buencamino finally gets his chance to play the role of a priest—a role he has long aspired for. In order to prepare for filming, “Binasa ko yung libro, inintindi ko yung mga detalye ng mga gawain ng pari. I tried to familiarize myself with the script, scientific terms.”

Fans of the novel will be excited to know that “in essence, the movie is faithful to the book,” Buencamino says. “You cannot avoid that for a book transposed into a screenplay, there have to be some scenes that are more cinematic in interpretation…and very long descriptions in the book are visualized.”

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Playing opposite him, as a younger priest, is Sid Lucero, about whom Buencamino said: “I’ve known him since he was younger, when he was starting out. [Sid is] very easy to work with. Para lang kaming nagkukuwentuhan when we’re doing a scene.”

Junjun Quintana, who plays a pivotal character, shared that his character in the movie is actually his dream role. “Pinaka exciting kung paano isina-pelikula ni Direk Raya Martin yung libro. I read the book many times for me to really digest the story, not just my character.”

During filming, Quintana said: “Nakinig lang ako kay Direk Raya Martin. Bilang aktor, kailangan mo lang i-humanize kung ano yung ginagawa mo sa pelikula. To be an effective actor, it’s really important that you can really connect your deep understanding of your character to the viewers.”

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral

Director: Jerrold Tarog

The highly-anticipated sequel to the historical action epic has already started principal photography and will be released in 2018. Paulo Avelino topbills the film and there will be more than a few returning characters played by Arron Villaflor, Carlo Aquino, Mon Confiado, and Epy Quizon.

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During the launch, Nonie Buencamino was happily surprised to find out that his character Felipe Buencamino will also be back.

Direk Jerrold said: “The story starts literally two days after Heneral Luna was assassinated. It expands on that and other characters you already saw in Heneral Luna, including Emilio Aguinaldo and Apolinario Mabini, as well as Joven Hernando.”

The Mythology Class
Direk Jerrold also confirmed that the film adaptation of the popular graphic novel The Mythology Class by Arnold Arre is now in development. The adaptation comes 20 years after Arre produced the story and 10 years after Direk Jerrold first expressed interest in adapting Arre’s work.

“Nung nabasa ko siya, [sabi ko,] maganda ‘to, mahirap gawin. At dahil mahirap siyang gawin, kailangan ko siyang gawin.” The film will be a live action feature because, according to the director, “Yung mga youth-oriented fantasy films [kasi] bihirang gawin dito, so I figured it would be a very exciting project.”

Direk Jerrold is now writing the script along with Zombadings director Jade Castro.


A young girl who holds a passionate love for Filipino myths, finds herself face to face with mythological creatures. Together with her new found friends, she embarks on a journey to fight supernatural creatures who are wreaking havoc in the human world. Based on a graphic novel by Arnold Arre.

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TBA Studios and Globe Telecom

Jo Caliro of Globe Live also announced its strategic partnership with TBA Studios. “This is Globe’s step to becoming an entertainment company. Now we’re not just curating entertainment content, but we’ll also be producing it.”

Globe Telecom will co-produce several projects, including Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.

TBA Studios’ Sustainability

EA Rocha of TBA said that they have always been guided by this philosophy: “Let’s make movies the way it’s supposed to be done. Let’s honor the Filipino public by giving them the best films we can give. I want them to remember something that changed their life. That changed the way they look at life.”

Ortigas admitted: “When people come out of the theater, I’d like them to say: that was a damn good. if they wake up the next day thinking about the movie, that’s the second best thing that we can give them. And the third thing is that they do something about it, about their lives.”

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Here are the other projects in development by TBA Studios:

Quezon Vs. Aguinaldo

Director: Jerrold Tarog
Genre: Historical Epic

The third and final installment of Jerrold Tarog's historical trilogy.

An American Crucifixion

Director: E.A. Rocha
Genre: Thriller Drama

An American carpetbagger in the early days of Philippine Republic is involved in smuggling, racketeering and making enemies within the Philippine and U.S. governments not to mention the Chinese Mafia. When a terrible thing happens to his family, he offers himself to be crucified on Good Friday as an act of redemption.

The Color Of Fire

Director: TBD
Genre: World War II Love Story Drama

Manila 1940. A young American naval officer is engaged to the daughter of a powerful Filipino-Spanish family during the golden age of Philippine Commonwealth under the United States. With the arrival of World War II, the lovers are separated-he joins the guerillas and she becomes head of the family during the Japanese occupation of Manila, where utter horror and massive destruction reign.


Director: JP Habac | Genre: Comedy
Writers: Doy Del Mundo and Ida Del Mundo

Poignant and funny, this is the music-filled tale of three male seniors in a Home for the Aged who come out of retirement to perform as drag queens, just so they can pay for the Home after the death of their landlord.

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