Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Liza Diño, First Filipina to Become French Knight in the Field of Cinema

AWARD-WINNING Actress Liza Diño and former Chairperson and CEO of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) was honored with one of France’s most distinguished titles, the Chevalier in the French Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres”).

This esteemed award recognizes Diño's exceptional contributions to the film industry and her unwavering dedication to fostering cultural exchanges between the Philippines, France, and the world.

Liza Diño with French Ambassador to the Philippines Michele Boccoz

The exclusive and intimate awarding ceremony hosted by French Ambassador Michele Boccoz in her honor took place on June 23, 2023, at the Ambassador's Residence in Makati City, Philippines. Attended by esteemed colleagues in government and film and Diño's closest friends and family members, the event marked a momentous occasion in her remarkable career. Ambassador Boccoz, during her speech, praised Diño for her hard work in opening doors for  Filipino filmmakers and films and bridging the Philippines and France for cultural exchange, mutual policies, and promotions.

“Liza, you are an actress by profession, but being appointed Chairperson of the Film Development Council of the Philippines seemed like you had a calling in public service to play a role in building government support for the Philippine film industry,” she said in her speech. “Your energy, talent, and intensive work have been recognized by French professionals and by all French institutions, and this is why we are here tonight,’ the Ambassador added before she officially conferred the medal to Diño.

Those who witnessed the awarding ceremony included award-winning directors Brillante Mendoza, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Bibeth Orteza, and Mark Meily, actresses Angel Aquino, Bela Padilla, RR Herrera, and Raquel Villavicencio, filmmakers and producers Bianca Balbuena, Bradley Liew, Real Florido, RJ Agustin, and Jim Baltazar of CMB films, Ambassadors Luc Veron of the European Union, and Laure Beaufils of United Kingdom, Instituto Cervantes Director Javier Galvan, and government leaders QC Mayor Joy Belmonte with Manet Dayrit and Ed Lejano of QCinema, QC Congressman Juan Carlos “Arjo” Atayde, Pangasinan Congressman Toff De Venecia, PAO Chief Persida Acosta, IPOPHL Director General Rowel Barba, and Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia.

Liza Diño with Government Leaders (L-R) Cebu Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia and Wife, IPOPHL Director General Rowel Barba, French Ambassador Michele Boccoz, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, and Congressman Arjo Atayde

The National Order of Arts and Letters is considered the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for individuals who have distinguished themselves by their creations in the artistic or literary field or by the contribution they have made to the influence of the arts and letters in France and the world. Among those awarded the title in the past are Steven Spielberg, George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio, Meryl Streep, and Cate Blanchett. 

As the first and only Filipina to receive the distinction in the field of cinema (and joining Oscar-winning Actress Michelle Yeoh in Southeast Asia), Diño's achievements have elevated and uplifted the Philippine film industry in the last six (6) years in the FDCP, most especially in the empowerment and promotion of Philippine Cinema around the world. Her journey, rooted in her background as a classically trained actress, reflects her profound love for the film industry and her commitment to advancing its growth and impact.

 Liza Diño with Ambassadors and Government Leaders (L-R) Instituto Cervantes Director Javier Galvan, Congressman Arjo Atayde, Cebu Mayor Raymond Garcia, French Ambassador Michele Boccoz, European Union Ambassador Luc Veron, and Congressman Toff De Venecia 

During her tenure as Chairperson and CEO of the FDCP, Ms. Dino played a pivotal role in fostering film cooperation between the Philippines and France. Under her leadership, Dino achieved numerous milestones through her collaboration with the Centre National du Cinéma et de l'image animée (CNC), France’s National Agency for Cinema and audiovisual works. This collaboration resulted in a series of impactful initiatives, from strengthening the participation of Filipino films and filmmakers on the global stage to bringing French experts to the Philippines for policy discussions. 

Diño would go on to strengthen the agency’s support to more Filipino filmmakers and films in the promotion and participation in the most influential film festivals in the world, including the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, and the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in Annecy, France. FDCP also brought to the Philippines the Festival’ Animation du Monde in 2019 and partnered with French-based company Tatino Films to establish Full Circle Lab Philippines, a global project and talent lab that has helped build the Philippines as a creative hub in the Southeast Asian region.

Liza Diño with Film Industry Guests (L-R) Ed Lejano, Congressman Toff De Venecia, Manet Dayrit, Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, Bela Padilla, RJ Agustin, QC Mayor Joy Belmonte, Raquel Villavicencio, French Ambassador Michele Boccoz, Real Florido, Bianca Balbuena, Bradley Liew, Angel Aquino, Brillante Mendoza, Jim Baltazar, Congressman Arjo Atayde, Rafael Siguion-Reyna, and Yanah Laurel

Through collaborations with the French Embassy as well, the annual French Film Festival in the Philippines has served as a platform to promote contemporary forms of cinema from France and enhance cultural exchange. It was also during Diño’s time that FDCP started acquiring distribution rights for acclaimed films such as "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" and "Petit Maman” to bring them closer to Filipino audiences. Just before the pandemic, FDCP also looked into the improvement of the movie houses in the country to uplift their standards by inviting French engineers from the CST (Commission Supérieure Technique de l'Image et du Son) to the Philippines with the end goal of creating technical standards for the cinematic experience. 

She was also responsible for formulating the policies that would become the first national film incentives of the Philippines, through, among others, hosting a policy forum between French experts and Philippine legislators on the French levy fund system. In 2019, the FilmPhilippines Incentives was launched, which supported international co-productions between France and the Philippines, including Lav Diaz's "When The Waves Are Gone," Thomas Digard's "Bionic Max," Avid Liongoren's "Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah vs. The Amazonistas," Carlo Manatad's "Whether The Weather is Fine," and Simon Jaquemet's "Electric Child." 

Liza Diño with (L-R) former FDCP ED Ria Rubia, QCinema Artistic Director Ed Lejano, QCinema Festival Manager  Gyana Barata, CMB Film Services President Jim Baltazar, QC Film Foundation President Manet Dayrit, French Ambassador Michele Boccoz, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, Congressman Arjo Atayde, and Fire and Ice Production Manager Rosano Ricarto

Just last year, before she ended her term, she secured the renewal of the CNC-FDCP cooperation agreement, which became one of the highlights of the celebration of 75 years of Diplomatic Relations between France and the Philippines. This agreement paves the way for the conclusion of a co-production treaty between France and the Philippines, promising even more meaningful collaborations and opportunities for local filmmakers.

As Liza Dino received the French Knight Award, she expressed her profound gratitude to all those who have supported and collaborated with her throughout her career. In her acceptance speech during the ceremony and recounting her early days in the FDCP, she said, “I approached [this new role] the same way I did with every aspect of my life - by creating, nurturing, and honoring relationships. I believed that in forming authentic relationships with colleagues, partners, and collaborators, I could get them on board to help me in my vision of an empowered and strong film industry. This was how this fruitful collaboration with France blossomed into impactful cooperation that bridged Philippine and French Cinema together.” 

Liza Diño with French Ambassador to the Philippines Michele Boccoz

“I'd like to thank the French government for honoring me and acknowledging that Philippine Cinema, with all the blood, sweat, and tears that need to be shed, is worth championing and fighting for,” she said as she closed her speech. 

Diño continues her love for the film and entertainment industry through her current role as the CEO of Fire and Ice Media and Productions, Inc., the company she manages with her husband and musical icon, Ice Seguerra. The company has produced successful and award-winning live event shows and is currently supporting several international projects in development with the Philippines and Southeast Asia. She is also the newly appointed Executive Director of the Quezon City Film Development Commission. She envisions the Quezon City film industry as a globally recognized brand for quality, diverse, and authentic films.

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