Focus on the Philippines: Cyrus Villanueva announces new single

Plus: Lav Diaz film to compete in Berlin Film Festival; Ronnie del Carmen gets Oscar nod for Inside Out.

The X Factor Australia Cyrus Villanueva has teased a new single. Courtesy Seven West Media
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Filipino-Australian crooner Cyrus Villanueva teased his fans on social media, hinting that a new original single is on the way.

Villanueva, who won the recent season of The X Factor Australia, revealed the new track is titled Keep Talking and will be released on February 12. He said he will perform it live on the same day "at a special event".

“Will you be there?” he posted on Instagram.

“I’ve never been more excited about anything in my life. I will be finally sharing music with you that not only has my fingerprints on it but also a part of my heart. I owe it to all of those who have supported me since day one – this is just the beginning of what is going to be a huge year.”

The 19-year-old singer, who told The National in a previous interview that he learnt to perform from his Filipino father Jo, released his debut album Stone last month, topping both the Australian and Philippine music charts.

Lav Diaz film to compete in Berlinale

Independent Filipino filmmaker Lav Diaz’s latest feature has been selected for the prestigious Main Competition section of the forthcoming 66th Berlin International Film Festival, scheduled to be held in the German capital from February 11 to 21.

Titled Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis (A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery), the film is headlined by John Lloyd Cruz and Piolo Pascual. It is an interesting foray into independent cinema for both Cruz and Pascual, who are considered two of the biggest mainstream actors in the Philippines. The film also features the star-studded ensemble of Alessandra De Rossi, Susan Africa, Sid Lucero, Angel Aquino, Cherie Gil and the 70-year-old veteran Bernardo Bernardo.

The black-and-white film runs for an epic eight hours and features interconnected stories set during the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonisation during 1896 to 1897. Last year, the 57-year-old Diaz won the Golden Leopard main prize at the Locarno International Film Festival for his drama Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What is Before).

Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis is only the third Filipino film to compete in the Berlinale's Main Competition, following Ishmael Bernal's Himala in 1982 and Brilliant Mendoza's Captive in 2012.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer upon hearing the good news from Berlin, Diaz said: "We heard it's going to be very cold there, but we'll just have fun, engage in discourse, watch a lot of cinema, check the snow, attend some parties – and discover David Bowie's Berlin."

The film, he added, is "our hele [lullaby] to our dear country".

“From Berlin, we will rock the country’s cradle.”

Among the 15 films selected for the festival's main section, only Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis comes from the Asian region. Iran's Ejhdeha Vared Mishavad! (A Dragon Arrives!), directed by Mani Haghighi, is the only entry from the Arab region. The rest of the 13 films are from Europe and North America. Actress Meryl Streep has been announced as the jury's president.

Ronnie del Carmen gets Oscar nod

Filipino filmmaker Ronnie del Carmen received an Academy Award nomination last week, sharing the Best Original Screenplay nod with Pete Docter, Meg Le Fauve and Josh Cooley for Pixar's hit film Inside Out.

The movie is also nominated for Best Animated Feature, an award it won during the recent Golden Globes.

Del Carmen, who is the film's co-director, holds story credits for Inside Out alongside Docter.

On a social media post, del Carmen said Pixar veteran Lee Unkrich gave him a piece of advice for the big night on February 28: “Just try to find a way to enjoy it when it is happening.”

Del Carmen said of Unkrich, who directed the Oscar-winning Toy Story 3: "He was so happy for me, it showed in his eyes and smile. He's done this before and he wants me to not miss what's important."

A native of the Philippine province of Cavite, the 56-year-old del Carmen visited Manila last August for the premiere of Inside Out. Del Carmen joined Pixar in 2000 and has since worked for a number of projects including Finding Nemo (2003), Ratatouille (2007) and Wall-E (2008). He was the story supervisor for 2009's Up and the director for Up's accompanying short film, Dug's Special Mission.

As a 15-year-old high school student in 1979, del Carmen worked as a painter on the set of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, which was filmed in the Philippines.