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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Focus on the Philippines: Filipino singers compete for Simon Fuller’s global pop group 

Plus: Miss Universe Philippines Maxine Medina shoots first feature film; Lav Diaz joins Oliver Stone in Busan film fest jury; Nickelodeon axes plans for themed resort in the Philippines

Ylona Garcia and Bailey May. Courtesy ABS-CBN Entertainment. ABS-CBN Entertainment
Ylona Garcia and Bailey May. Courtesy ABS-CBN Entertainment. ABS-CBN Entertainment

Four young Filipino singers have been selected to compete in a forthcoming international boot camp organised by Simon Fuller, the English producer known for creating the Idol reality singing competition franchise and managing the career of the Spice Girls. Contestants from around the world will compete for 11 spots for Fuller’s new pop group called Now United. Fuller is hoping that each of the group’s 11 members will come from 11 different countries.

Representing the Philippines are AC Bonifacio, Jane de Leon, Ylona Garcia and Bailey May. All four are currently signed with the talent agency Star Magic and regularly appear on the television programmes of the local network ABS-CBN. Garcia and May rose to fame after appearing on the reality programme Pinoy Big Brother in 2015.

May, 15, told ABS-CBN News: “I’m pumped. I'm getting my mental state prepared for this awesome opportunity. I am looking forward to show people what I have and show my talent.”

The four singers flew to the United States on Saturday for the launch of the boot camp, although no other details have been revealed about the competition. The teaser video below appears on Now United’s website

In an interview with Urban Asia, Fuller said: “I have wanted to create a new pop music project for some time. However, I wanted to do something new and exciting, never seen before. I wanted it to be a celebration of singing and dancing and on a global scale. I want to create a music group where the fans are as important as the group itself, fully engaged and connected to every aspect of what happens.”

Miss Philippines Maxine Medina shoots first feature film

Beauty queen Maxine Medina has begun filming for her first big-screen project, a feature film titled The Haunted. Medina represented the Philippines at the Miss Universe pageant held in Manila last January, finishing as one of the Top 6 contestants.

Medina, 27, will star alongside actors Benjamin Alves, Daniel Matsunaga and Enrico Cuenca. The movie will be produced by the production company OctoArts Films.

Prior to joining the Miss Philippines pageant, Medina worked as a professional model and interior designer.

Last month, another Filipino beauty queen signed on to star in her first feature film: Miss Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach will headline a yet-to-be-titled superhero movie directed by veteran filmmaker Joyce Bernal. The film will also star popular actors Vice Ganda and Daniel Padilla.

In the last year, Wurtzbach has made multiple appearances on local and international television programmes. Back in March, she appeared in the music video for the Lebanese-Canadian singer Massari’s R&B single So Long.

Lav Diaz joins Oliver Stone in Busan film fest jury

Acclaimed Filipino director Lav Diaz will serve as a juror in the New Currents section of the Busan International Film Festival, which will be held in South Korea from October 12 to 21.

American director Oliver Stone will preside over the jury, which also includes Iran’s Bahman Ghobadi, South Korea’s Sun-woo Jang and France’s Agnes Godard.

On the Busan Film Festival’s website, Diaz was described as “the ideological father of the New Philippine cinema”.

Diaz was recently honoured with the Best Director prize at the Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards for his film Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left), which also won the Golden Lion top prize at last year’s Venice International Film Festival. The Woman Who Left was the lone Filipino movie to be featured at the 2016 Dubai International Film Festival.

Nickelodeon axes plans for resort in Philippines

Following a backlash from environmental campaigners, Nickelodeon has abandoned plans for a themed resort in the Philippine province of Palawan.

Earlier this year, the American children’s television network announced it would build an “undersea attraction and resort” where fans would be able to “interact with the brand and the iconic characters they love”, including SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer. It was billed as Nickelodeon’s first resort in Southeast Asia.

The announcement triggered criticism from conservation groups such as Greenpeace and Save Philippine Seas, who feared the resort would destroy the island’s world-famous marine ecosystem. An online petition that called for the project to be scrapped garnered more than 260,000 signatures.

In a statement issued to Agency France-Presse, Viacom International Media Networks, which owns the children’s network, said: “Nickelodeon will no longer be involved with this proposed development.”