Tag Archives: National Geographic Channel

Asia’s Titanic premieres on National Geographic

dona_pazBy Nickie Wang

Asia’s Titanic is not an Asian version of the 1997 movie about the sad tale of star-crossed lovers portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. It’s not even a love story. It’s a full-length documentary that narrates a mishap far more disastrous than the ill-fated maiden voyage of the ship that sank after its collision with an iceberg.

It premiered on National Geographic Channel (NGC) (Sky Cable Channel 41) 9 p.m. last night.

Asia’s Titanic tells the tragic sinking of MV Doña Paz after colliding with an oil tanker, just few days before Christmas of 1987. It is a powerful and dramatic story made by a Filipino production team that equals the hallmark standards of NGC. It is the first documentary directed by a Filipino for the channel.

Asia’s Titanic director Yam Laranas shared his view with the Standard Today why he chose to pitch the MV Doña Paz mishap when he received the invitation from the NGC.

“It’s the bigness of the event,” Laranas said. “When it happened, I was just fresh out of high school and I had no capability to interpret that sort of trauma in me because when I read the newspaper, I realized more than 4,000 lives lost, how can that be possible? I’ve been telling people: You go to [SM] Megamall A; imagine everyone inside the building is dead. That’s how tragic it was.”

Laranas, whose film credits include Sigaw, Balahibong Pusa, Hibla and Patient X (currently under production), spent almost four years with the help of a talented and hardworking team to produce the documentary. According to the director, the research process took so long because they had to meticulously check every detail to maintain international standard followed in producing documentaries.

“We have learned so much from this project including the way we tell the story. They [NGC] guided us because this is not reportage, this is not current events, this is storytelling. They always warned us that we’re not forensics, we’re storytellers,” the filmmaker explained.

With first-hand accounts of survivors and rescuers and actual transcripts from Philippine congressional inquiry into the tragedy, and archival footage of photos and the reenactments from the collision, Asia’s Titanic dissects MV Doña Paz’ tragedy and retells the story that changed the lives of some 26 survivors.

“The drama comes in naturally. You don’t even have to motivate anyone because we have real survivors on camera and they are willing to share their experience,” Laranas furthered.

Laranas explained that as a filmmaker and as a storyteller, his main objective in making the documentary is simply to tell a story and not to investigate. Asia’s Titanic is not about asking proper authorities to revisit the intrigues and mysteries that surrounded the tragedy.

This is not a documentary that calls out justice for the victims. It’s up for the people what to do or how to react when they see this, the filmmaker emphasized.

Why Titanic?

In a very interesting conversation with Asia’s Titanic director before the exclusive preview held at the Rockwell Cinema on Aug. 18, we asked him why they gave the documentary with such familiar title. Laranas defended that they could have called the project The Doña Paz Tragedy but their main objective is to convey stories of people who experienced the disaster. He put an emphasis on the stories behind the disaster where thousand lives perished while swimming on a sea of fire while the others were already trapped inside the ship and drowning.

“For every tragedy, there is a real drama unfolding, there are real people, and real death and survival. Titanic is famous, and the only way to catch the attention is to take the Titanic’s name and bring it to us,” Laranas explained and made it clear that they are not making any comparison although Doña Paz had more casualties amid being just quarter of the size of the famous ship that sank in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Echo

The 2004 horror flick Sigaw is one of the films that have been affixed to the name of director Yam Laranas. According to him, the remake of the film, which is entitled The Echo, is coming out on Sept. 23 and will be released under Viva International. It was produced by Vertigo Entertainment, which is known for producing other Asian horror flicks like The Grudge, The Ring and The Departed.

“The news came out early even before we did production. People thought that we already did the production,” Laranas answered why The Echo, which stars Iza Calzado and Hollywood actor Jesse Bradford, will be commercially exhibited in the country only now.

Laranas noted that filmmaking in the US is quite different compared to the local setting. He said that it takes about a year to develop a script, and the grueling part of post production goes under meticulous work before a film is released for commercial exhibition.

“I had to live in New York and study for a while and at the same time, production took us about a year. We are technically a low-budget film, $5 million is super cheap compared to your G.I. Joe or to your Transformers. We are actually the lowest in the rank of pecking order. And it so happen that there’s crisis so we are not the priority,” he added.

The strategy of The Echo’s producers was to go worldwide and tap different audiences to assure return of investment.

“So far, right now, we’ve managed to earn more than our budget already, so that’s the fun part,” Laranas ended.

Somewhere in China: A chronicle of adventurer siblings


Jeff and Peter Hutchens

The adventurer siblings: Jeff and Peter Hutchens

China, a country of more than a billion people, has more than a billion stories to tell as well.

Many people across the globe think that China is a huge country where everything looks the same, like for example the people, food or the scenery.

In reality, the land of the dragon is a country of continuum, and award-winning photographer Jeff Hutchens and his equally talented brother Peter, a virtuous filmmaker, are out to prove it.

Peter and Jeff traveled across China in an adventure that gets below the surface of what have become familiar images of one of the world’s most fascinating countries. Their three-and-a-half-month adventure produced a six-part documentary that showcases Chinese culture captured through stunning photographs and film footage.

Somewhere in China, which started airing on National Geographic Channel (NGC) early this month, provides an interesting peek at the old China blending with the new. Their documented trips to the remarkable Xinjiang province which Jeff describes as “China’s wild west,” Kashgar and its devout Muslim population, the impressive Three Gorges Dam and Yangtze River, and the desolate steppes of Inner Mongolia, among others, simply unveil riveting and spectacular insights of the country within 17-hour shoot.

Lens master jeff

Lens master jeff

“China is an incredibly diverse country both geographically and ethnically. We want to give an accurate representation of what China is because the country is not just Beijing, or the Hong, it’s truly a diverse country,” lens master Jeff who visited the country shared during the NGC documentary press launch.

“And the other thing that we really would like to do with this series is to set up a unique visual style. Since Jeff is a still photographer and I worked on a number projects for the National Geographic and for other people, we have a good understanding of visuals and what makes a good show. Part of it, too, is the fact that I am a filmmaker and Jeff is a photographer our credibility rests on the visuals on the series,” Peter, the younger Hutchens added.

By exploring the unfamiliar and “unexpected” parts of China, the duo traveled in places like Gansu where they were kicked out when Tibetan protests turned the tranquil province into a place of unrest. They participated in ‘‘dragon boat race’’ in the Yangtze River with the Chinese locals, climbed a five-story sword ladder, jumped in a freezing pool in minus 14 degree Celsius temperature, and the list of their adventure continuous as they traveled from rough and tumble Western China.

“We know China pretty well, but because of the way we look, we couldn’t blend all that well. And that always left a certain feeling of distance. For me that makes the country so fascinating and I think it’s one of the reasons why we had a good time,” Jeff explained, revealing that they moved to Harbin, China in the early 1980s as ‘‘outsiders’’ to a homogenuous community of some seven million Chinese people.

“China was the first place we lived and the connection with it is the strongest. We speak enough Mandarin to get into trouble… but not enough to get us out of it,” said Peter, who also grew up in South Africa and the Philippines as a member of the globe-roaming Hutchens family.

At the beginning, the duo were asked by questions concerning about their show because the documentary seems not fit in just one particular genre. That particular fact makes the series suitable for the NGC for it caters to varied audiences.

Peter the filmmaker

Peter the filmmaker

“When you’re making a show or when you’re pitching a show in television, people will always want to say: ‘What is it, what is your show?’ I think our show was actually hard to define from the beginning, which is really tough when we first set up. Is it a travel show? Yes there are travel elements. Is it a buddy brother show? Yes we are brothers and we are buddies except when we fight,” Peter, the quick-witted younger Hutchens, explained.

Capping their visit to the Philippine were a meet and greet portion, a photo exhibit of their travels, video clip screenings and a photography seminar where the brothers imparted tips and techniques to attending students and hobbyists. The event was held at The Reading Room, Filipinas Heritage Library, Makati Avenue, Ayala Triangle, Makati City.

The six-part documentary will air until November; encores will be shown the following day. For more information and schedule, visit www.natgeotv.com.

National Geographic Channel celebrates 10 years in Asia

By Nickie Wang

Contributor/Manila Standard Today

31 May 2008

This month, National Geographic Channel celebrates its decade-long success in Asia with a star-studded campaign featuring some of the region’s most celebrated artists and celebrities, co-hosting the best 30 documentaries in the last 10 years.

This high-profile campaign invites viewers in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia to vote for their favorite documentaries anchored by celebrities like Jacky Chan, Hong Kong’s Paul Wong, Thailand’s Tata Young and the Philippines’ Gary Valenciano, Donita Rose, Christian Bautista and Kim Atienza.

Being the world’s leading pure documentary channel, NGC’s initiative to draw the viewers closer to the brand is parallel with its engagement to present every possible ways viewers can appreciate, support and understand the world, and to commensurate their continuous patronage to the channel.

For 30 consecutive days in June, one documentary will be featured each night and viewers across the region will have the opportunity to vote for it through www.ngcasia.com/top30.

“We have narrowed all the documentaries [down] to 30 and each one of the documentaries will be featured everyday in June with special host and guest celebrities. We have great hosts across five to six countries and we are lucky we got Jacky Chan and other great artists all over Asia. They are keen to share their favorite documentaries,” said Hong Kong-based director Craig Leeson who was in town to launch the campaign.

Leeson, with his local crew, started the taping for the NGC’s handpicked local celebrities who will present their favorite documentaries. The taping started on May 21 at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife in Quezon City.

“The artists we specially chose here in the Philippines to present their favorite documentaries are: Donita, who is fantastic because she loves what she does; Kim, he has a passion with history and science and he can relate very closely to the documentaries the NGC shows. As a director it’s great to work with someone who understands what I need; and artists like Gary and Christian, we chose them because of their deep connection with the public,” Leeson said.

Gary V’s Seconds from Disaster: Pentagon 911

Gary’s chosen documentary is about the American Airlines flight 77 that was hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. Less than an hour after the airplane’s takeoff, it slammed directly into the Pentagon’s West Wall at nearly 530 mph, destroying 30 structural columns and killing 184 innocent people and five terrorists. NGC’s documentary narrated second-by-second tragic event that led to the worst day of terrorist attacks on American soil.

“I would certainly recommend this [documentary] because there’s so much to learn that people would just say ‘oh I didn’t know that’,” Gary revealed. “I think if there’s one event that everyone has been affected by it, is probably this event. This is one event that all ages can look back and see and really would be interested. It would be the details of what went on not just what we saw, but the other things that we never knew about. Like personally, I didn’t know that the Pentagon was built in the 1940s unlike the way buildings were built today.”

Donita’s Amazing Moments-Close Encounter

Former MTV Asia VJ Donita Rose will front her chosen documentary Amazing Moments-Close Encounter. It is a close encounter of the amazing kind—surprising moments when predator meets prey- man meets animals and people look death in the face—in some of the most incredible scenes ever captured on film. Meet people who get up close and personal with rats—from grubs to maggots to whole new octopus. The documentary features amazing encounters between predator and prey, as crocodiles and killer whales fight to survive. It also captured incredible moments where life hangs in the balance—from passengers on a sinking ship to pilot in a mid-air collision.

“I feel privileged to be chosen for this, I had done something that honored our country some few years back, but this one is different. I’ll be hosting a documentary that talks about people and animals in a brink of death” Donita expressed on an interview during the taping.

Christian with Megamovers: Panama Canal Unlocked

Asian pop heartthrob Christian Bautista, who said that watching NGC is not nerdy at all or boring because people could learn a lot on how things work, why things work, and how we can be better part of this world, shared his excitement with chosen documentary about the Panama Canal .

“I was really amazed by this awesome project and to think that it is from the 19th century. I was amazed how people work together to accomplish this huge task. It’s actually full of traffic already in the Panama Canal because of the huge quantity of ships that pass through it. Passing through the canal saves them time, four weeks around the continent so they will be able to get the delivery done,” he narrated.

Kuya Kim’s choices

TV’s weather man Kim Atienza couldn’t believe that he has been chosen to be part of the NGC’s star-studded campaign. He will anchor two documentaries entitled Inside the Tornado and China’s Mystery Mummies.

“I love watching this channel because it sparks an interest to learn more about the world. The topics featured give much relevance to things all around us, focusing not just animals and nature, but science, technology, history, relationships, government and so much more. When my friend told me about it, I thought it was a frank. But when it became reality, I am really flattered,” the TV host said.

Inside the Tornado is about an NGC-sponsored team of storm chasers and photographers who managed to position an armored device with cameras in the direct path of a tornado near Manchester, South Dakota. The device was able to take magnificent pictures.

Being haled by director Leeson as ‘a person in-the-know,’ Matang Lawin host Kuya Kim will also front the documentaries about the mummies in China.

“This is not actually my concern. But in China, mummies are studied and treated as national treasures. But in the Philippines we don’t put importance on the mummies that we have. We have lots of mummies up north in Sagada and Banaue. But sad to say, our mummies are practically gone. We are losing these mummies because of lack of awareness, theft and pilferage. People actually steal the mummies and put them in their homes,” he ended regretfully.