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29 04 2024 - Media release

Screen Australia announces James J. Robinson’s debut feature First Light


First Light

Principal Photography is underway on First Light, an upcoming Australian-Filipino Co-production directed by James J. Robinson, with principal production funding from Screen Australia.

Ruby Ruiz is set to star in her first role following her celebrated performance in Amazon’s Expats, with Diamond Star of the Philippines and veteran actress Maricel Soriano (Mother Nanny), Rez Cortez (Bukal), Soliman Cruz (Blue Room), and the father of international cinema, Kidlat Tahimik, rounding out the cast.

Set in the remote mountains of the Philippines, the death of a young construction worker forces an elderly nun to confront the muddied ethics of an institution she dedicated her life to. The script is a deeply personal story exploring the intersection of duty, faith, and institutional power.

First Light is supported by Screen Australia in association with the Film Development Council of the Philippines, Clou Media Productions, the MIFF Premiere Fund, and VicScreen. It is produced by Gabrielle Pearson through Majella Productions alongside Christelle Dychangco from Clou Media Productions and Jane Pe Aguirre (A Prayer Before Dawn) - one of the Philippines most respected and longest working producers. GoodThing Productions’ Nick Batzias and Virginia Whitwell (Nitram, The Australian Dream) serve as Executive Producers.

Independent Entertainment will handle global sales, with Bonsai Films handling theatrical distribution in AU/NZ.

Robinson is a celebrated Filipino-Australian artist with an expansive career in photography and filmmaking. His work has regularly appeared in publications such as The New York Times and Vogue Australia, where he has photographed some of the world’s biggest names including Kylie Jenner, Sydney Sweeney, Rose Byrne, and Harris Dickinson. His Filipino short documentary Inang Maynila was acquired by Nowness and screened at the Brooklyn Film Festival in 2022, while his previous short No Reception was part of the 2018 TIFF x Instagram Shorts program in 2018.

Screen Australia COO Grainne Brunsdon said, “Debut feature from producer Gabrielle Pearson and director James J. Robinson, First Light is a captivating blend of Filipino and Australian creativity, delving into themes of mortality, faith and self-discovery. With universal resonance, this film promises an engaging journey for audiences.”

Director and writer James J. Robinson said, “Developing First Light over the past two years has been an incredibly profound journey into the heart of pre-colonial Filipino philosophy. To be able to tell a story by bringing together artists from Australia and Philippines, and witness this cultural exchange in real time, will be one of the most enlightening experiences of my life; and reflects a deeper journey within myself to define my identity and ancestry as a mixed-race artist."

Producer Gabrielle Pearson said, “For our first official feature production under the Majella umbrella, learning about the intersection between Filipino and Australian methods of working has been one of the myriad gems of doing an international co-production. In a future of globalist filmmaking, realising the ways that disparate cultures across the globe can uncover the universality in their experiences further treads the pathway toward inclusive filmmaking, while offering complex insight into the deeper human condition.”

First Light is a Majella Productions production. Principal production funding from Screen Australia in association with the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) Premiere Fund. Financed with support from the Film Development Council of the Philippines and VicScreen. Local distribution by Bonsai Films. International sales by Independent Entertainment. Developed with assistance of Screen Australia.


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